Aug 17 2006

RSS feed saga for CPsquare

Published by at 10:44 am under Communities of practice,Technology

I’ve always thought that technology can boost communities of practice, but almost every tool also creates new boundaries around a community and more complexity for community members. Learning to manage those boundaries is a really important topic for community members, leaders, and sponsors. I’ve been learning a lot about how to create a wider periphery for CPsquare in the last few weeks.

Beverly Traynor started it or picked up on it, I forget. There’s been a good discussion in CPsquare about what the purpose of such an aggregated blog feed might be and how several variants might be useful. The basic idea is to give people who are not members of the community a sense of what bloggers who are members of CPsquare are writing about. It’s amusing that in our conversations about the design of boundaries, a couple of people have mentioned that it seems appropriate to them that CPsquare has a public, no-cost forum called com-prac. In fact the com-prac discussion began in October of 1999, and CPsquare in its current form didn’t get going until January of 2003. Of course, I think of com-prac and CPsquare as very related and encourage everyone who joins CPsquare to subscribe to com-prac. But the consequence of more platforms (Web Crossing, Yahoo Groups, blogs, etc., etc.) is more complexity and that can make on-boarding and orientation of new community members more difficult.

Anyway, my dive into RSS feed aggregation has been time-consuming and has felt like I’m swimming through an swamp of uncertain possibilities and constraints. Finally, last week I decided that I was going to stop experimenting, even though I had a working prototype. I felt like I was considering too many untested angles and considerations at once, so I needed to talk to an expert.

Fortunately for me and for CPsquare, we have a friend in Marshall Kirkpatrick, currently blogging furiously for TechCrunch. Last night we talked for two and a half hours over a pint and a half of Portland’s best brew. Rich conversations with people like Marshall always have an upside and a downside. The upside in this case was:

  • I have a lot more context about the design and management of RSS feeds. I decided that if Marshall said something was inherently confusing or problematic, I’ll take it as conclusive for the time being and give myself a break.
  • He agreed that the model I’d put together of the CPsquare registration and feed creation process was reasonable and do-able. My general direction made sense. Now to put it in production (after just a few more experiments).
  • His thinking about the possibilities, of course, was way beyond what I’d thought of so far. I don’t think I want to let myself think about those possibilities till there’s more time to dig into them.
  • Maybe the greatest benefit for me was looking over his shoulder and seeing how he used a tools like Diigo, Zaptxt, and gmail together. Wow.

The downside:

  • He mentioned a bunch of other tools that I will need to investigate.
    (Of course this is good news, but comes with a cost–more time digging around)
  • I’ve already been shopping at Amazon and registered at several more sites and downloaded more Firefox extensions and the morning is only half over. (Yes, it has an up-side, but it takes a lot of time!)

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “RSS feed saga for CPsquare”

  1. Sus Nyrop says:


    I adore your lively storytelling about how confusing and tiem taking it can be to experiment with the many tools for crossing multiple blog feeds and other user generated info material. You’re navigating in a sea of chaos, and I mcuh appreciate your fearless attitude; don’t hesitate too long, just dive into it; these complex aggregation systems are probably developed to simplify othervise complex and individual, messy strategies and procedures for search and reading online -and making sense thereof. Like you I find it takes a great deal of mind energy to figure out what are the pros & cons, JDI – just do it!

    sincerely yours, Sus

  2. Sus Nyrop says:

    Did you consider generating RSS feeds for comments 🙂

  3. John.Smith says:

    Thanks, Sus. Since posting yesterday I’ve bumped into a feed validator tool that has made me think: Will I stumble into the business of telling other people that there are elements of their feeds that are “illegal”? Quite a few surprises when I put the several different feeds into this:

    In fact there is a standard WordPress feed for comments and a standard link for it provided by WordPress, too, but my ISP says it’s not “legal” and that I should change it!

  4. joitske says:

    In some cases in development organisations you notice that we jump on a tool without really evaluating alternatives. So I think it is great how you try to assess technological alternatives from the beginning. Apparently there must be some kind of balance in what you look into, otherwise you never get going. Maybe setting some time limit / maximum number of alternatives while setting off for a tool search/introduction?

  5. John.Smith says:

    I agree that tool research can be a never-ending task! There is too much to consider and too many alternative tools. A key is copying what other communities that are similar enough are doing. Kind of the “design a little, practice a lot” idea. Probably every communitiy that you observe has one ore more exemplary uses of technology — it’s a great service that you can provide to point out what’s worth copying in “adjacent” communtieis.

  6. […] mechanics are in place, now for the fun part. I’ve been working on setting up a feed for CPsquare members’ blogs. I just checked it to see whether the feed was […]