Tag Archives: howto

Use tags to replace the RSS feed from Google Reader’s “Share” button (Update: Or not)

Update: This tip no longer really works that well; the feed from the tag now requires you to authenticate as the user who created it, and the tag itself has to be chosen from your list of folders. I’m sorry.

Some big changes came yesterday to Google Reader, the venerable RSS newsreader that has become part of the texture of daily online life for a lot of us. The design has changed dramatically, in line with changes made to most other Google services. But there are big functional changes too, as Google aims to consolidate social activity in Google+.

That means the end of nearly all of Google Reader’s sharing features. There’s no more Share link; no more Followers; and no more public pages for starred or shared items. Instead, you click Send To under any post, and share it through one of a variety of web services (most notably Google+).

For many people, that will work just fine. But some of us have been heavy users of that Share link… and at least in my case, it’s been a great way to populate an RSS* feed of posts I come across in Reader. That feed can then do everything from generating Twitter posts to updating a widget on my blog.

If that’s one way you’ve been using Reader, then good news: you can still create an RSS feed of blog posts you flag from inside Reader. Better yet, you can draw on one of Reader’s lesser-known features – tags – to createseveral RSS feeds.

Here’s how it works:

  • Look at the bottom of any post in Reader. You’ll see several links: star, +1, Email, Keep unread, Send to, and – most interestingly – Edit tags.
  • Come up with a short distinct keyword that you want to use for shared items. Maybe it’s just the letter “s”. From now on, you’ll be tagging any item you want to add to that RSS feed with that keyword.
  • Click the Edit tags link. Enter your sharing keyword.
  • Once you click Save, the keyword becomes a hyperlink. Click it, and you’ll be taken to a page listing all of the posts that you’ve tagged with that particular keyword.
  • Click on the Folder settings… button at the top of the page. Then click “View details and statistics” in the menu that appears.
  • Hurray! You’ll see an URL for the RSS feed for this tag. Use it the same way as the RSS feed for Shared Items.

Note that this isn’t a new feature – you’ve always been able to find an RSS feed for any particular tag. But the latest changes mean it’s just become even more useful.

* Actually, it’s the Atom format. But people seem to be more familiar with the term “RSS”, so I’m using it generically here.

No data connection after upgrading iPhone to iOS4?

(In a hurry? Spoiler: I found my solution at AppleToolbox.)

I’m always eager to jump on even the most minor of upgrades, which should probably go in my bring-forward file for my next bout of spiritual introspection. So I was one of those people obsessively checking for the iPhone operating system upgrade this morning – and clicking on the “Sure thing! Squirt that sucker straight into my phone!” button as soon as it appeared.

And all went as smoothly as advertised… until I tried tethering, and couldn’t. And then couldn’t check email. Or surf the web. It took me a while, but I realized I had no data connection.

Two of my Twitter friends, stv and drfyzziks, started me down the right path when they mentioned that Rogers had pushed out an update to their iPhone settings last night. I hadn’t seen it. And sure enough, iTunes kept trying to install that update on my phone – and kept failing.

A call to Rogers customer support revealed that I wasn’t the only one with this problem. But nearly an hour later, with plenty of switch-flipping on Rogers’ end and a few hard-resets and virtual handstands on mine, we were no closer to a data connection.

I soon learned that restoring factory settings would give me a 3G connection, but a blank phone; restoring all of my content from a backup would take the connection away again. Trying to change the Rogers settings was an exercise in frustration and futility.

Then a web search that confirmed this isn’t an isolated issue, and finally led me to AppleToolbox. They had the answer I needed: a site called Unlockit NZ.

This site does something really simple but very, very handy: it creates a new profile on your iPhone with a few custom settings. Most importantly, it tells your phone how to access the Internet using your mobile carrier. You visit the site on your iPhone (which means you need a WiFi connection) and navigate to the “Set custom APN” screen, where you select your carrier. (There are two options for Rogers; I chose the second.)

One confirmation screen later, I was surfing the web on 3G. (And, by the way, Rogers pushed an updated settings file to my phone. Go figure.)

