Harry Potter and the Magic Post-It Note

In the Harry Potter books, the pictures all move. The people in the portraits can move from one painting to another. The pictures in the newspaper are moving. Even the trading cards that come with the chocolate frogs have animated pictures.

I wonder, though, why they have a Daily Newspaper. Surely, if they have the technology (technology and magic are the same thing) to animate the characters in the pictures, they could have one newspaper that updates itself every day, couldn’t they? It would certainly save a lot of time and resources if today’s Daily Telegraph turned into tomorrow’s Daily Telegraph all by itself.

Here in the muggle world, we can do that with a little floo powder known as RSS. Simply put, RSS makes it possible for information in one place to automatically appear someplace else. It’s best explained by example.

Take a look at http://www.protopage.com/bbhnews. This is a protopage that I set up in a few minutes. On the left, it has news from our school district. On the right, it has world and national news. Between them, you’ll find local weather, search tools, and a place for Post-It notes.

Now, where does the news come from, and how does it get there? The school news is pulled off of the school web site. As that site gets updated with new information, this page automatically gets updated, too. So I no longer have to go to the school page to get the current news — it’s right here.

The same thing happens with the national and world news. The top two stories are pulled from CNN, USA Today, Reuters, the New York Times, and BBC News. As those stories change, they automatically get updated here.

That’s RSS.

You can do it, too. Protopage (www.protopage.com) is free. You set up a page using the intuitive interface, and once you name it, it’s yours. You can get to it from any Internet -connected computer. You can share it with others or keep it to yourself. There’s no advertising. They don’t sell your email address to spammers. It’s a good deal.

There’s more coming about RSS, and more about Protopage, too. But let’s stop here for now.