A Nontechie Librarian talks about Firefox Add-ons and RSS

You might think someone like me with a blog, being a frequent writer on the Yahoo discussion group called Sri Chinmoy Inspiration, having a personal homepage and nearly 1,000 photos posted in online gallery albums would be pretty savvy in technological matters. I have to say, think again!

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Luckily for those people like me who are nontechies trying to creatively share on the Internet, there are plenty of resources right within the Sri Chinmoy Centre to get help if you are maintaining a site, blog or other Internet presence. Their instructions are sometimes still way over my head but it is more than worthwhile to at least know they exist.

Resources to consider from Sri Chinmoy Centre Members

  • Net Writing : Writing and SEO Tips for Bloggers. A blog by Tejvan (Richard) Pettinger
  • Vasudeva Service Project. Resources for "open source applications for the Plone content management system for websites. Here is our recent blog about using and working with Plone, Zope, Python and UNIX...."
  • A Post on RSS at John Gillespie's blog. Here the author of Sensitivitytothings.com describes his first discovery of all RSS can offer.
  • Advice on Removing Ads from your Firefox browser at Priyadarshan's blog. Priyadarshan walks you through how to block ads while surfing the Web.

While some of my favorite folks from Vasudeva Server write on technology issues from a perspective far more versed than my own, I'm here to offer the "dummies" perspective on a few of these issues.

To use some of the features described by Tejvan, Richard and Priyadarshan there are a few preliminaries I will discuss taking little for granted as a starting point. Did you know that you can read the Inspiration Group without any ads across the top of the screen? This is the new way I read messages on this Yahoo discussion group. I'm also looking at the weather forecast along the bottom of my screen. Right now it is partly sunny, 72 degrees F and tonight there is a chance of thunderstorms. Actually with the window behind me in my office offering a nice breeze I can tell as much without the weather across my screen.

As for blogs, I have a blog feed notifier installed that lets me know when there is something new on sites such as Ashrita Furman's Guinness Record Breaking site or when something new comes through on Spirit News Blog. It can even let me know when new photos are posted to someone's photo gallery album in the members section of Sri Chinmoy Centre galleries. Also, some kind of spell check is working right as I type this and there is a red underline beneath Sri Chinmoy's name because he is not recognized. I just did control click and Sri Chinmoy is added to the CustomizeGoogle dictionary!

What's Involved in Using These Features

First you need to be using the Firefox Browser. A browser is a way to search for information on the Internet. If you own a Mac, your computer came with the Safari browser installed and if you own a PC, your computer came with Internet Explorer. There are many other browsers out there that you can download for free. This browser downloads extremely quickly and is widely praised. In fact, the Vausedava Server team that manages and runs all the Sri Chinmoy Centre websites prefers this browser.

One reason why this browser is liked is because of all the add-ons that easily can be implemented. Most of what I mentioned above such as removing the banner ad from Yahoo or the weather across the bottom are add-ons for Firefox.

I also added an extension to my Firefox browser called Cooliris. This tool creates a little pop up window when you hover over a link. It will load the page in a small window that you can view and even visit links within it without leaving the main page you are currently on. If you are looking at a screen of search results in Google, a common search engine used to find information once using your Firefox browser, you can quickly see if the site seems promising by just looking at Cool Iris' popup view of it. Since everyone seems busy and time on the Internet can be time-consuming this is one way to speed things up.

The other add-on I chose is called CustomizeGoogle. At their site, you can watch a short video demonstration of it before deciding if you like it. Its many features are your choice to use or not. Once I added this feature, Yahoo and Google ads are gone, this spell feature is on, I can say try my search in other browsers right underneath the Google search bar, and on and on. I only just started using this one so I am still getting to know it.

Finally, there is RSS. Some say the acronym stands for really simple syndication. To me it seemed anything but! I am still getting to know more about RSS but I now realize it is more than just having ticker screens across your computer telling you the latest news headlines or stock prices. For the uninitiated like me, if you right clink the RSS symbol on somebody's blog or website and copy the location to a feed reader service then you can choose various ways to be notified when a new post happens without having to click on your bookmarks for that site.

If like me, you don't just intuitively know these so-called really simple things, a good overview of how-to articles, etc. can be found on Robert Teeter's blog. He is librarian for a California water agency. Librarians to the rescue once again for gathering information in a helpful and succinct manner!

Now that I have chosen the free RSS feed aggregator called Bloglines, I get notified whenever a new article posts to the Sri Chinmoy Centre News blo or when Sumangali adds a new entry to her blog - just two examples. Any site that offers their site in XML format can be monitored in some fashion where you don't have to visit the site unless something new gets added to it.

Well that's enough for one post don't you think? I hope you too are soon liberated from a Yahoo Personals Ad across the top of your screen while you read the Inspiration Group. Or perhaps you are just reading the posts as an RSS feed (you can!) in Bloglines or some other feed reader.

And if you are on the fence worried that you aren't a techno savvy Internet user I am here as testimony that if I can do it anybody can. Most of the time I feel like I'm running after the bus after it has already left the station as far as this stuff is concerned. Until I knew that you needed an aggregator to use RSS, it might as well have been in Cyrillic as far as this English language speaker was concerned.