How do I get an RSS feed for specific topics or neighborhoods?

Go to the Custom Feeds page, where you'll find a listing of neighborhoods and topics for which we have feeds.

If you click on any of those feeds, you'll get a URL which you can then use in an RSS aggregator.

You can also combine individual feeds into one big custom feed (say you want to know what's going on in both Roslindale and Jamaica Plain).

Building that sort of feed is a bit hairier:

Scroll your mouse over a neighborhood or topic.

Write down the first number you see for its feed. For example, in

www.universalhub.com/taxonomy/term/37/9/feed

write down "37." Repeat the process for all the feeds you want to combine. When done, combine them into a single URL with plus signs, like this:

www.universalhub.com/taxonomy/term/25+26+37/0/feed

Note the /0/feed at the end! Now paste that URL into your RSS aggregator, and voila, a custom RSS feed (in that case, you would get the latest postings for Cambridge, Fenway and Watertown).

She's losing patience with the BPL

Jenn says she was in love with the BPL in Copley Square, what with its giant reading room, nice cafes and free Internet. But she's getting annoyed:

... But then you have to go and do stupid stuff like put a zillion limitations on your internet access and rent yourself out to private functions that shut the library down for the public. The PUBLIC library. Not open to the public. Nice.

Just cut it out already. It's ridiculous. Aren't you supposed to be about free access to information? Yeah.

One of those days

Jay expected a routine day today:

... Then I got the e-mail that another secretary's computer had blown up. It was one of the more spectacular power supply failures there has been, stinking up the area occupied by half the staff with acrid smoke from burned electronics. Many of them were able to hear the popping sound it made. ...

The unbearable whiteness of being snowed in again

When life gives Colleen snow, she makes snow ice cream.

Note: Last night, when I proposed making up a large "FREE SNOW" sign to stick in our front yard, wife and kid simultaneously gave me one of those "Oh, God, he's at it again" looks. "Why would anybody want free snow?!?" the kid asked.

Beanboy is having a grand old time - indoors:

Traffic is at a standstill, no buses in sight, and two cars are stuck on the hill out in front of my house. Haha!

Denise is not having a grand old time in Chelsea:

slippery treacerous walk one the barely plowed streets, ice underneath the snow. waiting longer than usual for a bus. can't stand on the sidewalk for the bus because it was never shoveled or snowblowed out by the city.

Lis discusses the phenomenon of people leaving their windshield wipers sticking up:

... When I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed at least a half-dozen cars with their windshield wipers pulled out so they were sticking straight up (like antennae), rather than lying against the windshield as they normally do. ...

In his Storm Force Action News Team's Special Report #3, Chris reports on getting ticketed and towed when he braves the elements to buy some cookies:

"I just stopped for five minutes to buy cookies," I explained.

"It's a snow emergency," the lumpy police officer answered, "you can't park here."

"Snow emergency? But it's not snowing anymore!"

"Yeah, but the emergency hasn't been lifted yet."

I'm sorry," I said. "I'll move the car, just please don't tow it. I need to get back to my warm house so I can begin eating these cookies."

"Sorry, your car has already been tagged," the officer said handing me a $150 ticket. Man, was he ever lumpy. ...

She's now officially a Bostonian

Shelley owns up:

... This morning I left a blue recycling bin to reserve the parking space I painstakingly cleared the other day. I have never "hosied" a space before, but I defy anyone else to enjoy the fruits of my hard labor whilst I cruise the neighborhood looking for parking tonight, muttering expletives all the while. *shaking fist at the heavens --- and the neighbors* ...

What if Boston Common went away?

To be replaced by something better, that is?

A couple weeks ago, I had lunch with Steve Garfield to talk about "community journalism;" the idea that all of us with our blogs and digital cameras and Flickr accounts and copies of Word 97 could create a new information resource, one that could tell the stories that will never appear in the Globe or Herald - or provide a different perspective than you'd see on Channel 7.

After all, who hasn't seen a zillion police cars with their lights going and wondered what's going on? Who didn't rush outside over the weekend to describe and photograph the blizzard?

Or take that church in Jamaica Plain that burned down. Steve lives near the church and writes of looking for video on local BigName news sites:

Last night when helicopters were buzzing overhead and sirens were blaring, we all went to these websites to see video. It was 6:45 PM and the local TV stations were showing the national network news.

We wanted local video on the web but were dissapointed to only get a small screen shot of video from WCVB.

Why couldn't they have the video up on the web sooner?

Guess who has a videocamera? And guess who went down the next day to file a video report on the church?

What if we had a central site where all that interesting stuff was aggregated and organized by topic and neighborhood?

Now, I do some of that already with Boston Common. But I'm just one person and what I'm interested in might not be the same as what you care about. What if we had a place where you could file interesting tidbits and have a say in what goes on the front page? And what if it were all organized by topic and neighborhood - so folks could quickly get to the news they care about?

I've been playing with Universal Hub as a platform. It allows for multiple users (and different levels of access, or responsibility, if you will) and has a great system for categorizing content.

It would also duplicate what I'm doing here with Boston Common. So I've been thinking of moving from here to Universal Hub (there are some boring technical reasons why I can't run Universal Hub's software here; details on request). I realize there are some issues to doing that (think of all those links that now point at Boston Common), but a real community news site would far outweigh them.

So who's in? Anybody want to get together to talk about community reporting and how to do it? Let me know or Vote on transmogrifying Boston Common into Universal Hub.

Need some DNA from a Nobel winner?

Here's your chance to get you some DNA from 2004 Nobel physics prize winner and Cambridge resident Frank Wilczek, to wit, a glass he drank out of while in Sweden to pick up his prize:

It was used to consume water by the famous physicist on december 16, only six days after he recieved the nobel prize in Stockholm. It has since not been washed, and the water that was still in it has been left to evaporate, leaving the DNA still in the glass. ... Also included is the glass his wife, Betsy Devine, drank from.

Proceeds benefit a Swedish high school.

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