I can’t promise this will work for you, but if not, you can easily remove the profile under iPhone Settings > General > Profile. Good luck!


For more Apple goodness, check out Rob’s Noise to Signal cartoons about life as a Mac user!

(two people looking at an iPad) It's the perfect device for watching Apple product announcements!(Steve Jobs onstage, introducing an amazing device and admitting he can't remember what it does)(man with fishhook in nose) Yes, it's a fishhook lodged in my nose. But it's an Apple fishhook, so the user experience is surprisingly pleasant.

High-speed presentation creation: free webinar by Cliff Atkinson

Cliff Atkinson is one of the few reasons that I haven’t unleashed a presentation-software-deletion virus on the world (the fact that I lack the programming chops to pull it off is another one) (this free e-book is a third) (the lovely Keynote is a fourth). His book and companion web site are two must-reads for anyone hoping to break free of delivering boring, godawful slide shows.

Now you can get a little of that Cliff Atkinson goodness in a free one-hour webinar over at Microsoft’s site, starting at 9 a.m. tomorrow. You’ll need to register here:

Invite your friends and join me tomorrow for this week’s webinar, a special no-cost public event sponsored by Microsoft Office Online. The webinar takes place at 9am Pacific Time on June 12, 2008 and is titled “How to Create a 15-Minute Presentation (with Graphics!) in One Hour.”  Inspired by member webinars at BBP Online, here’s the session description:

If you are in a time crunch and have to get a presentation done, you need an approach that will get you results quickly. Join us for this advanced-level webcast with bestselling author Cliff Atkinson, and learn the tips and tricks you need to complete a Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007 presentation in record time. As the clock ticks down from 60 to zero minutes, see how you can use Cliff’s book Beyond Bullet Points (Microsoft Press, 2007) to structure your story, identify your key points, and create the slides you need to get amazing results.

How to perform air quotes

An old friend asked me (a propos of this cartoon) what air quotes are. A fair question. I responded with a tutorial, which I’m sharing with any of you who have yet to explore this powerful means of self-expression:

  1. Hold up your hands beside your head.
  2. Make fists.
  3. Extend the index and middle fingers of each hand.
  4. While saying something intended to be surrounded by quotation marks, wiggle your fingers.
  5. (For advanced users) Adopt this process as an irritating mannerism

Is text not your cup of tea? (If not, you may be very well-suited to air quotes.) Try this video tutorial instead:

How to pitch a blogger (or at least, this blogger)

A few days ago, a visitor left a pitch for a new, anonymous blog as a comment on one of my posts. Here’s what ticked me off:

  • It had exactly nothing to do with the post.
  • It’s already been left word for word on at least one other blog (on an equally off-topic post).
  • It’s written to sound like it’s left by some third party who just really loved the new blog, when it’s pretty obviously a B4 campaign. (What’s “B4″ stand for? Blog-buzz-building bullsh*t.) (The asterix, by the way, is there for the children. They are our future.)

I don’t mind being pitched – quite the opposite. But this kind of approach, from the intrusion in another conversation to the fundamental dishonesty of its grassroots veneer, isn’t going to work for me, and it won’t work for most other bloggers.

What does work?

It depends on the blogger, but for me and for many others who’ve posted their preferences, here’s what you do.

  1. Read me. See what I blog about, where I come from and what I’m likely to link to. If that isn’t what you’re pitching, don’t try to sell it to me; you’ll just be wasting your time and my patience. Instead, wait until you have something that’s up my alley.
  2. Email me at rob@robcottingham.ca. Tell me succinctly why you think I’d be interested in what you’re pitching, give me an URL and point me to some added resources in case I’d like to write a longer post.
  3. Give me a week, and then poke me if I haven’t responded to you yet.

(Want to know something ironic? The B4 pitcher was commenting on a post inspired by someone who had pitched me the right way.)

How about you? How do you like being pitched… or don’t you?

Updated: Marshall Kirkpatrick has a great batch of bookmarked pitching tips.