Netvibes and Pageflakes for RSS Feeds and Podcasts
I recently discovered a web-based RSS aggregator that has changed the way I keep up on news of interest and access both foreign-language text and audio on the web.
Netvibes is a web-based RSS aggregator that allows you to set up a free account including as many pages ("tabs") as you want with RSS feeds and podcasts. It also provides many recommended feeds (in various languages) which change according to the region or country you set as your "Local content" (Settings > Local content). It is very easy to arrange your tabs as you wish (I use a separate tab for each language I know) and I particularly like that Netvibes will popup the first paragraph or so of a text news feed when you put your cursor over a feed title. By putting the URL of a podcast in the "Feed:" field, Netvibes will allow you to play podcasts, too, using its embedded audio player. Unlike iTunes and other podcast aggregators, Netvibes does not download the audio files of a subscribed podcast to your computer. Rather, it accesses the audio only when you decide to listen. Of course you must be connected to the Internet for this to work and Netvibes will not synchronize your iPod or other portable audio player, but you can access your feeds and podcasts from any computer connected to the Internet.
Netvibes also allows you to share your feeds and podcasts with others. This can be done by either exporting your feeds as an OPML list that you then send to others as an e-mail attachment and which they can import into Netvibes. Or you can publish a tab of your feeds by using the pull-down menu provided for any tab you select. This can then be published via "Tab Sharing" on the Netvibes "ecosystem" and you will be provided with an URL and html code that you can then share with others (for example, my tabe of Spanish-language feeds and podcasts can be found at this URL). You may wish to consult this Netvibes tutorial for more information on Netvibes and how to use it.
Pageflakes is quite similar to Netvibes. Pageflakes has the added feature of allowing you to publish your entire Pageflakes site, instead of just OPML lists or a single tab as in Netvibes. However, I have run into problems trying to set up Pageflakes to aggregate podcasts and play them. So I am sticking with Netvibes for now.
I had never much used RSS feeds until I discovered Netvibes. And my iTunes application was starting to drown in downloaded podcast files which I could not access from any other computer. Now I have instant access to all the RSS feeds and podcasts I am interested from any computer connected to the Internet, and I can easily share my feeds and podcasts with students and colleagues. All this has served to make foreign-language input in the form of text and audio much more accessible to me a more a part of my daily life.
See the ATALL Wikibook for more information on using RSS feeds and podcasts for language learning.