Books from blogs

This blog is a major dissemination channel for my work, thoughts and general ponderings. In some ways it is my memory! Although it is searchable particularly by tags and topics, there are times when a straightforward and simple way of collating several posts and converting them to another format would be really useful. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for quite a while now, but never actually got round to doing anything about it.

Just now the final synthesis of the JISC Curriculum Design Programme is being produced. Over the programme life-cycle I have written quite a few posts relating directly to the programme and in particular a number of technical summaries and reviews. So yesterday I decided to try and actually stop thinking about collating them and actually try doing it.

My first port of call was Martin Hawskey as I know he has looked at this before and has the rather neat MASHezine PDF available on his blog. Unfortunately I can’t easily and quickly update my blog to include his plug in. This is due to the way our blogs are centrally hosted in CETIS. I’d need to ask someone else to do a wider upgrade -which isn’t impossible but not a huge priority and so could take a bit of time. However Martin did remind me of blog booker. Using this system you can export the content of a wordpress (and other major blogging platforms) and upload the file to the site, and it will automagically create a PDF “book” of your blog posts.

Again because of the way our CETIS blogs are set up, I had to export the content of my work blog into another wordpress site, export and then import in to the system. It works well, but didn’t give me quite the level of control of selection of posts I would have liked. I could get all the posts for a topic such as curriculum design (which again is one of the central topics our CETIS blogging system uses for aggregation on our website) but I couldn’t get just the posts with the programme tag which is what I really wanted. Note to self to discuss topics/tags in blogs. However, as a quick and (almost) free (you can donate to keep the service running) way to create a PDF book of blogs posts it’s certainly worth exploring.

This morning I had a wee search for alternatives and came across zinepal – another free (but with paid for options) which creates a variety of formats ( PDF, ePub, Kindle and Mobipocket). Again using an RSS feed or just a blog url the system will automagically create a book based on blog posts.

There is slightly more control on the actual posts you want to include once you enter a feed/url. You generally get the most recent 10 posts from any site/feed, so you may have to do a bit of feed manipulation if you want to use older posts. There are various controls over layout – number of columns, font etc, It is also possible to re-order and edit posts, and to add introductory text. If you pay $5 you can get extra features such as adding a logo and getting rid of their advertising. You can see the finished result (and download whatever version you like) here . Below is a screenshot of the PDF version.

Screen shot of zinepal PDF
Screen shot of zinepal PDF

Martin has also experimented with the service today and his alternative MASHezine using the free version of zinepal is available here.

If you have used any similar services or have any thoughts/tips, I’d love to hear about them.

Initial thoughts on "Follower networks, and "list intelligence" list contexts" for @jisccetis

As many of you will probably know, Tony Hirst, has been doing some really interesting work recently around data visualisation. Last week he blogged about some work he had been doing visualising his twitter network, and at the end of his post offered to “spend 20 minutes or so” creating visualisations for others – for a donation to charity. Co-incidentally we had an internal CETIS communications meeting last week where we were talking about our reach/networks etc so I decided to take up Tony’s offer

Hi Tony
happy to make a donation to ovacome if you would do a map for me -well actually for CETIS, Would like to see if we can make sense of (any) links between our corporate โ€œjisccetisโ€ twitter account and our individual ones.

and the results are here. Tho’ I suspect it probably took more than 20 minutes ๐Ÿ™‚

I haven’t spent a great deal of time yet analysing the graphs in detail, but there are a couple of thoughts that Tony’s post triggered that I feel merit a bit more contexualisation.

Firstly, yes the @jisccetis has a relatively low number of followers (currently 193) and doesn’t follow anyone. This is partly due to the way we manage (or perhaps mis-mangage) the account. As most of the staff in CETIS have personal twitter accounts, we haven’t really been using the corporate one much. However recently we have been making more of an effort to use it, and now have set up automated tweets from the RSS feeds for our news and events which are augmented with other notable items e.g. the joint UKOLN/CETIS survey on use institutional use of mobile web services.

We haven’t really put an awful lot of time or effort into a corporate twitter strategy – other than reckoning we should have a “corporate” account and use it:-) We didn’t take a decision about not following anyone, that just sort of happened. We (the small group of us who are ‘the keepers’ of the @jisccetis login details) don’t really look at the actual account page much now as most of the output is automated. Actually I feel that this approach works well for this type of account. As it isn’t ‘owned’ by one person it doesn’t (and won’t) build the kinds of relationships more personal accounts have. Not following people doesn’t seen to stop people following the account – and if you don’t follow @jisccetis, then quick plug, please do – we don’t spam and send out pretty useful info for edutechie types.

Tony’s work on the lists for the account is interesting too. TBH I hadn’t really had a close look at what lists the account was on – and thanks to all eight of you for listing the account. As so many CETIS staff are on twitter, people may wonder why we don’t have our own CETIS list. Well there is a bit of historical background there too. When lists came out at first, some members of staff did create such a list, however there were other staff members who didn’t want to be listed in that way, so we never really took the list idea any further forward in a corporate sense. As anyone who uses twitter knows, there is a fine line between personal and work use ( personally I tend to it for more for the later now) and our twitter accounts are personal accounts. Like most of our use of web 2.0 communication tools, we take a very light touch approach – no one has to tweet and we have, and wouldn’t want to have, editorial control. We rely on common sense and judgement; which for the most part works remarkably well. We use the same policy for blogging too.

The visualisations are really fascinating and my colleagues and I will be taking a much closer look at them over the coming weeks. I’m sure they will be key for us in our continuing development and (mis)management of the@jisccetis twitter account. One thing I now would love to do is hire Tony for a week or so to get him to do the same for all our individual accounts and cross reference them all. However I think that given “the current climate” we may have to do that ourselves, but there is certainly plenty of food for thought to be going on with.

Techscape – a user-friendly blog about web 2.0

This may not appeal to everyone, but shinyshiny (the people who bring us perhaps the best blogs in the world – well, my world anyway – including shoewawa, and the girls guide to gadgets, shinyshiny) have launched a new blog on web 2.0 developments call techspace. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on this as I have a feeling it will bring some user-friendly information about developments but with just the right geek factor so I can talk a bit of the web2.0 talk:-)


At our conference session one of the many topics we covered was aggregation. Brian Kelly recommended an aggregtor called netvibes. I’ve been having a play with it this morning and it seems pretty cool. I’ve got feeds from all the CETIS blogs now on it and links to, flickr, the weather (most important as it has been so awful the last couple of days). This is my first attempt at aggregation and I was surprised how easy it was. Thanks to Adam for explain how to get the RRS feeds for all our CETIS blogs – bascially if you view the source code of each you’ll find a link href=” which you can use to get a feed. So now mash-ups here I come . . . .