My last post talked about how to convert an "old" email newsletter/alert (email is so 1990s) into a blog, using Google. I should say that this is out of convenience - I'm reasonably certain you can achieve similar results elsewhere, but I don't think you can treat it as a one stop shop, especially when you factor in my next challenge:
Using the feed from my blog to create a clipping service.
Now, assuming you're doing this from home, there are any number of apps that can achieve this, and I'm not going to make the mistake of recommending one, because the tools I use at home are not good at it. But what if you're trying to do this in a business environment, where you can't install the feed reader of your choice?
My solution came via this blog post. You see, its possible to use a Google Spreadsheet as a feed reader. Its not a very good one for actually reading a feed, but it is good for getting into a format that is easily clipable.
What I needed was a Google Spreadsheet doc with 2 sheets. One sheet is to take the raw feed. A single cell entry is all you need, which will expand across a range of cells to hold different elements of the feed (date, heading, content, tags, etc.). Once this is working, I then use a second sheet that references the cells in the first sheet, taking the elements of the feed I want to clip, and putting them into the format and order I want.
If you're familiar with Excel, this is a fairly straightfoward task, if a little long-winded to set up. The result is, when I want to create an alert out of this, all I have to do is highlight and copy the data from the spreadsheet, and whack it together into an email.
The whole process seems ironic at first - converting a series of email newsletters into a blog, which I then use to convert everything back into an email newsletter. The difference is that I no longer have to go through each email, pull out the useful information from it, and move it into another email. Instead, all I have to do is let the emails build up in my blog, then do a single copy and paste to produce my newsletter. Plus, I can now give people the option: continue with the newsletter and get the info on a regular basis, or subscribe to the newsfeed and get it as it arrives, or do both.
If this is so easy - it took me all up about 8 hours, which included a lot fiddling about getting things looking nice - why doesn't everyone do it? The old fear of losing control of your information? Lets face it, once you email it, you lose control anyway.
I think perhaps its time for some of the more monlithic parts of government to wake up and realise what decade they're in, while they're still in it - they've only got 18 months!