There are many things one can do with time. Some of them are useful, some of them not, and some of them require one label or another. Today I spent time that qualified for a label: Tech Geek Time.
One of the enjoyable things about running a website such as this is getting to play with the virtual gadgets that are made to help make your website more interesting, easier to maintain, more user friendly. Today I found one that will make the website easier to maintain and also a bit cooler for the user, IMHO.
If you check the LivMusic front page you will see that I have removed the banner in the top middle and replaced it with links to this blog. Here comes the cool part: whenever I write a new post, the title shows up in that box automatically, courtesy of the good folks at Feedburner (the company that handles the RSS feed for the site). So, you will always be able to see the five most recent posts on LivMusic Interactive from the LivMusic home page. What’s the best part? You guessed it. It all happens with no further work from me. How cool is that!? It’s like free practice time. Speaking of, I’m off to get some of that in right now.
We are proud to say that LivMusic News has over 1300 subscribers from over 40 countries! However, a recent glance at statistics for LivMusic Interactive tells us that there have only been 15 comments made on the blog. You don’t have to be a mathematician to see that only a very small percentage of our subscribers are posting comments; in fact, you don’t even have to be five years old to see it. What could be the reason for this? Are our subscribers simply shy? Let’s see… 1300 trumpet players… shy? I’m thinking not. We believe there are two main reasons that there have been so few comments: the posting process is too involved/complicated, and you have questions or comments that don’t pertain to anything you are seeing on LivMusic. We have made changes to address these issues, and we hope this will make all of you want to throw in your “two cents” from time to time.
To simplify the posting process, we have removed the requirement of having to be registered in order to post a comment. Now all you have to do is click on the title of a post that interests you, read the full post, generate a thought, enter your name and email address in the corresponding boxes, write your thoughts in the comments box, and click “submit comments”. You may be wondering what your email address will be used for. Rest assured, your email address is used only by a site administrator to contact you regarding a post. It will not be published or shared in any way. Of course, if you find that you are posting often and are getting tired of entering your email address each time, then you can register and log in to LMI. That will save you the hassle of entering your information for each comment you make.
To register, simply select the “Register” link under the “Your Account” heading in the sidebar. When you get to the register screen, enter your email address and the username you would like to use on LMI. A password will be sent to the email address you specified, so make sure it is correct. Copy the password you receive via email and paste it into the login screen along with your username. After logging in, you will be taken to our newly revamped control panel, where you should change your password to something that you can remember when you return. To do this, click on the “Users” tab at the top of the page; this will display your profile. At the very bottom of your profile will be two fields where you can enter your new password. Simply enter your new password in each field, and then click “Update Profile” at the bottom of the page. Your password has now been changed.
Another benefit of registering is that you can submit posts for inclusion in the blog. For example, if you have a question about something that I have not discussed, you would register, go into your control panel, click the “Write” tab at the top of the page, and compose your post (including title and category). The HTML tags above the “post” field enable you to insert links and basic formatting in your post. When you are done, simply click “Save as Draft”. The post will then be reviewed, and if it is approved, it will be posted on the blog and open to comments from others. This is a great way to address topics that may be on your mind, but that haven’t been addressed in any of my posts or articles. If you are already registered at LMI, but don’t have a “Write” tab at the top of your control panel page, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are excited by both the number and quality of the musicians who subscribe to LivMusic. I know that there is an immense amount of knowledge and experience in this group, and I sincerely hope to see comments and posts from all of you in the near future.
Welcome to acronym central! Every time I encounter an article title like this, I am struck by the fact that there is still no game show where contestants have to correctly define the words that correspond to a given acronym. There could even be a bonus round, where the contestants would have to determine whether or not a particular word (or collection of letters) is an acronym. I can see it now: “I’ll take internet acronyms for $500, Alex!” But enough of my game-show fantasies.
Hopefully you already know that LMI is short for LivMusic Interactive, which is the title of the trumpet studio blog. What you may or may not know, though, is that RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. There are other interpretations as well, but I am sticking with that one. Why should you care about RSS? There are many reasons, but one of the most compelling is that it gives you the ability to track changes and posts at all of your favorite websites and blogs. Of course, the website has to publish an RSS feed in order for you to do this, but that is becoming more and more standard.
