E-Learning 3.0 Task 1 completed!

In the E-learning 3.0 MOOC being run by Stephen Downes, we have been given two tasks to choose from for this week. I might tackle both tasks, but for now, I will write about how I completed Task1, which was:

Subscribe to the course feeds – using the feed reader of your choice (here’s a selection) use the course OPML file (here it is) to subscribe to the course feeds. To get a badge you’ll need to show you’ve done this, maybe by writing a blog post).

Here, in this blog post, I will provide evidence of completion, describe what I did, where I nearly came unstuck and share the questions I still have about this task/topic.

I read the task in the newsletter which came through into my email inbox on October 30th. At this point I had not read the previous day’s newsletter, so I had not seen the files which would help with this task.

My initial reaction was of extreme frustration. What on earth is an OPML file? Clicking on the link revealed a page of densely typed text, which is a complete motivation killer for someone like me. My second reaction was to offload onto a long-suffering friend, by sending a long moan/rant by email. My very patient friend explained what an OPML file is (basically a file format that can be used as the import/export format for RSS feed reader programs – and there we go again – what is RSS ? I did know this, but I don’t think it is necessarily common knowledge). My friend persuaded me that the task might not be as bad as I thought. I persuaded myself that I shouldn’t give up too easily.

I then realised that Stephen has created a short video ‘Using OPML’ which made it look quite straight-forward, given that I already have a Feedly account.

Quick (13 minutes) description of how to use the E-Learning 3.0 OPML feed (at https://el30.mooc.ca/course_feeds.xml ) to collect the list of feeds being shared by course participants and read all their new posts in your feed reader – I demonstrate how to import OPML for both Feedly and for gRSShopper.

I set Stephen’s video going on my second large monitor (I find a second monitor essential for pretty much everything I do these days) and opened Feedly on my laptop. Following Stephen’s instructions I imported the OPLM file into Feedly in a matter of minutes. Here is the evidence!

At this point, my screen did not look like the image above, because …

  • The heading of the category (which is now EL30) was initially ‘Uncategorised’. I wanted to change this. I tried using the ‘Rename’ facility provided by Feedly (see image below), but that didn’t work however many times I tried.

  • I wondered if I could/should change the OPML file, so opened it in TextEdit on my Mac, but that didn’t help (I had to use Google to find out how to do this!) Ultimately I created a new feed with the title EL30.
  • I then tried to drag and drop all the feeds into the new category. According to Feedly, it should be possible to reorganise your feeds in this way, but again I couldn’t get this to work. There must be a way to bulk move feeds, but I couldn’t find it. Ultimately I moved them one by one, using the ‘Move to’ button (see image below) found by clicking on the ‘more options’ button, which becomes visible when you click on a feed. Just as well there were not too many feeds. I then deleted the Uncategorised title.

  • But I was still not happy. In the first week of the course I used the recommended blog feed finder to submit my blog to the course site. In the event I found that my blog was already there. I think Stephen must have pulled in some of the early blog posts manually to get it all going. I realised on seeing my feed, both on the course site and on my Feedly, that the posts being displayed were not specific to the course. I’m sure my other interests are of no interest to members of this course and you don’t want to talk about dying on this course. So I changed this in Feedly by editing the OPML file in TextEdit, so that the feed url was the category url on my blog followed by /feed (Thanks again to my patient friend for telling me what to do). I also submitted this feed (as being the more accurate one) to the course site, so we’ll see if the old one gets deleted. I hope so.
  • Finally I added the E-Learning 3.0 newsletter feed, using the course RSS feed provided by Stephen, by first clicking on Add Content at the bottom of the sidebar in Feedly. Believe it or not it took me a while to find Add Content. I was expecting it to be at the top of the sidebar.

For anyone very familiar with OPML files, source codes, RSS feeds or even Feedly (I have not used it much recently), then this blog post will probably seem bizarre. How could such an apparently simple task, lead to all these complications? Well if you are a ‘techie’ or a ‘geek’, then I would say to you that I am probably the norm rather than the exception and for me, this is quite an achievement 🙂

And more seriously I would like to ask you to convince me that I have spent my time well, when the feeds have already been aggregated on the course site. What is the difference between me going to my Feedly account and going to the course site. I know I can now pull into my Feedly EL30 category any feed that I want. I have control over this. But realistically, would I want to do this? So I need an answer to the question of why this is important.

And a final question that has been puzzling me. To do this I am still reliant on someone like Stephen providing the OPML file. Surely for it to be of real benefit I would need to create my own OPML file.

And a final message for my very patient friend – despite the long moaning email, this has turned out to be an enjoyable task, but whilst I am now happy that I have managed to complete it, and overcome some problems myself (although not on the scale of Laura Ritchie installing gRSShopper), I’m still not sure of the purpose or what I stand to gain.