RSS & Databases Workshop

I spent the last few days in Chicago, first being a tourist with my SO who had never been to Chicago before, then giving a workshop for the Metropolitan Library System (MLS) on the use of Database RSS feeds in library websites. I have few pictures from the tourist part of the trip – I took a BUNCH on Sunday, while we were at the Field Museum, but then managed, due to tiredness and wonky wi-fi, lose the entire batch. That irritated me enough that I kept my camera in my purse for the rest of the trip! We did the Field Museum, the Magnificent Mile and the Navy Pier while we were touring – it was fun, but pretty much exhausting…
The reason for the trip, however, was to lead the workshop on how to use RSS alerts to create dynamic web pages that change regularly with no ongoing updating work from the webmaster! I’ve stuck my “virtual handout” on my newest PBWiki page, but that may be moving – I can’t seem to figure out how to allow anonymous comments to the page, and I’d really like to be able to do that. The presentation, stored at Slideshare, is available on that page as well.
The workshop went very well – there were 8 attendees and it was a hands-on, talk about it and try it, kind of session. We covered the basics of the RSS standard, how to get at the RSS alerts in Ebsco and a couple of other database and web providers, and how to use incorporate those RSS files in a web page. The participants used an RSS feed from the MLS site, ran it through a Javascript RSS parser and copied the text into a basic web page to find out just how easy the process is and how much control you can have over the output. We also discussed PHP, ASP, ColdFusion and Ruby on Rails options and what sort of access you have to have to the server to make use of the many libraries available in each language to parse RSS.
There were lots of questions during the session and I stayed for about 45 minutes after the workshop answering questions from attendees who wanted more one-on-one help. I haven’t received any evaluations yet (they do electronic evaluations of their workshops and classes and I should be getting them in about 2 weeks – while I’m in Jamaica), but the general “feeling” I got from the class was very positive. The attendees got information they needed, understood and will be able to use in their jobs. Which, actually, is one of the reasons I wanted public commenting on the virtual handout page – I’d love for them to link to the results of their attendance at this workshop on that handout! Oh well…
The MLS offices & laptop lab was REALLY nice and made the mechanics of presenting a breeze! I loved giving the workshop and hope that I can go back sometime and do it (or anther one) again!

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