Chapter 1: ‘We are all web workers now’

Summary: Briggs dedicates the first chapter to explaining internet fundamentals; utilizing an RSS feed, using FTP to transfer files as well as understanding HTML, CSS and XML. The chapter emphasizes basic web coding comprehension, encouraging the reader to expand their knowledge if they want to be an effective online journalist.

Photo by Alan Toniolo de Carvalho

How the Internet works

  • Digital information: Digital files are measured according to how many bytes they contain. A byte can be thought as a digital “weight,” where more bytes equals a larger size of the respective file. The measurement of digital information ranges are prefixed according to the approximate quantity of bytes. An explanation of these prefixes can be seen here. Understanding the size of digital information is crucial, as it effects the speed in which information and files are transferred.
  • How Web servers work: Web servers are specialized computes dedicated to storing and distributing information over the internet.
  • How do Web browsers work: Web browsers are tools used to help access information in the world wide web.  They function by searching for the information you are looking for, retrieving it then displaying it on your computer or hand-held device. Web pages are stored in a web browsers cache, which temporarily stores your files for easy retrieval. Cleaning out your cache is recommended to keep your browser running efficiently. Refreshing (by either clicking the refresh icon, F5 on a windows based computer or APPLE-R on a Mac) commands your browser to update the information on a web page by requesting new files from a Web server. Users can also add plug-ins and extensions to their Web browsers to allow it to perform additional functions, such as displaying PDFs or viewing Flash files.

Syndicated content with RSS

RSS has become a popular and efficient way to acquire and manage information flow for online journalists. It enables users to subscribe to feeds on specific subjects and steers articles to the user, which is less time consuming than actively searching for the information on several different web sites. Briggs encourages online journalists to make a habit out of using RSS feeds. It can effectively aid in increasing knowledge about a subject as well as obtaining different opinions.

  • Setting up an RSS feed: Subscribing to a RSS feed can be broken down into 3 easy steps.

1. Select a reader: There are two types of readers; Web and software based.  Web-based readers are offered through companies such as Google or Yahoo that allow you to create a personal account and subscribe to a subject. Software based readers are typically free to download and give users the benefit of reading acquired feeds when not connected to the internet (though it needs to be connected to the Web to receive the feed). There are also readers such as Netvibes, Pageflakes and Google Reader that offer the best of both Web-based and software-based readers. They combine the functionality of software-based readers with the ability to access them on multiple computers.

2. Find a feed: Websites allow users to subscribe to their RSS feed by clicking on an orange icon with the letters “RSS.” This will take to to an index page where you can pick a feed.

3. Subscribe:Updated web browsers should easily enable you to add a feed. If adding a feed becomes difficult, copy the URL ending in “XML” and past the link to your RSS reader.

  • FTP: FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol is a process used to move large files that email cannot handle.  FTP should be used on large photo, video and sound files, but a good rule of thumb is any file larger than 1 MB (megabyte). Setting up and operating an FTP program can be found here.

Building a website

  • HTML: An initial-ism that stands for Hyper Text Mark-up Language for, HTML  is a computer code that is used to create web pages. When opening a web-page, browsers make a copy of the HTML code and saves it on your computer. While there are services like Blogger or software like Dreamweaver that allow people to create their own website, mastering HTML will allow greater customization capability for anyone creating a website. An online HTML tutorial can be found here.
  • CSS: Stands for Cascading Style Sheets, and gives website designers added creative control to use in their HTML code. a tutorial can be found here.
  • XML: Stands for Extensive Mark-up Language. XML are commonly used in RSS feeds, and works by using tags to describe specific data. A detailed explanation can be found here.


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