Being your average geek, I’m into the whole social networking thing that’s so big on the Internet right now. Along with being your average geek, I’m not so much into the social part because, hey, people are scary. The networking part really appeals to me though and I treat social networking not only as a communicative thing that lets me easily stay in touch with lots of people, but also as a real computer network. In other words, I use the networking part of social networking to move information back and forth across various sites that I frequent and this enables me to update several places at once.
So a few days ago someone asked me how I can have so many blogs going at the same time and actually provide updates to them. This is where the networking part comes in. The computer networks you’ll find at your home and in your office use things like Cat5e cable or WiFi as a means to transfer information. For me and my various and sundry online activites, my medium of communication and networking is RSS.
Damn near everything generates an RSS feed today. Out there in the forests of the Pacific Northwest there’s probably a bear wearing a tracking collar that’s generating some kind of RSS feed. That feed is very important to move information across the social networks. So for those who want to know how I do it, and thus how they can do something similar, here goes.
I have five blogs I update on a fairly frequent basis. There’s my personal blog where I post stuff about whatever is appealing to me at any given time. There’s my information science and culture blog where I write about stuff like what you’re reading now. Then I have a blog I made for some of the people I work with and it gives them a place to go get a quick chuckle or bit of entertainment on their break time. Then I have the pornography blog which, perhaps unsurprisingly, generates more traffic than all the other blogs put together. Finally there’s the site that I have for my online history shows.
As you can see, these are diverse blogs covering a wide swath of unrelated topics. Beyond that I also use Twitter and Flickr and a few other online services. Yet you’ll find I can update one site and provide an update on another without doing anything else. The key to that is the RSS feed.
My personal blog gets updated a lot, but that’s not always because I posted something directly to it. I use the WordPress blogging software and it has a couple of features and plug-ins that allow you to do some nifty things with RSS. The feature that I use most often is the ability to pull information from an RSS feed and post it just like any other blog entry. Since I use my personal blog to write and post about anything that interests me, it catches a lot of stuff from the other blogs because, let’s face it, I’m interested in information science, goofing off, history, photos, and stuff like that. Why not have it set up where a post in one place routes it back to a sort of central area? That way, if people give a damn, they don’t have to go to three or four different places to see what I’m up to.
What this means is I have my personal blog set to pick up feeds from the info science blog, the Goofing Off blog, and my history show site. Whenever I post to any one of those sites, it’ll get picked up and posted on Distant Early Warning.
Now then, I’ve got a pretty decent cell phone camera that takes fairly decent photos. So every so often I’ll snap a picture of something I think is nifty. Then I upload that to Flickr so my friends and family can see it.
But guess what? Flickr does two things that connect my cellphone snapshot with my online world. First, Flickr generates an RSS feed of its own which, you guessed it, gets picked up by my personal blog and posted as an entry. So even though my parents don’t usually visit my Flickr page, that can still see that hilariously bad book cover I ran across earlier in the day. Second, Flickr can route a post to Twitter so the other weirdos who follow me on Twitter can laugh at that same book cover. (Hey, at least 75% of them are librarians anyway. We think this crap is funny, okay?)
Speaking of Twitter, did I mention that a lot of folks follow me on Twitter? As I write this I have 1,107 followers. I’m not sure who these people are (except the librarians and the occasional porn star) but there’s probably a decent amount of spammers there too who couldn’t give a flip what I’m tweeting about. But for those who do, there are methods of using RSS to route blogging and other information to Twitter. Using a service like Twitterfeed, you can set up any RSS feed to make a post on Twitter. I have my personal blog set to route to Twitter along with the history shows and my adult blog.
I use Twitter and I use it a lot. According to that Mr. Tweet thing, I have a Twitter frequency of 97% which means… I’m not really sure what that means. I guess it means that I use Twitter a lot. I can tweet from my phone. I can tweet from my iPod Touch. I can tweet from work. I can tweet from home. I can tweet from my Eee PC. I can tweet from damn near anything that’s connected to the Internet and, as you can see, I do. But, I also use Facebook. A lot of my friends use Facebook, but not Twitter. I have friends on Facebook who think Twitter is stupid even though I think Facebook is just a version of Twitter with more features. So I want to keep them updated like I do my Twitter friends, but I don’t want to post stuff twice.
Thankfully, there’s a Facebook app called Selective Twitter Feed. It’s simple. You write a tweet, end it with the #fb hashtag and Selective Twitter Feed picks that up and posts it on Facebook. Would you care to take a guess how the app picks up that tweet? That’s right, RSS. So with a tweet, I can update Facebook if I so choose. Moreover, I have Twitterfeed set to end its posts to Twitter with the #fb hashtag. What that means is when Twitterfeed posts a tweet that I’ve updated my blog, that tweet also gets posted to Facebook too.
So let’s take a look at how all this stuff flows together.
This morning, I was eating breakfast and browsing teh Interwebs and found a funny picture. I wanted to share it with my co-workers so I posted it on my Goofing Off tumblelog.Then I got up from my desk and went to have a shower and a shave. While I cleaned up and got ready for work, that post on Goofing Off got picked up by Distant Early Warning and posted as an entry. Then Twitterfeed saw the update and informed Twitter that I had some new drivel to look at. Since I have those tweets marked as Facebook friendly, a few minutes after the Twitter post, Facebook picked it up and updated my Facebook status. And though I don’t use it very often, FriendFeed also picks it up somewhere along the way. With one quick post, I updated five different sites. This process also works for the history show site and the information science and culture blog too.
It takes a little work to initiate everything and get it set up, but once you do, it’s fire and forget. For all this talk from these so-called social media gurus, I’ve never once heard of them speaking about networking your social websites for maximum coverage. Hell, I’m not even selling anything, but I did this for one reason. I’m lazy. I don’t want to update three, four, and five different sites with the same information. That’s what computers are for.
Thing is, there’s no reason a library can’t do something like this. Most modern ILS packages include the capability to do things like create RSS feeds of new items. That RSS feed is marketing happiness because it can be routed to Twitter. Or it could be worked onto a website that requires no work other than the initial setup. Then that website is automatically updated with the new titles. It could be routed to a Facebook page.
In an era where time is short, needs are high, and library staff are overworked; this is something that requires only a few minutes of work and yet it provides a large amount of information to a large amount of people for a small amount of effort.