Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Great Use of RSS

I suppose ed-tech folks have been talking about the power of RSS for a couple of years already, and everyone already uses it for subscribing to blogs, but I had my eyes opened this week. Others have talked about using RSS for syndicating learning objects, especially objects that weren't simple html pages, but I guess I never really got it because I wasn't actually experiencing it. Yesterday I finally got it, thanks to Webjay, a great web application I use for online music playlists. Creator Lucas Gonze has worked some magic with Atom feeds that got me all excited. Take a look at the screenshot of a single entry from a feed showing which playlists have been updated.

So instead of seeing only the usual title, text and a few links out, you're seeing cool functionality that can be accessed right out of your newsreader. It has the effect of making Bloglines (or whatever you use) another interface for Webjay. You get lots of great information about a playlist -- how many playlists are related, number of comments, which new songs have been added, etc. -- but the real power comes in what you can do from these links. Without leaving your aggregator, you can download the newest songs from a playlist and listen to the entire playlist just by clicking which player you want to use. And a single click out lets you copy a track to your own playlist, view or leave comments, view all related playlists, and visit the sites the new songs came from.

Maybe I'm behind the times, but this seems like really powerful stuff. Imagine the educational applications -- combining learning objects, sequencing video and audio enclosures, using FOAF information to connect learners with experts and other learners, custom webquests, individualized research that could be easily assembled into reports or presentations, integrating good stuff from Furl and could go on and on. One thing Lucas mentioned was that the uptake on playlist feeds hasn't been very good -- perhaps he's still ahead of the times a bit, since we're still in the stage where subscribing to feeds requires manual intervention from keeners and tech-types.

Update: Seb describes in detail how he's crafted his own custom radio station and best-of playlists using Webjay feeds. Now imagine the richness if Webjay could be combined with something like Flitter to give you instant info about the new songs you're finding, and suggesting related artists?

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