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May 28, 2004

Back in the aggregated world.

It has been a month--four weeks to the day, to be precise--since I last aggregated news. I turned in my laptop at my old job, burned a copy of my NewsGatorSubs.opml file to a CD, and left Washington DC for Chicago.

The first few weeks, I did not miss it; I was too busy adjusting to a new job and a new city to mind. (Blogging slacked off as well.) Earlier this week, though, I started to get the itch, wondering what was going on in the world. I slipped the appropriate CD in my bag at work and downloaded NewsGator again when I got home last night. I've missed a lot, I know, but now I am finally reconnected to the world. I recreated my custom views on the folders, scanned the headlines I'd missed (my first scan picked up over 3000 items!), read a few, flagged a few for the Search folders in Outlook, and was on my way.

And, to be sure this doesn't happen again, I've decided to give NewsGator Online Services a try. I'll be sure to post a review soon.

March 09, 2004

Query: what are the protocols for posting the contents of a newsfeed on an intranet site?

We are building an internal site for a particular practice group. The option of including a newsfeed, the content from a blawg, has been proposed, and I'm stumped by the (legal and) ethical questions that might surround this sort of activity.

Reminder: I am not an attorney, so bear with me. My gut reaction is--publishing the full content of someone's newsfeed would be inappropriate, even with attribution. On the flip side, this is what is happening with news aggregators, with versions driven by an individual's subscriptions or more general (think News Is Free).

But what happens if you publish only the excerpts, with links to the full content? Does the distinction between an internet site and an intranet site make a difference? Could an intranet site be considered an aggregator for a practice group? Does the proliferation of news feeds make this sort of distribution the next obvious step? And, even if this is legal, in the sense of not breaking any known laws, is it ethical? Is there a personal/non-commercial versus commercial use distinction that would come into play in this situation?

Any thoughts would be appreciated...I am drawing a distinction here between my understanding of "fair use" (quoting something from a blog, for example) and something like "e-plagiarism" (posting the full content of another person's blog in place of generating your own content).

March 08, 2004

Managing the web.

Can RSS relieve information overload? This is the question asked in this article posted today on eContent Magazine. (The answer, by the way, is a resounding yes: Although RSS is only just beginning to make headway into the mainstream enterprise computing environment, it has great potential to help knowledge workers gather information more efficiently. What makes the news aggregator so useful is that it collects information effortlessly from the sites you previously needed to visit.) We had a spirited discussion about RSS and news aggregators on one of the LawNet list-serves last week, with a few IT Managers "seeing the light" and writing to ask me about how we are using NewsGator here.

Continue reading "Managing the web." »

December 12, 2003

Talking about Aggregating.

I am completely hooked on NewsGator as my aggregator  and am very happy about having made the switch.  As I subscribe to about 150 sites, organizing my feeds with each feed in its own folder was impractical at best; the beauty of a news aggregator is the ability to quickly skim large numbers of sites, and having to click back and forth between folders was irritating.  Instead, I organize my feeds into seven general folders and use custom views in Outlook to control the layout of the items.  The custom views are important, as a regular "Messages" view was hardly better than the flat view I could have with my aggregator in Radio.

I created a custom view called My News, which showed the From, Subject, and Received fields in Outlook.  Additionally, it grouped the items (default collapsed groups) by From, so that on each visit to my Blawgs folder (for example), I could at a glance the total number of items and the number of unread items for each author.  This particular grouping worked well for single-author blogs, but was messy for multi-author and group feeds (like Volokh Conspiracy or the New York Times), or even for single-author blogs where the blog name was significant to me (rather than the author's name).  I was playing around the possibility of creating a custom form to use for the items so that I could group them by feed.

I mentioned this to Greg Reinacker only to discover he actually had anticipated (and met!) this need with a custom field in the NewsGator folders...named, aptly enough, Feed Name. (You can find it when you're configuring a view by switching the "category" of fields you're viewing to "User Defined Fields in Folder").  I have configured three custom views: By Feed (shows the From, Subject, and Received fields, grouped by Feed Name with default set to All Collapsed, so the groups are closed each time I go to the folder and sorted by Received in Ascending order);  By Date (showing the Feed Name, Author, Subject and Date files in a flat file, similar to the view offer in Radio except without any grouping by feeds); and New (same as By Feed but filtered to show only unread items).

