Advice to left websites: get RSS

As a 25-year veteran of left-wing politics (NAM, DSA, the Greens, The Alliance newspaper), I know the difficulty of getting the word out. Well, I have news for you. There is something called the Internet.

I hear you protest: we are on the internet, already. People just aren’t coming to our website.

Yeah, but the truth is you are not reading this article simply because your computer is connected to the internet. Your search would never have found us without something else: an RSS feed. And the truth is, very few of the organizations I have researched over the past few weeks have an RSS feed. Many blogs also do not have a feed (although those at blog sites like Blogger and WordPress don’t have to worry, since those platforms automatically include an RSS feed). At Blogging Cascadia, we would love to syndicate many of your sites, and help you spread the word to a larger audience. But, alas…

An example in point is The Portland Alliance (a monthly newspaper for which I was on the editorial board during the 1980s). This free monthly left-wing newspaper could triple or quadruple its outreach with RSS, and a little website optimization. There would be almost no extra work once the feed is added. Through php, articles you post are automatically added to the feed.

So, what is RSS? RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is the standard for syndicating news sites and blogs. RSS is a “feed” file which can be read on a newsreader, added to a Google page, or picked up by a syndication site like Blogging Cascadia. In other words, it allows your readers to access you in multiple ways.

Most CMS and blog platforms have dynamic RSS built in. These platforms are also much easier to maintain and more search-engine friendly than a static HTML site. Organizations which are not using these kinds of platforms should seriously consider doing so. They take some setup, but once they’re running, they will simplify your web presence.

Democratic Party bloggers have had a tremendous impact on public opinion, especially among the young. Why can’t the independent and alternative left do the same? I know you are strapped for volunteers and cash, and finding volunteers with internet coding know-how is sometimes difficult. Yet what is the alternative? To become irrelevent as the world shifts to online news and opinion?

A good web presence can be a source of new readers, and expanded donations and volunteer recruitment. A shabby web presence (like a shabby bookstore) will drive away all but the converted. But without an RSS feed, no one is going to find you at all.

Review of places we blog in Portland

As I’ve said before, I owe a debt to coffee houses which provide free wi-fi and allow me to sit for hours, sometimes, and work on my website. In that spirit I dedicate this column to those establishments, and provide a small review of each.

The Gold Rush Coffee Bar is my favorite place to blog. It is small, and sometimes very busy, so it’s often not easy to find a table. Since my laptop doesn’t have a working battery (and I can’t afford a new one), I have to claim a table near an electrical outlet, making it even more difficult. Even with this drawback, the neighborhood atmosphere and friendly barristas make it worth while.

The Gold Rush is hip, but not hipster. The music is eclectic, to say the least. If you can’t stand going from Johnny Cash to the theme from The Addams Family in one sitting, you might not like it. The main thing it has going for it, for me, is that it’s my neighborhood place, and I can walk.

My rating: 4.5 stars
****1/2


place
This is a close second to The Gold Rush in my book. Not only are they a socially-conscious workers’ collective, they are super friendly, play great music, and have excellent food. I would go there much more often, if it wasn’t quite a trek across town.

My rating: 4.5 stars
****1/2


The Urban Grind on NE Oregon is very spacious, with lots of tables where you can sit with your laptop, and lots of extension cords. The atmosphere is friendly, the music is good. A great place to go and spend some time.

My rating: 4.0 stars
****


Costello’s is another spot I like because it is fairly near home. It has become very popular of late and only offers wi-fi during weekdays. They also shut it off for occasions such as the World Cup finals which are currently airing on their widescreen monitors.

My rating: 4.0 stars
****


place
Fuel Cafe
1452 NE Alberta St, Portland, 97211
Where I am writing this article. Very friendly little place in Alberta Arts district. Good coffee and sandwiches. Outdoor seating for those whose laptop batteries work!

My rating: 4.0 stars
****


Too many hipsters, but that’s downtown for you. Coffee is primo, but no food to speak of – just bagels and sweets. Music is usually fairly loud. But I go here sometimes for the variety, and it’s close to the max (did I say I don’t own a car, so have to use my legs and public transit?)

My rating: 3.5 stars
***1/2

So, that’s my mini-roundup of places I go to blog. Try them out.