Just a week or two ago I was on the road and my phone rang. I answered, and the caller introduced herself as Wina Sturgeon, a writer for the ABC affiliate in Salt Lake City. I’m still not quite sure how she found me, but that’s ok. I was about to head into a meeting, but we agreed to continue the conversation later in the day. We did so, and she explained her situation. She writes a regular column for the site and she wanted to increase her readership. Her columns weren’t very findable within the site and as a result it seemed like she had trouble building and keeping an audience. In fact, John Saltas had the following to say about the ABC4 web site:
I didn’t think it was possible, but there is indeed another media outlet with a worse and more hideously hard-to-navigate Website than our own.
She had heard that RSS could be of help here, found me somehow, and wanted to know how to get started. I asked her to email me a bit more information so that I could figure out the best way to help.
That evening I took a look at what she had, and decided that I could help her pretty easily. Using my own account, I did some experimentation with PRWeb’s RSSPad and saw that it would fit the bill. Using RSSPad, I quickly created a trial feed and added her articles to it.
Because I wanted Wina to be able to edit her feed on her own, I asked her to create accounts at RSSPad and at FeedBurner and to send the login information along to me. I also asked her to send me links to all of her earlier columns.
Last night I created the actual feed on RSSPad, entered the past columns, and then ‘Burned it over at FeedBurner so that Wina would have access to statistics about item use and subscribers. I also entered the final URL (http://feeds.feedburner.com/WinaOnTheWeb) into the suggestion boxes at My Yahoo, Google Blog Search and Syndic8. As soon as she adds a few more items I will also make her a Syndic8 Featured Feed.
Finally, I sent Wina some information about what I had done. I still need to show her how to use RSSPad, but it is pretty straightforward and I don’t think that will take too long.
I did start the title of this post with the phrase “Closing a Long Loop,” and that’s where it gets interesting.
The first column that Wina sent me told the story of how she watched the first moon landing along with her husband “Ted.” After another search or two (I hope this doesn’t make me sound like a stalker) I realized that Ted was Theodore Sturgeon, acclaimed science fiction writer. Way back in 4th or 5th grade, I bought my first science fiction book, a 50 cent anthology by the name of Giants Unleashed. I’m pretty sure that I still have that book in my garage. Anyway, the best story in that book was one of Ted’s early works — Microcosmic God. In this story, a scientist retreats to an island and breeds a race of intelligent creatures called Neoterics. He forced them to evolve and to invent by subjecting them to extreme conditions. A great story, one that I haven’t read in a long time.
Without my early interest in science fiction I probably wouldn’t have ended up as a computer geek and then wouldn’t have been able to help out Wina.
They say that what goes around comes around, and I’ve somehow managed to close a 35 year old loop by helping out Ted’s widow.
Who says there’s no such thing as karma?