With these three views I can manipulate the feeds in each of my category folders at will.  I can quickly review all of the new items in a feed and delete them in two keystrokes (selecting the Grouping row instead of an individual item and hitting the Delete key).  I can store items for as long as I want, rather than the automatic delete-after-X-days function in Radio.  (To be honest, I am a packrat, so this feature could very well backfire.)  I can forward items with a single click to attorneys or other staff at my firm.  When I convert this site to a MT blog (happening shortly, as I just finished the domain transfer to Netrillium from my previous host, which did not support databases) I will be able to post directly to klyjen.blog from my aggregator, which is my favorite feature of the Radio aggregator.   And, for our internal Sharepoint site, I am looking at an add-in that will allow me to post directly to WSS from Outlook (we're installing Sharepoint news feeds for our WSS departmental site now).  NewsGator combined with all of the native Outlook functionality--it's all good.

News aggregators seem to be all the rage at the moment; from beSpacific I saw a link to Dennis Kennedy's article Beating Information Overload with News Aggregators, from the November/December 2003 issue of ABA Law Practice Management.  (I've already forwarded the article to a few people from LawNet who had asked about news aggregators.)

Talking about Aggregating.

I am completely hooked on NewsGator as my aggregator  and am very happy about having made the switch.  As I subscribe to about 150 sites, organizing my feeds with each feed in its own folder was impractical at best; the beauty of a news aggregator is the ability to quickly skim large numbers of sites, and having to click back and forth between folders was irritating.  Instead, I organize my feeds into seven general folders and use custom views in Outlook to control the layout of the items.  The custom views are important, as a regular "Messages" view was hardly better than the flat view I could have with my aggregator in Radio.

I created a custom view called My News, which showed the From, Subject, and Received fields in Outlook.  Additionally, it grouped the items (default collapsed groups) by From, so that on each visit to my Blawgs folder (for example), I could at a glance the total number of items and the number of unread items for each author.  This particular grouping worked well for single-author blogs, but was messy for multi-author and group feeds (like Volokh Conspiracy or the New York Times), or even for single-author blogs where the blog name was significant to me (rather than the author's name).  I was playing around the possibility of creating a custom form to use for the items so that I could group them by feed.

I mentioned this to Greg Reinacker only to discover he actually had anticipated (and met!) this need with a custom field in the NewsGator folders...named, aptly enough, Feed Name. (You can find it when you're configuring a view by switching the "category" of fields you're viewing to "User Defined Fields in Folder").  I have configured three custom views: By Feed (shows the From, Subject, and Received fields, grouped by Feed Name with default set to All Collapsed, so the groups are closed each time I go to the folder and sorted by Received in Ascending order);  By Date (showing the Feed Name, Author, Subject and Date files in a flat file, similar to the view offer in Radio except without any grouping by feeds); and New (same as By Feed but filtered to show only unread items).

With these three views I can manipulate the feeds in each of my category folders at will.  I can quickly review all of the new items in a feed and delete them in two keystrokes (selecting the Grouping row instead of an individual item and hitting the Delete key).  I can store items for as long as I want, rather than the automatic delete-after-X-days function in Radio.  (To be honest, I am a packrat, so this feature could very well backfire.)  I can forward items with a single click to attorneys or other staff at my firm.  When I convert this site to a MT blog (happening shortly, as I just finished the domain transfer to Netrillium from my previous host, which did not support databases) I will be able to post directly to klyjen.blog from my aggregator, which is my favorite feature of the Radio aggregator.   And, for our internal Sharepoint site, I am looking at an add-in that will allow me to post directly to WSS from Outlook (we're installing Sharepoint news feeds for our WSS departmental site now).  NewsGator combined with all of the native Outlook functionality--it's all good.

News aggregators seem to be all the rage at the moment; from beSpacific I saw a link to Dennis Kennedy's article Beating Information Overload with News Aggregators, from the November/December 2003 issue of ABA Law Practice Management.  (I've already forwarded the article to a few people from LawNet who had asked about news aggregators.)