We publish two feeds from LMI: one for posts, and the other for comments. Just to clarify, the post is the original statement, and comments are what other people say about the original statement. On LMI, I have written all the posts (up to this point anyway), and some people have commented on those posts (see Perfect Music? for an example). Any time there is a new post, it is instantly added to the “post” feed, and any time there is a new comment, it is added to the “comment” feed. Fine, good to know. Now, what do you do with these feeds?
You can view the feed by clicking one of the links at the bottom of any page at LMI. There is a link for Entries (posts) and one for Comments. These links take you to a page that has turned the feed into a regular web page (HTML). But if you really want to take advantage of everything RSS has to offer, you will want to use an RSS reader. There are two types of RSS readers: some are web-based, and others are applications that you download and run on your computer (much like your email software). There are links to many popular web-based readers on every page at LMI. All you have to do is click on one of those buttons in the sidebar, and it will automatically add our “post” feed to your account. If you don’t have an account, no problem; you can simply create one once you are there. For example, if you click on the “My Yahoo” button, you will be taken through a couple of quick steps, and, voila, the LMI feed will be added to your “My Yahoo” page. If you accumulate RSS feeds from several different websites, then you will probably want to use a service such as Bloglines or download an application that you use on your computer.
Bloglines is a free service that lets you track RSS feeds from many different sites and gives you tools to manage that data. You can sign in to Bloglines and you will be able to see all of the feeds you are currently tracking. RSS feeds are sent out from all kinds of websites, ranging from small personal blogs to major news organizations like the New York Times or CNN. You will have folders for all the feeds you subscribe to on one side of your screen and a main window that displays the currently selected feed. Beside each folder will be the number of unread posts from that particular site. This makes it very easy to quickly scan your folders to see if any of your favorite sites have updates. If you click on that folder, you will be able to see what the update is, and, if you so desire, you may click on a link that will take you to the site itself.
RSS readers that you download and install on your computer operate in much the same way as Bloglines. The biggest differences are in tools, features, and appearance. In short, there is no way a web-based reader can offer all the same features as a stand-alone application. The downside to stand-alone readers is that you usually have to buy them, although, to be fair, they are often inexpensive. Also, every reader I have seen has come with a free trial period, so you can get a feel for what the software is like before you purchase. Mentioning purchasing reminds me of money, and that reminds me of one of the best aspects of RSS. With the exception of the news readers that you download and run on your computer, everything I have mentioned is absolutely free. That’s right. Free. Zip. Nada. No money required. How cool is that?
I have mentioned a lot of options for ways to take advantage of RSS, but perhaps your head is swimming a bit in this pool of acronyms. What should you do? Here is my recommendation: set up an account at Bloglines (www.bloglines.com) and start collecting feeds from your favorite websites as you encounter them, or search for feeds using the handy search box at the top of the page. Subscribe to any feeds you are interested in and follow along as updates are made to each site. If you feel like you want more functionality, or even just a more attractive interface, then download a dedicated RSS reader and enjoy.
That brings us back to the most important part of the article: tracking the RSS feeds from LMI. It’s simple. As I mentioned before, there are two feeds from LMI. Paste the URL for each feed into the “subscribe” window of whatever reader you choose. That’s it. Were you expecting more? If you aren’t the cut and paste type, then you can subscribe to our feed by using one of the handy buttons on the sidebar. The feed URL for posts to LMI is: http://feeds.feedburner.com/lmi. The feed URL for comments is: http://feeds.feedburner.com/lmi_comments. If you don’t have this handy when you want to subscribe, you can visit the website and click on the links in the sidebar (under “LMI Feeds”) or those at the bottom of the page. When the new page loads, copy the URL and insert it into your reader. By the way, don’t be confused by the feedburner.com URL’s. Feedburner is simply a company we are running our feeds through. We do this for many good reasons, but since you are still awake, I’ll leave it alone.
As you can see, RSS really is just that: really simple. It is a way to track what is new at many of your favorite websites all at once, from a single place. If you are new to it, you will be amazed at how prevalent it is, and how useful. Now as you ply the waters of our acronym-clad society, there will be at least this one instance where you are “in the know.” And if it comes up in casual conversation, you can give that smug, acronym-knowing smile and reply, “Oh, you don’t know what that means?” Go ahead, don’t feel guilty; it feels good to be on the other end for a change.