I’ve been fielding a lot of questions lately, and one that has come up a few times recently as learning professionals plan out changes to their 2011 programs, approaches, systems, and staffing is this: my organization has green-lighted us to engage more in the social media space and I want to know whether there are any easy tools out there to help me pull in RSS feeds and content from the likes of twitter, yammer and other sites to our learning portal/gateway?
I like to start a conversation to determine how comfortable the person is with the topic — because short content from your colleagues on Yammer does not generally seem to fit what one would expect to see on a learning portal/gateway. If I get the chance, I try to ask some context-setting questions like:
- Does your company have a social media policy?
- Will the feed push content to a site behind the firewall?
- Have you sufficiently separated the content so that your authorized content is visually distinct from the syndicated content?
- Do you have some favorite sites that syndicate (i.e., make a real-simple syndication, or RSS, available)?
- Are you allowed to use public services like
- How comfortable are you writing code? Do you have someone on the team with both the know-how and the time?
- Are you looking to grab real-time content from social sites like Twitter, Yammer, YouTube, or Facebook?
In the last few months, the options for aggregating content from sources like Twitter, Yammer, Facebook, and others was limited to code you modified or installed from SourceForge. That’s changed recently, and there are a few interesting options to enable real-time data aggregation, which can be used to connect learning programs with news and info going on around the company. It also makes it easy to push out short learning materials to your colleagues, and bring the learning closer to the point of need (especially if you “market” your learning programs effectively).
One to consider is the free real-time data stream language from Kynetx called Kynetx Rule Language (KRL), which allows for a more sophisticated tracking of real-time information. According to the site, KRL allows a web programmer to write rules that respond when specific data is identified in a data feed. KRL simplifies the effort for a web developer to write interfaces and applications that make use of data from different Web services, storing that data in the cloud. KRL is free to use and test, but Kynetx charges for it if it’s incorporated into a commercial application.
There are others besides KRL. Gnip, based in Boulder, Colorado, connects to a variety of services, including Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. Their interface makes it pretty easy to repackage data and functions from these online social media services, meaning that you could connect your learning portal, for instance, to your company’s youtube channel, to allow for real-time updating when new video is uploaded.
Besides these two, a few other APIs may be useful for use in a learning portal/gateway:
- Google’s Social Mention API
- Perhaps use a lifestreaming source to point to a corporate online identities, something like Flavors.me
There’s plenty more to look at, but, to me, the most important question to answer is this one:
how will these real-time feeds augment my learning portal to make it more timely and relevant for my colleagues?