Using WriteToReply Documents as the Basis for Discussion in a Meeting Room Setting

One of the things I experimented with a long time ago was the ability to use an RSS feed to power a presentation (e.g. Feedshow Link Presenter – Testing Audience Synch). The idea was that that you should be able to bookmark a set of webpages using a social bookmarking tool, and then take the RSS feed of those bookmarked links and use it to drive a presentation; the presentation itself would be a walkthrough of the bookmarked pages.

Anyway, not so long ago, the Delicious social bookmarking service started to offer a similar service: Browse These Bookmarks, so that’s all well and good..:-)

One of the things that I had on the Feedshow Presenter to do list (and I’m not sure whether I ever coded this up or not) was to be able to display any description text saved with a bookmark before showing the contents of the bookmarked page. This in turn suggests another way of using a feed powered presentation tool – as a vehicle simply for displaying text elements from an RSS feed in a presentation like format.

Now I know that death by Powerpoint is often brought on by text heavy slides, but sometimes you may need to chat around text; and sometimes, splashing the text you want to talk around on a screen might be a handy thing to do…

Enter Google Reader Play, a tool that does exactly that – give it an RSS feed, and it will let you present one feed item at a time. Like this:

Google reader play

So what I’m thinking is, if you want to talk around a document, then maybe talking around the document at a paragraph level is a handy thing to be able to do.

And a good place to find paragraph level feeds is from something like WriteToReply…

So for example, if you look at the Digital Economy Act on WriteToReply, and go to a particular page such as, you can get an RSS feed from that page by constructing a URL of the form

(Note there’s a minor glitch at the moment – the title of the feed itself is incorrect…)

So to discuss each paragraph in turn from that page, all we need to so is view the feed in Google Reader Play.

To make things easier, I’ve created a couple of bookmarks (bootstrapped from my “Get Current URL” pattern bookmarklet generator).

Firstly, given any RSS feed, here’s a bookmarklet for viewing it in Google Reader Play:

javascript:(function(){ window.location=''+encodeURIComponent('/'+window.location.href);})()

Secondly, given a page from a document hosted on WriteToReply, (not the RSS feed – the actual page; such as this one) this bookmarklet will construct the paragraph level page feed and pass it to Google Reader Play:

javascript:(function(){ u=window.location.href.replace(/(.*\/[^\/]*)\/(.*)/,"$1/feed/paragraphlevel/$2"); window.location=''+encodeURIComponent('/'+u);})()

So there you have it, another way of supporting discussion around documents hosted on WriteToReply :-)

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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