Monthly Archives: August 2008

RSS–this one will simplify your life!

I know, you’re thinking ‘What IS this RSS and how can I keep up with all of this new tech stuff? Will it ever end?! I don’t even know what they’re SAYING!’ I know because I said that too!

And I sympathize. I remember hearing about this ‘aggregator’ thing for blogs, but I didn’t read that many, so I couldn’t picture how that would be any easier than just viewing the blog page directly. I even observed an room full of librarians investing an hour learning about this new tool. Observed because surely I didn’t need to know about RSS–that was for other people.

And then I’d finally heard enough. The list of blogs I was reading was growing, and it became time-consuming and guilt-producing to either visit them, or not. And there’s a blog I read with lots of older non-savvy readers who were figuring out the site’s new RSS tool; I figured if they could do it, so could I! So I set up an online account with one of the many free RSS readers available. Like with many things 2.0, the set up process just takes a few minutes. And then you’re holding this shiny new ball and are marveling at what to do with it. That’s the part takes longer! You’ve probably even seen a ‘subscribe’ box

or on a website and wondered what it was.

So, in short, I picked a feed reader*, chose a log in, and now I can view a single screen that shows me all the new posts in the blogs I read. There’s other bells and whistles, but if you, too, find your list of blogs, news sites and podcasts growing, choose a provider and set up your account. Then you can just visit that one page (oh, there’s more to this, too, but this is a good first step.) over your morning coffee or your evening wine!

*There’s probably a great, simple list of some of the hundreds of available readers somewhere, but this is just one I found. If you already have a login/password, say, with Google, Yahoo, AOL, etc. they probably have an RSS reader that you can tack on to your account, and if one less password is your main criteria for selecting an aggregator, it’s an easy way to choose.

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Why: Online Communities

Nancy White of Full Circle Associates provides a tip sheet on defining your case for developing online communities. It’s a good thing to think about why your organization wants to throw itself into the mix–and a good way to steer towards ‘fitting in’ to the mix rather than impaling yourself in the process.

She has other great info, but it’s something I’ll start with.

Some other things to throw in the mix include Jill Friedman Fixler’s worksheet on your organization’s (Boomer) volunteer case statement, downloadable and from her Boomer Volunteer Engagement: Collaborate Today, Thrive Tomorrow

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Books to Read: Mobilizing Generation 2.0

From Rock the Vote’s experience, this primer covers blogs, wikis, texting, video and social networking site basics.

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Collaboration Tools

Need to work with a team, committee, or your staff? Want to keep a public calendar or set up a simple website?

These sites can do this for you in a matter of minutes, all with functions you can add later. All had video tutorials, and I had a good understanding of their features in about 10 minutes per.

Backpack – At $24 per month, this is a hefty expense compared to free, but is more intuitive and easier to use. A singleton can use for just $7 per month, and prices go up from there. Compared to Basecamp–more of a project management host–Backpack is more about team and task tracking. As I’m exploring, I think I’ll move on to something free.
Ning – More of a social networking site for adults (my description), I’ve used Nings before and they have so many features and require log-ins (as new members join) to use the functions or join subgroups, I think they’re kind of cumbersome for a small group collaboration.
Google Sites – Free but looks clunky, which has been my experience with GoogleDocs–performs the function and requires some poking around to fiind what you’re looking for.
GroupSwim – I found this by an online search for collaboration sites, and it’s free for 1-3 users (much more expensive for larger groups). It groups things on pages or tabs by type–files, groups, discussions–but you can set up groups who then can post files and have discussions. Seems like this might work for ongoing discussions and collaborative work, but without more features, not sure how this would be much different than a wiki or document posting site
Big Tent – A friend who uses Basecamp turned me on to this site, which offers free membership management tools–it’s pretty robust and could be used to ‘organize’ groups like volunteers or committees who then collaborate.
Central Desktop – Ooh, this looks better–has a calendar, document whiteboard and discussion pages, and it’s free for 5 users (well, actually, 5 users for each of 2 projects). Plus, it has some interesting external features–links to Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, RSS feeds, and includesa lot of functionality regarding setting milestones and calendaring.

I’m going to try it out. Set up account, a project, uploaded a file and inserted tasks and events in 20 minutes. Now to try the collaboration.

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