Webfeed to Your Calendar: Way Cool!

As I’ve mentioned before, the potential uses of webfeeds (such as RSS feeds) extend far, far beyond merely announcing fresh content from weblogs and Web sites. Webfeeds can be used to announce any kind of content – including events.

Well, of course some clever developers have given this matter some consideration. The result of that so far is that Rahul Singh has built a tool that pulls information from an event-oriented webfeed directly into a Microsoft Outlook calendar. It’s called RSS2Outlook.

I’m mentioning this because it’s a very cool concept with a lot of potential uses. Please bear in mind that RSS2Outlook is only a bare-bones, unwarrantied demo right now – it’s not definitely finished or full-featured. (In other words, download it at your own risk.) I’m not using it myself because I’m moving away from all Microsoft products.

Still, it’s an intriguing concept. Here are some examples of how it might be put to use, if developed properly…
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Robert Scoble Ponders the Larger Webfeed Picture

On May 20, the popular Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble posted a thoughtful and opinionated item, The real RSS debates. In this article, Scoble pulls himself out of the highly technical disputes that have been obsessing developers of RSS and Atom webfeeds to consider issues that matter to the people who use webfeeds.

I won’t recap his whole posting here, because I’ve said what I needed to say about his points in the comments to that article. But I do recommend reading both Scoble’s article and the comments to it. A wide variety of issues and perspectives are discussed there. Quite interesting.

Searching for Audio

Here’s some good news for die-hard National Public Radio (NPR) fans like me.

According to this CNet article, “Search engines try to find their sound,” NPR recently began using StreamSage technology to transcribe audio content as it is broadcast. This enables search engines like Google to index NPR’s content more quickly.

This process is not 100% accurate, of course, but apparently it works well enough for the search engines. Reliable voice transcription has long been an elusive holy grail of the content world…
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Improve Your Search Engine Placement

Your Web presence means very little if people can’t find you easily – especially people who didn’t know they were looking for you in the first place. Therefore, how high a site ranks in search engine results can spell its success or failure.

There are many ways to optimize your site’s search engine placement – and some of the most important ones concern content.

Nick Usborne, a true content/copy genius, recently added to his Excess Voice site a collection of articles offering extraordinarily clear and practical articles that explain how to optimize your site’s search engine placement. These articles were written by Sumantra Roy, inventor of the formula used by Wordtracker to determine the most appropriate keywords for a site.

Thanks, Nick and Sumantra, for providing such a fabulous and useful resource.

Allbritton’s Blog Revives the Correspondent Tradition

In case you missed it, freelance journalist and noted blogger Christopher Allbritton has returned to Iraq. He arrived May 19. I’ve been following his reports through his blog Back to Iraq.

His report yesterday, “A Day in Hell,” was stunning. At 8:20 am, a car bomb exploded just down the block from Allbritton’s hotel. Four people were injured. Killed was Ali Abbas: a chatty 11-year old boy who had brought Allbritton water on his first night back in Baghdad.

This, in my opinion, exemplifies the best of what weblogs can do. This kind of blogging has revived the role of the correspondent (as opposed to “reporter”) in a very vivid and personal way…
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If You Had Problems Accessing this Blog Recently…

Sorry about that. My husband/sysadmin recently moved a bunch of sites (including this one) over to a new server, and we experienced a few unexpected domain-name server (DNS) glitches. That appears to be fixed now.

Apparently, over the last several hours the site that was appearing at this weblog’s address was my husband Tom Vilot’s digital fine art site. If you like the work (or if you missed it but are intrigued), you can check it out at vilot.com. It’s lovely work, I’m very proud of it. (NOTE: Several pieces feature nudity, so if you don’t like nudes please don’t go there.)

How Well Do Weblogs Cover the Environment?

(NOTE: See the follow-up to this article.)

Fellow blogger Steve Rubel announced today in MicroPersuasion that, beginning this Sunday, he plans to go on a special blog-only news diet for one week. Will he end up well-informed or suffering from info-malnutrition? We’ll find out, because Rubel has invited people (especially journalists) to quiz him on major current events at the end of that week.

After I wrote this up for Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits blog today, my colleague Steve Outing (editor of Tidbits) volunteered to quiz Rubel. Watch out, Rubel – I’m sure Outing’s questions will be a challenge!

Hmmmm… I think I’ll throw my hat into that ring too – with a twist. Steve Rubel, would you be up for an extra-credit challenge quiz? Here’s what I have in mind: I would like to quiz you on the major environmental news of the week.
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FindForward Offers Custom Webfeed Search Results

The uses for webfeeds continue to expand. Here’s one I just learned about:

The Web search engine FindForward lets you create a custom webfeed (RSS or Atom format) based on keyword search terms. FindForward basically regurgitates Google results via Google’s own API tool, so in a way this is like getting RSS feeds for Google results.

So what? Well, here’s how this kind of service can be useful…
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