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This is a shameless namedropping exercise, cunningly disguised as helpful information about how to embed an RSS feed into your website.

It’s not just teenage indie bands who are coming to terms with the online environment to connect with audiences and communicate their music to the world.

Allow me to introduce D.D. Jackson, of whom I am a fan:

I’d love to be as good at something as he is at playing the piano. I’d do pretty much anything. Except — y’know… practice.

This week, I had an email from him asking how I managed to get the RSS feed from my del.icio.us bookmarks embedded into my Newswire page.

I replied and, with his permission, our email exchange is included here — partly because you may wish to do the same with your website, and therefore this will be helpful — but mostly because I wanted to say ‘Hey look! D.D. Jackson reads my blog!’.

He writes:

Hi Andrew,

I just wanted to take the time to thank you for your excellent New Music Strategies site, ebook, etc., etc. – a fantastic overview of what we should be doing in this day and age.

I’m a columnist for Downbeat magazine (America’s #1 mag about jazz) and also a jazz pianist/composer/recording artist looking for ways to better take advantage of Web 2.0, so your strategies have become a must-read. I will definitely mention this resource in a future “Living Jazz” Downbeat column, and also in one of my future “Living Jazz” Podcasts

At any rate, I wanted to ask you about “Thing 15: RSS“. In it, you mention that you tag articles of interest you encounter each day with the word “newswire” using del.icio.us, and then embed the resulting page displaying your “picks” on your own website. I’ve gone so far as to start my own newswire on del.icio.us, but I wasn’t clear on how you managed to embed the info on this page:

http://newmusicstrategies.com/newswire/

so that you actually see your link choices/summaries, etc. displayed right on your own webpage.

Can this be done simply by inserting the appropriate html code onto my homepage? I’m afraid I’m not tech-savvy enough to figure this one out. Thanks, again, Andrew for your thoughts and I look forward to hopefully hearing from you when you have time!

Sincerely,

D.D. Jackson

To which I replied:

Thanks D.D.,

I’m certainly aware of your work. I was a jazz broadcaster in New Zealand for 6 years and ran a little jazz record label (into the ground, as it happens). I now work with Professor Tim Wall and share his enthusiasm for David Murray’s work (and, of course, your contribution) — though obviously he has a much deeper and richer appreciation.

As for the RSS embed question, I think it’s either really simple or incredibly difficult, depending on what sort of website you’re running. Fortunately, far smarter people than me have worked out some shortcuts and user-friendly services to help do what you want to do.

I use WordPress, and there’s a brilliant WP plugin that just works called First RSS. That’s what’s driving the Newswire.

If you don’t use WordPress, here’s a list of online tools that should help you do what you want to do.

Here’s one they missed.

And this page here shows how to embed RSS feeds in display boxes on your website (though the skill level required is more advanced).

Whichever one you choose, it will probably take a little bit of wrestling in order to get it working, but hopefully there’s something in there that will be as easy to get set up as the First-RSS WordPress plugin was for me.

Much appreciated — and thanks for the music.

Cheers,

Andrew

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What I now realise I didn’t mention and should have was the fact that del.icio.us make an RSS feed out of every page they generate. And that’s quite significant.

So if, for instance, you’re interested in all of the things I bookmark about radio, then you could just click the little orange button at the bottom of that page, and you have the feed. Now, everytime I find something interesting about radio, you’ll be the first to know.

What that means is you can turn any collection of bookmarks into an RSS feed. Everything I bookmark using del.icio.us ends up on my tumblelog. That’s entirely indiscriminate.

Only things I bookmark and tag with the word ‘newswire’ ends up on the Newswire page. That way you only end up with the stuff that’s relevant to the online music environment — but you’re more than welcome to also subscribe to a feed of things I find interesting that have to do with education, or New Zealand or copyright.

In other words, you could build lots of different pages on lots of different topics, filled with automatically updating links to news and articles from around the internet as you find them, just using one tool.

I use this in a fairly simple way on the Newswire page, but you could be quite sophisticated with the inclusion of RSS feeds assembled from around the web on your own site, and even create complex mixes of feeds using an incredible array of RSS tools.

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How do you use RSS — and how would you like to? Are you still having trouble coming to grips with the technology? Do your site’s visitors find it easy to use or understand? Let’s hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comments…