Greetings. This is the inaugural entry of the new Family Development tech blog. I hope to provide you with useful information that will help in managing your information flow and in using technology as a collaboration tool. You certainly don't have to be with Family Development or even Extension to read this so feel free to publish the link far and wide! Please leave comments below or drop me a line at fleck004 AT umn.edu. (You need an @ in that but publishing my email address in this form keeps spam away.)
I just left the CSS-DEV meeting where we spent the time discussing repurposing RSS feeds from UThink blogs. The repurpose would result in content for your Web site.
I'll explain. Blogs produce a computer file called a feed. (Most of these feeds are also RSS but we don't have to worry about that.) Many of us use a web tool/application called a reader to subscribe to these feeds. With a subscription, I can read all my feeds in one place and it lets me know when there is new material. (To Help you learn more about feeds and subscribing, I have a link to "RSS in Plain English" at the bottom of this blog post. Your home work is to start a feed reader account and subscrib to this blog.)
UThink is our University blogging system. We can all have multiple blogs at UThink (I don't think there is a limit) and I can set up blogs under departmental email addresses so that they are not linked to any one person.
So how can we utilize UThink to manage our content for web sites? Let's look at the web site for the Immigration History Research Center (IHRC), where CLA is doing just that and using the UThink system as a content management tool to make it easy for staff to update their web sites.
(Remember to use your back button to return here after you look.)
The top box is "In the News" and the story (at this moment at least) is "Putting the 'Cost' of Illegal Immigration in Perspective". That story originated at a UThink blog. Here's the blog site with that story right at the top. (Depending on when you read this, there may be a newer story at the top but you get the gist.)
The blog creates one of those RSS feed files and the IHRC web site subscribes to that feed via some not-to-difficult-to-program magic. Part of the magic is that it uses only the most recent story in the feed (the "top" story). When someone goes to the IHRC news blog and inputs a new news story, the current story will be replaced and the new story will appear.
The blog has a user-friendly interface for adding or editing stories or articles (or what we bloggers call blog posts). Here's what it looks like.
There are other benefits. I can subscribe to the blog feed itself in my feed reader and monitor news at the site independently of the web site itself. I can send the feed along to the main Extension site and they can publish it (and I can send it to eXtension for publication at their site). All this from a single post by a web editor on our end (REE/EE, support staff, grad student, etc.).
The programming tech behind this is not nuclear science but it takes some server configuration and access to the server. That will take some discussions on my end with Extension IT.
There are even more wonders in the world of RSS feeds. I saw a self-contained web site today that looked nothing like a blog but was a blog and so was very easy to edit and allowed easy access (via your x.500 internet id) from anywhere (no vpn or extra configuration). This could be a solution for regional projects that involve community members who are not U of M staff. We can add them as members of a blog and establish a quick-and-easy web presence.
I'd like your thoughts on this. Comments are open for this blog. (I moderate them before they appear so you will have to be patient.)
To learn more about RSS feeds and how to use a feed reader, check out this video, RSS in Plain English.