Following participants in the PHT402 Ethics course

Many of the participants in the #pht402 Professional Ethics course have never blogged before and are only casual users of services like Twitter. This post aims to suggest some of the ways that participants can follow each other using a variety of services and programmes. In addition, I’ve also suggested another option for RSS reader for those who don’t have permanent access to the internet.

There are some basic concepts that you should be familiar with in order to have a better understanding of how to “follow” blogs and “feeds” as part of this online course. The first is RSS, which is an open web standard that wraps content in a way that enables it to be published online, without the author needing to have any knowledge of the process. The content can be video, audio or text and is pushed out to the world when the author publishes it. For the purposes of this course the content will be blog posts but could just as easily be podcasts or video.

In order to follow a blog (or any other published content), you need to be able to subscribe to the RSS feed. For this you will need an RSS reader (or, feed reader). One of the benefits of using a feed reader is that when it updates it’s feeds (i.e. the blog posts of authors you follow), it will notify you that new content is available. The only other way for you to do this would be to go to the project page and click on each individual author’s link. Feed readers also keep track of which posts you’ve already read, and some of them allow you to favourite posts, or save them for later reading. For example, if you’re quickly browsing through your feeds and you see one that you want to pay more attention to, you can save it for later, or bookmark it (the language is different, depending on what platform you use). Feedly, Netvibes and WordPress Reader have already been mentioned on the project page but using them may be a problem for users who don’t have internet access at home.

Selection_003
An example of the view of blog posts in my browser, using Feedly. You can also use Feedly with iOS or Android, but it has no offline mode.

If you know that you’re probably going to have limited access to the internet, then FeedReader is another option for a free RSS reader that has support for offline viewing of blog posts. Participants can download and install it and then update their feeds when they do have an internet connection. This will enable participants with no (or slow) internet connections at home to keep up with the discussion. Note: I’ll be writing another post later to suggest ways that participants can work offline during this course.

If you want to get a quick overview of what’s happening in the course, we’ll be using Twitter to post general announcements using the hashtag #pht402. Clicking on this link will conduct a search for the hashtag on Twitter, or alternatively go to http://www.twitter.com and search for #pht402, it will do a search and return all tweets with the #pht402 hashtag (see image below for an example).

Selection_004

That’s it! I hope that this post has helped to clear up some of the confusion around RSS, blogging, feed readers and following each other. Remember that one of the main aims of this course is to identify the questions you would like answered and then to use various online sources, including other course participants’ posts (which represent their thinking) to inform your thinking around certain topics. Therefore, being able to quickly scan through and read the work of others is an extremely important activity during the course.