Reading lists hit the news last week with Read/Write Web picking up a post from the venerable Dave Winer about Google get[ting] a patent on reading lists. The patent was filed in 2005, a year or so after Dave Winer blogged:
One of the innovations flowing out the Share Your OPML site is the idea of reading lists. An expert in a given area puts together a set of feeds that you would subscribe to if you want a balanced flow of information on his or her topic of expertise. You let the expert subscribe to feeds on your behalf. I’ve gotten the first taste of what this is like by reading the aggregator page on the Share Your OPML site. As new sites come on the Top-100, as the aggregated interests of the community shift, I automatically start reading sites I wasn’t reading before. I don’t have to do anything. I like this. So at last Thursday’s Berkman meeting I asked two of our regulars, Rick Heller and Jay McCarthy, to start doing these reading lists, and Rick is ready with what he calls a list of “political blogs that provide a balanced diet of liberal and conservative views.”
So what are dynamic reading lists? Take one or more RSS feeds, and declare their URIs as items in a reading list feed. Subscribe to that reading list feed. Now whenever there is a change made to the items contained in either of the RSS feeds, the person who subscribed to the reading list feed sees those changes. So a reading list (which could be maintained by anyone) is something I can subscribe to with a single click. And that reading list can be managed, can contain RSS feeds or other reading lists that are curated by other people.
As a student, my degree could have a reading list that contains links to reading lists for each of my courses. Those course reading lists could be maintained by course instructors, and might contain feeds from other students taking the course. I subscribe to single reading list. My instructor on a particular course can change the contents of one of the feeds that is identified in my reading list. I see those changes via my degree reading list.
So it may have occurred to you that reading lists are a great way of sharing a curatorial load… and you’d be right :-)
Another example of the reading list/shared curation pattern is exemplified by Jon Udell’s elmcity project, which allows for separately maintained calendar feeds to be managed and aggregated using the Delicious social bookmarking tool (e.g. Collaborative curation as a service or elmcity project FAQ.
DeliTV also uses a similar pattern to allow users to define video playlists (that may contain other video playlists) on delicious, and then watch them in Boxee or via an appropriate mobile device (e.g. Deli TV – Personally Programmed Social Television Channels on Boxee: Prototype and An Unintended Consequence: DeliTV Goes Mobile on iPhone and Android).
It’s been some time since I properly tinkered with OPML, one of the most convenient formats for describing reading lists, so here’s a note to self about some the services that might be worth playing with:
- Scott Wilson’s JOPML, an OPML bundler for TicTocs RSS feeds (see e.g. Mashlib Pipes Tutorial: 2D Journal Search);
- Scott Wilson’s Ensemble generator, that cobbles together an OPML feed of OERs based on a specified search term;
- a couple of my own, very old, experiments: Social Bookmarking OPML Feed Roller, or Persistent News Search OPML Feed Roller; and not forgetting the OPML Dashboard Display and Disaggregating an MIT OpenCourseware Course into Separate RSS Feeds of course;-)
- @cogdog – you got any OPML/reading lists demos/hacks?;-)
On my to do list is also a way of putting together ‘highlights’ collections of notable paragraphs contained with in an atomised JISCPress/WriteToReply/Digress.it document…
As a design pattern, reading lists provide a very powerful way of leveraging the power of a community of individuals to collaboratively, yet independently, curate sets of resources. As with RSS, it may be that reading lists won’t achieve much explicit consumer success. But as wiring/plumbing – don’t underestimate them…
PS Remember, many resource centric sites allow you to create playlist feeds – e.g. Youtube Playlists, or, more recently, flickr playlists/galleries