RSS evangelism

June 25, 2010

Anyone reading through some of my older “How to” posts would realize that (besides Twitter and Friendfeed) I love using RSS and RSS readers for keeping up with information. I also love being able to use them for mashing up information feeds and enabling auto sharing.

However I know that other people may not even be aware of what an RSS feed or reader is or does.

“Keeping up” and current awareness is a big part of the service and training that we are concerned with at MPOW. Most of our clients are researchers with long term projects and interests and appreciate being auto notified of newly published research. A lot of journals and databases now support RSS as well as email alerts. And most researchers will say that their email boxes are overloaded and they can’t keep on top of it all. But most will not know about RSS readers.

There is a digital divide amongst scientists as well as the rest of the population and last year Martin Fenner in discussing it thought that Science Librarians had a role in helping bridge it.

When we rolled out our in house current awareness blogs we couldn’t enable email alerts at the time and one of my colleagues ran RSS training sessions for the others so now most of my colleagues are at least aware of RSS and readers and some now actively use them. We have talked from time to time about taking this experience and running sessions for our researchers but as with most things these proposed sessions take a back seat to other priorities. As in most special libraries training is just part of our role and we don’t have dedicated librarians for the purpose.

So I would like to hear from other librarians. Has anyone else included using RSS feeds as part of their info lit/digital lit/literacy programs to clients/patrons/faculty/students? Can you share your experiences?


4 Responses to “RSS evangelism”

  1. I’ve almost stopped teaching RSS feeds for alerts. I will ask if anyone already uses them, and if anyone actually does (rarely) I show them how to set them up. But most databases’ implementations of RSS alerts is *appalling*.

    The best is Compendex: three simple fool-proof steps (search, click the rss link, copy and paste the url). The worst is Web of Science: eight steps, which drive the user to distraction even when I’m sitting next to them talking them through it (and I have to be sitting there; if we’re on the phone or IM they give up). Most are in between.

    The thing that really really bugs me about all but Compendex is that if you’re coming to the database via an institutional proxy then the database will automatically include the proxy in the RSS url. And you can’t put a proxified feed into Google Reader or Bloglines or anywhere, because authentication fails. So you have to edit the url manually.

    More to the point, you as librarian have to teach about editing the url manually to a bunch of people who a) don’t know what a database is, b) don’t know what rss feeds are, c) don’t know how a url works, d) don’t yet understand the value of search alerts, and e) are going to forget most of this tutorial within the hour anyway.

    So no. I adore RSS feeds and it breaks my heart that I can’t evangelise for them, but no way am I teaching about them until the vendors get their A into G and make them *work*.

  2. Sue Says:

    Thanks Deborah. You are right. We do have the “luxury” here of having IP authentication not proxy. And I have got used to using a desktop feed reader (Feeddemon) that syncs with GReader as our inhouse (blogs and sharepoint) feeds are firewalled. Thanks for the reminder. I shall go test the WOS feeds to Greader again.

  3. Clare Says:

    Sue, my experiences are similar. At MPOW, a research centre, I have introduced RSS in training sessions and shown how it can be used to save time and avoid email overload, particularly for Table of Contents and database alerts. I’ve found that a few have taken this up enthusiastically but the majority either weren’t sold on the argument, or weren’t sufficiently interested to follow it up straight away. I accept that everyone has a different way of working and they need a compelling argument to set up something new.

    The proxy problem Deborah talks about is the big issue for me. We don’t have the luxury (as you say) of IP authentication – it’s just not feasible in our complex IT setup.

    We have a custom EZProxy bookmarklet which allows one-click conversion of the URL to our proxy and which works really well – as long as I am able to get the message out to folks about it. The bookmarklet is also needed for those email alerts that publishers and databases such as Scopus send out.

    And don’t get me started on the acronym RSS. It’s just not making it easy to sell. I try to avoid using it and say ‘alerts’ or ‘updates’ but inevitably someone asks what it means…

  4. Penny Says:

    I’ve tried teaching about RSS to individual lecturers but I have to say the awareness of what RSS is is very low. Most look blankly at me and have the “do I really need to know this” look on their face. Email they understand so I mainly push that because it seems sensible to market the tool they already know and love. I would love to evangelise but at present they are mostly concerned with getting articles and getting them into Moodle or into EndNote.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: