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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

eLearning Blogs - Quick Way to Find Good Ones

Someone recently posted on ASTD that they would like to know what blogs people subscribe to. Since I've only been getting really into blogging over the past couple of months, I've gone through the experience of following links from web sites / blogs. Here's the problem:
  • 50% of the links point to blogs with old content only (6 months since last post) - at least that's a pretty quick rejection.
  • If it has a recent post, then I need to scan the contents to determine if they are posting things that will interest me.
  • If they pass that test, then I go through the process of finding their RSS or Atom link and adding that content to my reader.

That takes me quite a bit of work. So I've tried to figure out how to make this easier for the next person.

Solution 1 - BlogLines

BlogLines allows you to review blogs online and has some nice features to find related blogs based on what other people are subscribing to. It also allows you to have a BlogRoll (which I've put in my template on the right).

You can check out the blogs I subscribe to at:

Of course, unless you are signed up in BlogLines, then it doesn't make subscription any easier.

Solution 2 - OPML Files

The other approach is to sign-up for a whole bunch of Blogs and slowly delete the ones you don't like. Some readers help you out with this, but I find I just push them to the bottom and delete after a while (or I just ignore them). Note: all the blogs I've got listed in my Blog and on BlogLines I think have good stuff on them (these are not in the junk pile).

Of course, to do this, you ideally could just sign up. The good news is that this is starting to become easier because of OPML files. These files contain a list of subscriptions and many readers will allow you to import and export OPML files.

Since I'm using BlogLines to track the good stuff, you can grab my subscriptions at: or click on the OPML file link on the right.

For anyone with a list of blogs, they really should be handing out OPML files to make life better.

Remaining Problem

One problem with this approach is that after you've grabbed my OPML file and imported it, if I find a new interesting blog - which I probably find about one a week - add it to my list of blogs, you won't find out about the new one.

Of course, I could post the blog to my blog to let you know, but it would be so nice if that was just automated. In other words, I should allow my reader to subscribe me to anything that you are reading and it will automatically update the list of blogs. It would remember the ones that I've marked as junk.

My guess is that this is where BlogLines is going (or maybe they already do it).


Kathleen Gilroy said...

You use dynamic "reading lists" to solve the problem of updating your opml collections. If you are interested in following a collection of blogs that I have put together under Learning 2.0, all you need to do is add this URL to an aggregator that can manage readings lists (we use Blogbridge):

Now if I update this list, that update will propagate to your aggregator.

Tony Karrer said...

Hi Kathleen,

I may be missing your point. I've pulled together a reading list that is updated automatically via BlogLines. Every time I add a blog, it will update the list on the right side of my page and update my OPML file.

However, my readers like me to add OPML files statically, i.e., I point the reader to the OPML file.

So, I can't tell my reader to keep checking the following OPML link to update my reading list.

Are you saying that BlogBridge does that? I thought it was more of an aggregator, but if it has automatically updates based on dynamic OPML files, I will have to check it out more closely.

Kathleen Gilroy said...

Yes. Blogbridge now has a feature called "reading lists." You build a set of feeds in what is called a guide and then you "publish" the list of feeds to an OPML URL that Blogbridge stores on its servers. You can then direct people to the URL which they can add to their aggregators. In Blogbridge you add this URL as a reading list, which means it is dynamic. So if I as the publisher of the list, add or delete anything, any subscribers to that list are updated through Blogbridge. This is why we have chosen Blogbridge as our favorite aggregator.