Monthly Archives: October 2010

The changing world of RSS

The new school year always seems to hit hard. Grant proposal deadlines meet teaching schedule meet new school year for the kid meet rain. Oof.

Like perhaps many info-folk I tend to be a bit smug about my ability to filter and manage information. I use some tech tools, elect to eschew others, and do a lot of reading, but rarely experience that “information overload” feeling we hear so much about.

However, when Bloglines announced they were shutting down (or, technically, Ask announced that they were shutting down Bloglines) it threw me. Right in the middle of September, at that! It took quite a while before I succumbed to the RSS reader allure, and I finally added all my regularly-read blog URLs to bloglines around 2006.

To my surprise I have become quite dependent on my Bloglines to catch me up with the news (and by news I mean also comics, LIS blogs, reproductive health info, family photos, etc.). I especially like the way Bloglines lets you archive posts that you want to save and get rid of the rest – I find this especially helpful for planning class content for courses that I’m not teaching in the current semester.

But Bloglines is going poof and there doesn’t appear to be another service exactly like it: web-based & platform-agnostic, clean layout, not owned by Google or Yahoo or Facebook, not reuquiring that one shares everything, and allowing saved posts. Jessamyn recommends the Firefox plugin Sage, which I hadn’t heard of and will investigate, but with Zotero everywhere somewhat promised I’m not feeling wedded to Firefox anymore.

Most folks I’ve talked to have given it up to Google, and I even transferred my URLS over there for a whirl but haven’t gotten used to what feels like a cluttered layout yet, and I’m dissatisfied with my ability to archive the good and trash the bad thus far (although I may just need more time to get used to the lay of the land).

In my search for recommendations for RSS readers I have discovered that a whole bunch of commentators think that RSS is dead, or conversely argue that RSS is not dead, and have been proclaiming this both ways for at least a year. MG Sigler did a post over on TechCrunch a few weeks ago that pretty much sums up my thoughts. Sigler writes,

It’s a mass consumption tool — but it’s not a consumption tool for the masses. If I didn’t have to (or didn’t want to) read and track a thousand stories a day, there is no way I would use an RSS reader.

When designing a website, yes RSS is a necessity, particularly if it’s a blog or news site. However, my kid’s blog? Only my tech-friendly friends read it via RSS. My family, the primary audience, don’t even know what RSS is (and not because I didn’t try to teach them – because it ended up not  being important in their lives).

I’m dissatisfied about the trend in feed readers toward the social and ephemeral. Why am I concerned about this? Because it doesn’t meet MY needs. I’m not sure it meets anyone’s needs, actually, since the mass public probably doesn’t need to manage hundreds of RSS feeds, but may find appeal in the social (this is why the FB “Networked Blogs” holds appeal, even though it is FB?). I’m reluctant to covert to Google Reader if it’s going to continue to become more social and less useful to me as an info management tool. Meh.

These newer social & ephemeral info streams are to specific RSS subscriptions like Google is to MEDLINE. I use Google, it’s quick & easy and often entertaining. But when I really want to find or track something I use a dedicated source. And I like my RSS to be reliable – a subscription, not a fishnet.



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Filed under social media, technology

House rules for kids & online gaming

One thing I learned when I became a parent is that there’s a big difference between being a non-parent who likes kids and being a parent. One of the ways this manifests, for me, is in advice. I’ve worked in a lot of family & children’s service programs over the years, and parents have often asked me for advice on various topics. The way I give advice has changed since I’ve had a seat on the other side of the table too. It’s a lot easier to give advice on many topics than it is to have to deal with the topic in real life.

Take kids & the Internet, for example. It was pretty easy to do projects in library school about why Internet filters designed to restrict children’s Internet access don’t work very well. However, I found it somewhat harder to conjure up something that *did* make me feel safe about my child’s online access.

This past summer I entertained a growing awareness that it was time to formally talk with the kid about his use of the computer & Internet. He’s had limited, highly supervised, computer privileges for a while now, but he’s getting old enough to have more responsibility and less micro-management on my behalf.

I was surprised to find myself at a bit of a loss as to what exactly our house rules should be! I’m a librarian, I thought. I’m the one who gives other people advice on these topics! Yet I wasn’t exactly sure what to do in my own home. Oh dear.

After having my moment of humility, I asked myself what I’d recommend to another parent who asked me for advice on the topic. Well, of course I’d send them to the ALA website, as I knew they had a bunch of resources on online safety. Wow, are some of those resources:

  1. seriously out of date,
  2. very US-American, and
  3. rather paranoid.

That said, some of the links were useful as inspiration. Feeling somewhat unsatisfied by my ALA website experience, I turned to an online parenting community of which I’m a part and asked for advice from other parents. Surprisingly few of them had specific rules or contracts with their kids governing Internet use either.

In the end, I ended up creating our own house rules for computer/Internet use. Some of the rules were negotiated with the kid, others were non-negotiable in my book, still others the kid came up with himself. We typed them up together, printed them out, and then I shared them with my online parenting community.

And now I’m going to share them with you. Why? Not because I think the rules in your house should be exactly the same as the rules in my house, but because they are up-to-date and might give you a template or some ideas for either your own house or the next time a parent asks you for advice.

I’m out of the youth services loop these days, so I’m not sure how common it is for children’s librarians to produce sample house computer/Internet use rules lists, but given recent news that kids are gaming online more than their parents know,such resources are worth considering.

If anyone reading this knows of really good sites with other guidelines/rules, or thinks there are rules that should be added to the above to make a suggested list, please leave a comment.

Greyson’s Computer Use Rules

(For context, these rules were made for/with a 7-year-old/grade 3 child who can read & type independently, likes to play Club Penguin and Super Mario, and has his own blog to which only I know the password.)


In one day, you can have: 1 30-minute computer time OR 2 20-minute computer times with least 20 minutes in between

Computer time cannot carry over from one day to another.


Family computers can be used in the living room.

Other locations only by special arrangement.


You can go to pre-approved websites on your own.

You have to have a grown-up with you to surf the net/search for new sites.

Nothing you have to pay for, without parental permission.

You never give out personal information online (phone #, address, what school you go to, pictures of you, etc.)

You never give your passwords to anyone, even friends, and if someone finds one out you tell us asap so we can help change it.

Agree to share any passwords to any sites with us (Gmail, Club Penguin…) and not change these without telling us.

Be polite online like in real life.

Never download anything without our permission.

On Club Penguin, you can add buddies without specific permission


No shooting games without specific permission to play that game


Filed under Internet, public libraries, school libraries, technology, tips and tools, youth