RSSCloud: When your blog becomes instant

WordPress has announced that it has added RSSCloud to the millions of blogs it hosts? So what, you say? What it means is that blogs can now act as real-time discussions, the way Twitter works. That means that your feed reader, if it supports RSSCloud, will get updates instantaneously rather than every 15 or 60 minutes. The ReadWriteWeb blog puts it in perspective:

Real time updates could enable several things. Faster distribution of blog posts, more compelling conversations in real-time and a renewed timeliness for blogging vs. services like Twitter are all likely consequences. The list of possible technical developments on top of RSSCloud could be as open-ended as the developments enabled by the core of RSS.

RSS has made blogging viable by freeing readers of the requirement of visiting each site they are interested in. It has made podcasts subscribable. It has made wiki change notifications trackable outside the mess of the email inbox. It has made search a persistent action, instead of a one-off occasional delayed reaction. RSS is mixable, mashable, parsable, filterabile.

Now RSSCloud could add a real-time dimension to all of that. The paradigm just got a very big vote of support.

The British decide: The rules for English have changed

While the world holds it breath waiting to see what happens in Iran following its elections, a revolution has taken place in Britain. From The Associated Press:

It’s a spelling mantra that generations of schoolchildren have learned — “i before e, except after c.”

But new British government guidance tells teachers not to pass on the rule to students, because there are too many exceptions.

The “Support For Spelling” document, which is being sent to thousands of primary schools, says the rule “is not worth teaching” because it doesn’t account for words like ‘sufficient,’ ‘veil’ and ‘their.’

Jack Bovill of the Spelling Society, which advocates simplified spelling, said Saturday he agreed with the decision.

But supporters say the ditty has value because it is one of the few language rules that most people remember.

An alternative to Strunk and White, for you nerds out there

Merriam-Webster's Concise DictionaryBecause I am one of those nerds who cares about what is the right word to use, I have taken note that today is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.  

I read this article a few days ago and have to admit was amused by the writer’s vehemence against EoS. I was also in agreement on some points. Abraham Piper, the Web content editor at Desiring God, today offers this helpful post over at Between Two Worlds that doesn’t come down so hard on Elements of Style but points to the usefulness of Merriam-Webster’s Concise Dictionary of English Usage.

If you care about presenting your words in a clear way and how they fit together, then this book is worth your time. You just may be a nerd, too, but that’s all right.

What do CC and BCC mean in e-mail and why it should matter to you

There are no written rules on how to do e-mail. At least there are no set of requirements you must fulfill before you can send mail electronically. But, that said, there are ways you can send e-mail that would be more gracious than others.

When it comes to e-mail etiquette, there may be many who aren’t aware that not everyone wishes to have their addresses forwarded along with the latest funny joke or picture that’s being passed along. Perhaps it may be due to the fact that the senders (or forwarders) are unaware of what the “CC,” “BCC” and “Reply” buttons or commands do.

The “CC” field stands for “Carbon Copy,” which in this day and age may have next to no meaning for most e-mail users. Carbon copy refers to the old days of typing when an actual carbon page was placed between two pages when typing to insure that one page would be carboned (or copied) to the other. Thus, the idea is that putting an address — or addresses —  in the CC field copies that message to that (or those) addresses. The recipient(s) will see those addresses when they receive the e-mail.

The “BCC” field stands for “Blind Carbon Copy.” Understanding what CC does, you can see how BCC works. Basically it allows the sender to copy a message to another address or addresses without the recipient seeing those addresses. You can send an e-mail with the “To” field empty and addresses in either the “CC” or “BCC” fields and the message will still be sent.

So, why is this important? Well, consider the fact that sending a forwarded e-mail that is filled with addresses is a) rude to the recipient and b) possibly opening those recipients up to spammers. After all, did the people in your address book actually ask you to send their address all over the Internet? Even on a basic level, how much will your recipient enjoy your message when they have to scroll through a long list of addresses before they get to it?

