RSS Support in CourseForum and ProjectForum

RSS is a simple technology for tracking the latest changes on weblogs and other websites. Both CourseForum and ProjectForum provide extensive support for RSS.

Tracking Changes in Forums

Each forum you create in CourseForum or ProjectForum has an RSS feed automatically created for it.

By subscribing to that feed in your favorite RSS-capable web browser or news aggregator application, you can easily track changes to the forum. This can be much quicker than having to go visit the forum to see if any page has been changed, especially if you participate in many different forums.

The sidebar contains links to a few popular applications or services that will let you use RSS feeds. You can find many others by searching for "RSS Reader" in your favorite search engine.

If you want to track changes on just a single page, rather than the entire forum, you can do that too. Not only does each forum have its own feed, but each page does as well.

To subscribe to a feed, click on the "Track Changes" link on each page (usually near the bottom right). On the resulting page, look for the orange RSS icon (one for the forum feed, and a separate one for the page-specific feed). You can either click on that to subscribe, or you may need to copy the link and paste it into your news aggregator.

Firefox and Safari will also detect the forum-wide feed during normal browsing (via "Live Bookmarks"), and allow you to subscribe without going to the "Track Changes" page.

RSS Feeds and Privacy

You should be aware that even if your forums are password-protected, the RSS feeds in those forums are not.

This means that anyone who knows the web address of the feed can follow changes to the forum (or individual page), even if they cannot actually visit the forum itself via their web browser. This is because most RSS readers do not handle password protected feeds right now.

Because of this, CourseForum and ProjectForum take these precautions:

Including full content in page feeds is not recommended for sites containing sensitive data, unless other precautions are in place (e.g. the system is only accessible within a firewall where all people are trusted). When such security is an issue, page-specific URL's should obviously not be shared, posted to an online web aggregator service, etc.

Including RSS Feeds in Forum Pages

Not only can you use a news aggregator to track changes in forums, but CourseForum and ProjectForum can itself be used as an RSS news aggregator for your entire group.

An existing RSS feed from a website can be included directly inside any forum page. That means that anyone using that forum will see the latest headlines from that website, updated automatically! They can click on a link to open up the news item in more detail.

Why is this cool? This might be the easiest way for you and your colleagues to collect and share up-to-date information with each other, without visiting multiple web sites individually, without downloading extra software, and without everyone even needing to know what RSS is! And of course, the headlines are embedded into your existing forum, along with other things you're working on, and topics you're discussing.

To embed an RSS feed in a forum page, just add the URL for the feed, surrounded by "[rss:" and "]" into the page, e.g.

and it will be displayed something like this (here is just a snapshot from Jan 6th, 2004, though in the forum itself it would be automatically updated to show the latest headlines):

Latest from Scripting News [RSS]:

All you need is the URL for the website's RSS feed. Many weblogs and other websites (as well as CourseForum and ProjectForum sites, as you've seen) have RSS feeds which lets you easily track the latest changes to the site.

You can also change how the feed is displayed. To display the first bit of each item's description, change the "rss:" to "rsslong:". To display the entire description (including any HTML content), change the "rss:" to "rssfull:".