Simple Syndication Subscribers Savor Spare Seconds

Time Enough At LastWe’ve been fielding questions about WordPress all month.  It’s encouraging to hear how much interest this project is getting.  Recently, we received this question from Mack Lewis at CPE: “How does the RSS feed work?  What’s its purpose?”, so this post is an attempt to answer that question for Mack and others.

RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and is an an alternative presentation medium for weblogs.  All WordPress blogs automatically support syndication formats including RSS and Atom.  If you read a lot online, these syndication tools can help you read more online and spend less time doing it.  If you find reading news online cumbersome, a feed reader might just be the best way to get started.

RSS isn’t just for human readers, though.  Since RSS is designed to be handled efficiently by computer programs, there are many sites on the internet dedicated to syndicating news from various sources, called Blog Aggregators.  One of the main benefits to blog authors for providing blog RSS feeds is that aggregators can be a way of advertising your blog to new readers.  If you’re looking to expand your blog’s audience, one way to start is to submit your blog’s feed to those aggregators.

Technology is a rapidly changing field, and it can be difficult to keep up with the latest developments.  I started reading news via RSS in mid-2007 when someone sent me an article/video about Robert Scoble, a popular tech blogger, whose morning routine includes reading over 600 websites via RSS to find material for his own blog.  At the time, I was mostly getting my tech news from Slashdot and Ars Technica.

After watching the video, I decided to give Google Reader (demo video) a try.  So far, it’s been a success.  Instead of browsing to five or six different websites to keep up on what’s new, I can do it all at once.  Right now, I have 120 items in my reading queue from 66 weblogs (including all of the District 6 blogs), and when I sit down to read, I’ll probably spend 20 to 30 minutes skim-reading all of those articles.  When I see something interesting, I open the article in a new tab and move down the “river of news” view to find other interesting items.  Every once in a while, an article from weeks back will pop into my head in conversation, and since Google Reader has excellent search, (most of the bugs having been fixed since 2007) I can usually go back and find what I was thinking of.  Sometimes I joke that I’ve never known so little about such a wide range of topics in my whole life.

In Firefox, look for the orange RSS icon on the right hand side of the address bar.  When the site that you’re reading has an RSS feed, the icon appears and has a menu you can use to subscribe to the feed in your reader of choice.  Most major internet sites now provide RSS feeds.

Happy surfing!

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Tags vs Categories

Here’s a resource I wanted to share during today’s WordPress training, explaining the difference between categories and tags: http://en.blog.wordpress.com/2007/09/22/tags-and-categories/

“As best as I can explain it, categories are things you create ahead of time and only have a few of. Imagine them like sections of your site. The signs on aisles of grocery stores. Tags are one-off keywords attached to a post. You may add a tag to a post that you’ll never use ever again. Categories are meant to be permanent, tags are ephemeral.” – Matt Mullenweg, WordPress Author

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Downtime for system upgrades during break

Powerschool – Monday Morning, Dec 22nd

Starting about 9am on Monday morning, Powerschool will be unavailable for upgrades.  It will be back the same day.  Powerschool upgrades normally take one or two hours. If all goes well we’ll be up and running noonish.

Shared Files, Home Folders (U Drives) – Tuesday Afternoon, Dec 23rd

Access to U Drives and Shared Files will be temporarily unavailable starting Tuesday afternoon while we do an operating system upgrade on our central storage.

There will also be some upgrades happening on Monday with our VMware servers, which host many other functions used during the course of a school day.  However, owing to the way the system is set up, there would be no impact even if these upgrades were performed in the middle of a school day.  Forget I even mentioned it.

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Phone Tips and Tricks

I get calls time from time with questions about the phones and the phone system and the voicemail system.  This post is to help you with some easy to do phone stuff.  Please note that most of this stuff works with both Digital and Analog phones.

This is a digital Phone:
This is an Analog Phone:

Tip 1 – Every telephone in the district has a voicemail box.  If you have a digital phone, just push the voicemail button to access the voicemail.  If you have an analog phone, dial 5555 and you should get a voicemail prompt.

Tip 2 – It’s easy to tell if you have a voicemail message if you have a digital phone.  You just look at the flashing light.  🙂  If you have an analog telephone, you have no light.  So how do you know you have a voicemail message?  Lift the handset and listen for a stutter tone.  It will sound different than a regular dial tone.  It’s a dial tone that pulses a few times.  Then just dial 5555 to access the message or messages.

Tip 3 – Both types of phones can be forwarded to another extension.  This is quite a useful feature.  To do this, pick up the handset, and dial #8 and the extension number you want to forward to.  For example, if I wanted to send all my calls to Richard, I would dial #8 6901 and hang up.  If you did it correctly, your phone should have beeped for you.  When you want to undo the forward, simply press #8 #10.  That will cancel the forwarding.

Tip 4 – There are times you might need to pickup someone else’s ringing telephone from your phone.  To do this, dial #77 and the extension number.  For example, if Richard’s phone is ringing, I would dial #77 6901 from my phone, and it would answer his call.

Tip 5 – Sometimes you have a flashing voicemail light that’s flashing, but you don’t have any messages.  The way to fix this is by dialing #5 #10 and that will cancel the flashing light.  🙂  That can sure be annoying sometimes.

Hopefully these tips will come in handy for many of you.  If there are any more tips you would like to see added to this list, please comment and let me know.

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