ICT & Computing in Education

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Why Subscribe to Blogs? 8 Things to Consider

So many blogs, so little time. What with all the 101 other things you have to do in your life, you can't afford to waste time on blogs that won't benefit you in any way. Or, to be more accurate, in which the benefits are exceeded by the cost, ie the time spent.

So what kind of things might you take into account when deciding whether or not to subscribe to a blog's RSS feed? Here is what I look for.

  1. I will usually have discovered a blog through a reference to one particular article. The obvious thing to check out, then, is whether all or most of the articles on the blog look interesting, or whether the one I came across was the exception to the rule.
  2. Are the articles engaging? Ideally, I prefer to read stuff that is well-written. Not just well-written from a technical point of view, but in a way that's engaging, that reels me in. I want to have to drag myself away because I have other things to do, not force myself to read it because I think it might be good for me.
  3. OK, not everyone can be a great writer, so is it informative at least? Am I going to learn stuff that I may not otherwise come across, or not packaged in as succinct a manner?
  4. Is it newsworthy? I find it hard to keep up with news, despite, or possibly because of, the dozens of sources I rely on. If there's a blog that consistently mentions the latest news, be it technical or educational or otherwise, I'm interested.
  5. Is it humorous? Even if it's none of the things mentioned so far, if it makes me smile or laugh that is a big plus.
  6. Is it provocative? A blog should make you think, or react.
  7. Once it's made it through the hurdles presented so far, a blog has to show that its owner is serious about it. The issue here is: has it been updated regularly? If it's been more than a month since the last post, that is a real turn-off for me.
    Yes, I know that people are busy, but I think it's a matter of priorities. I have blogs that I haven't updated in months. But this one, ICT in Education, gets updated on average at least once a day during the week, and sometimes more, and sometimes at the weekends and on holidays too. And let me tell you: I am busy!
    That does raise another issue, of course: is a blog updated too frequently? That doesn't bother me in the slightest. I figure that someone can update their blog every 15 minutes if they want to, but I don't have to read it all. But I mention it here because I have recently had one person unsubscribe from my RSS feed because he thought that I update my blog too often.
  8. Finally, is it easy to subscribe? I have a Google toolbar which enables me to subscribe to a blog by clicking on a button labelled 'Subscribe'. If I get a message saying 'Feed not found', I become slightly miffed, because it is pretty easy to avoid that,m and people with slick-looking websites ought to know that. All you have to do is insert the following code within the HEAD part of your Index page:

    "<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml"
    title="RSS Feed for ictineducation.org"
    href="http://www.ictineducation.org/home-page/rss.xml" »",

    substituting your RSS feed and title for mine, or course.

If clicking on Subscribe doesn't work, I'll click on an RSS feed icon or similar. If have to hunt around for that, I'll probably give up, especially if the decision to subscribe was touch and go anyway.

Total time for this whole process? I would say no more than 5 minutes, and most of that will be taken up with #1.

I'd be interested in hearing about what makes you decide to subscribe to an RSS feed or not, so please either comment below or complete the survey on the subject; it will take you just two or three minutes, and I'll publish the results soon.

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(c) Terry Freedman