05 April 2005

Introducing newbies to XML and feeds

It's always nice to meet fresh faces. Especially ones that are excited about new tools.

I was having problems with NewsgatorOnline [the problem is over], so I thought I'd take a break. Wouldn't you know, I ran into someone who was interested.

They work in a rather large organization. Their job is 100% computers. They had never head anything about it.

"I've heard of HTML, and http://...."

Right it's kind of like HTML.

"XML? ML......"

Markup language.

"What does the X stand for?"

Extensible.

"OK. So its like .html...?"

Right. But better. You don't have to visit it. It visits you.

XML could save them alot of time. Their eyes brightened.

All I did was contrast how e-mail and webpages currently work: You have to go to them, one at a time.

But XML does the opposite. It brings it all to you.

And I contrasted how Google works: Google you can only find what's been archived. Technorati gives you stuff just minutes away. And in the future, if there's stuff that shows up, it automatically shows up.

If you want to find out what others are talking about on a particular topic, you can find out right away.

Then I asked them what they were currently working on, and came up with ways to use XML feeds for their particular job.

So I pulled out the Newsgator Online, showed them my earthquake feeds, and then let them see how the aggregators worked. The Feedster diagrams were nice. The visuals helped. And the Newsgator forums and support were good to point out.

It was neat to be able to show them all the stuff I had learned on my own.

What helped explain XML

The easiest way to explain XML searches is to think of two different camps: One is the search camp, and the other is the publishing camp.

When you're talking to new people about XML, just focus on what they're used to: Google. And then show them how searches on feeds and an aggregator can work.

Then expand to add more stuff: A watch list. A long list of files in the aggregator. And then they can see how much information they can get without surfing.

They'll start to notice things and that's your opportunity. It's neat to be able to answer their questions about random stuff, and then come back and still finish off with a good punch: "This is what XML can do for you right now."

Then, you can get into a discussion about publication, feedburner, and publication pings. And make sure to do it in a way that shows them how they can do their job better.

They were most impressed with the time difference: Just minutes for Technorati, versus alot longer for Google. And when I showed them PingOMatic, the lights really came on: "It's instantaneous." Yep, pretty much.

"So the publishers can tell the platform when there's new stuff." Right, and their computers don't have to randomly find it. It's all by notification. They're called bots.

And Google only lets you look backwards in time. The nice thing about a watchlist is that you can load up your terms, and the system automatically delivers the content. When it finds it. In the future. You don't have to keep checking websites.

Well, you can do some funky stuff and make Google look forward. I'll save that for next time.

All that in 10 minutes.

How can you use feeds?

To find stuff. What others are talking about. If you have a term paper or research project, sometimes its neat to find out what someone is talking about today. You don't have to start from square one.

You can find someone that's got on their blog some links, key terms, and maybe some other blog-OPML links. It's good to be able to learn alot of new things quickly.

The negatives? Well, your terms have to be exact, but that's not how people necessarily write. And you have to kind of jump around between two platforms when you're trying to search and learn: The aggregator and the search platform.

The codes, XML syntax can be kind of strange. No, overwhelming. The best way to handle this is just contrast a current webpage with the XML syntax. Show them the nice Newsgator Forum: The green colors; then contrast that with the syntax.

It's also good to have some feeds that don't work and have problems so you can show them what can go wrong, and how to fix it.

What I'd like

A single system that does all of this in one place. Go there, step-by-step tutorials, sign up, do your searches, aggregations, and display the results. Kind of something like combining Technorati with an aggregator.

Then the next step would be to have a publishing-combination: That combines blogs, feedburners, site statistics, links, and comments all in one.

Finally, an effort to combine the whole mess into one simple platform that has simple instructions to walk new people along.

Ideally it would be a one-click download and the first screen would show a flash demo of how to use the tools in a better way than what we currently have with Google and Yahoo.

Post script

As I was walking away from their desk, I realized my Newsgator Account was still open on their desk. I forgot to sign out.

I went back to their desk. Guess what? They were still staring at the screen, eyes glazed over, and unable to figure out what to do next.

"Click, click!"