That being said, it would probably be better to learn how to use the CC and BCC fields if you absolutely must forward that joke or picture. This is how it would work: Uncle Larry sends you a hilarious joke and you want to share it with your entire address book. When you hit forward and the message field opens up, you can leave the “To” and “CC” fields blank and then put your addresses in the “BCC” field and then hit send.

On a somewhat related note, suppose you’re replying to a message. Again, the same principles hold. Don’t clutter the message by filling up the “To” and “CC” fields unless you want to document to the group who saw the message and reply. Also, if you want to reply to just the sender and not the entire group, don’t hit reply all but rather just reply.

This might seem like a lot of work for something that works pretty easy already. But, like saying “please” and “thank you,” a little politeness can go a long way.

Team Jedi

My younger brother Merv is a career Army guy. He joined the Army out of high school in 1987 and has risen to his current rank of major since that time. He has served in two wars — The Gulf War and the current war in Iraq — and has been deployed all over the world.

But calling him “an Army guy” is just not enough. This is a guy, I remember when we were growing up, who always had a great sense of humor, was a great athlete, a talented writer and actor, a musician and a budding theologian (he memorized Galatians). Pretty awesome. He is a well-rounded guy, for sure.

I don’t see him that much since he’s usually training or traveling all over the world working to keep America a safe place for people to complain about what a crummy place this (you know who you are). For me, it was a thrill to see him in June at our Brott family reunion and for my kids to see and talk to him some.

These days he is back in Iraq serving with a unit he helped train from Fort Riley, Kan. The difference this time is that he is blogging for his hometown paper, The Sulphur Springs News Telegram. His blog, called Jedi’s Blog, will recount his unit’s preparation and yearlong mission in Iraq. I think it’s great for Merv to give people a glimpse of what life is like for the guys who serve in the armed forces. Besides being a decorated and outstanding soldier, he is also a very gifted writer. This is just a sample from his latest post, entitled “Nomads”:

We are still at the adapt and survive level, so the constant hum of the massive diesel generators powering our life-support systems is reassuring. These behemoths look like they were plucked from mammoth bulldozers. It’s kind of like listening to your own heartbeat. The constant thump-thump is intriguing, but there’s a little voice in the back of your head wondering, “What if it stops?” You hope you never hear silence with the big diesels.

I have listened to guys who have served in the Middle East come back and talk about their mission. I deeply appreciate what they do, but it’s obvious that public speaking is not some of these guys’ strengths. But, without being biased, I can say that the average reader will get a lot of out of the Jedi Blog.

Take a few minutes to check out Jedi’s Blog and, then, to remember the men of that unit, the Iraqis they’re working with and the people they’re working for before God in prayer. Also, pray for the families back here who said goodbye to these men while they do their jobs.

C.S. Lewis was more than The Chronicles of Narnia

\Ligonier Ministries has graciously made available its January issue of Tabletalk magazine, which looked at the life and writings of C.S. Lewis. With Prince Caspian opening this weekend, it is as good a time as any to look at the man whose writing have inspired many people, myself included.

It has been a treasured memory of mine the time I spent reading through the Chronicles of Narnia books (in the originally published order, not the modern order) with my children. First of all, Lewis was a great writer, and it is good for children to hear and read (when they could) what good literature looks like. Secondly, the Christian message is clear throughout the books in telling the story of Narnia, Aslan and the struggle that ultimately ends in the triumph of good over evil.

But Lewis wrote much more than children’s books, and you would be missing much if you didn’t look into his other writings. Books like “Mere Christianity” or “The Screwtape Letters” or essays like “The Weight of Glory” or “The Four Loves.” Lewis is a writer who puts your mind to work and points you to God.

So, while watching a movie is enjoyable, it would also be good to pull out a good book by C.S. Lewis and stretch your mind a little.

HT: Ligonier Ministries