I think their head is still spinning.
It's always nice to meet fresh faces. Especially ones that are excited about new tools.

I was having problems with NewsgatorOnline [the problem is over], so I thought I'd take a break. Wouldn't you know, I ran into someone who was interested.

They work in a rather large organization. Their job is 100% computers. They had never head anything about it.

"I've heard of HTML, and http://...."

Right it's kind of like HTML.

"XML? ML......"

Markup language.

"What does the X stand for?"

Extensible.

"OK. So its like .html...?"

Right. But better. You don't have to visit it. It visits you.

XML could save them alot of time. Their eyes brightened.

All I did was contrast how e-mail and webpages currently work: You have to go to them, one at a time.

But XML does the opposite. It brings it all to you.

And I contrasted how Google works: Google you can only find what's been archived. Technorati gives you stuff just minutes away. And in the future, if there's stuff that shows up, it automatically shows up.

If you want to find out what others are talking about on a particular topic, you can find out right away.

Then I asked them what they were currently working on, and came up with ways to use XML feeds for their particular job.

So I pulled out the Newsgator Online, showed them my earthquake feeds, and then let them see how the aggregators worked. The Feedster diagrams were nice. The visuals helped. And the Newsgator forums and support were good to point out.

It was neat to be able to show them all the stuff I had learned on my own.

What helped explain XML

The easiest way to explain XML searches is to think of two different camps: One is the search camp, and the other is the publishing camp.

When you're talking to new people about XML, just focus on what they're used to: Google. And then show them how searches on feeds and an aggregator can work.

Then expand to add more stuff: A watch list. A long list of files in the aggregator. And then they can see how much information they can get without surfing.

They'll start to notice things and that's your opportunity. It's neat to be able to answer their questions about random stuff, and then come back and still finish off with a good punch: "This is what XML can do for you right now."

Then, you can get into a discussion about publication, feedburner, and publication pings. And make sure to do it in a way that shows them how they can do their job better.

They were most impressed with the time difference: Just minutes for Technorati, versus alot longer for Google. And when I showed them PingOMatic, the lights really came on: "It's instantaneous." Yep, pretty much.

"So the publishers can tell the platform when there's new stuff." Right, and their computers don't have to randomly find it. It's all by notification. They're called bots.

And Google only lets you look backwards in time. The nice thing about a watchlist is that you can load up your terms, and the system automatically delivers the content. When it finds it. In the future. You don't have to keep checking websites.

Well, you can do some funky stuff and make Google look forward. I'll save that for next time.

All that in 10 minutes.

How can you use feeds?

To find stuff. What others are talking about. If you have a term paper or research project, sometimes its neat to find out what someone is talking about today. You don't have to start from square one.

You can find someone that's got on their blog some links, key terms, and maybe some other blog-OPML links. It's good to be able to learn alot of new things quickly.

The negatives? Well, your terms have to be exact, but that's not how people necessarily write. And you have to kind of jump around between two platforms when you're trying to search and learn: The aggregator and the search platform.

The codes, XML syntax can be kind of strange. No, overwhelming. The best way to handle this is just contrast a current webpage with the XML syntax. Show them the nice Newsgator Forum: The green colors; then contrast that with the syntax.

It's also good to have some feeds that don't work and have problems so you can show them what can go wrong, and how to fix it.

What I'd like

A single system that does all of this in one place. Go there, step-by-step tutorials, sign up, do your searches, aggregations, and display the results. Kind of something like combining Technorati with an aggregator.

Then the next step would be to have a publishing-combination: That combines blogs, feedburners, site statistics, links, and comments all in one.

Finally, an effort to combine the whole mess into one simple platform that has simple instructions to walk new people along.

Ideally it would be a one-click download and the first screen would show a flash demo of how to use the tools in a better way than what we currently have with Google and Yahoo.

Post script

As I was walking away from their desk, I realized my Newsgator Account was still open on their desk. I forgot to sign out.

I went back to their desk. Guess what? They were still staring at the screen, eyes glazed over, and unable to figure out what to do next.

"Click, click!"

I think their head is still spinning.
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