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A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk RSS: Let's Clear The Confusion And Start Using! Brian Kelly UK Web Focus UKOLN University.

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Presentation on theme: "A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk RSS: Let's Clear The Confusion And Start Using! Brian Kelly UK Web Focus UKOLN University."— Presentation transcript:

1 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk RSS: Let's Clear The Confusion And Start Using! Brian Kelly UK Web Focus UKOLN University of Bath UKOLN is supported by: Summary RSS is great – let's use it Learning Outcomes: Gain understanding of potential for RSS Be aware of the confusions over RSS terminology Understand different approaches for creating RSS Seen examples of RSS viewers Be able to make recommendations on local use of RSS Be aware of quality assurance issues Summary RSS is great – let's use it Learning Outcomes: Gain understanding of potential for RSS Be aware of the confusions over RSS terminology Understand different approaches for creating RSS Seen examples of RSS viewers Be able to make recommendations on local use of RSS Be aware of quality assurance issues

2 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 2 Contents Introduction The Need For Better Ways of Disseminating News A Simple Lightweight Solution – RSS RSS Viewing Tools Exercise 1: Uses in your Institution RSS Creation Tools Beyond News - Exploiting RSS's Potential Exercise 2: Authoring in your Institution The Caveats (technical issues, content issues, …) Futures Exercise 3: RSS & Your Newsletter / RSS & Trust Conclusions Introduction Subject to change, depending on audience's interests and experience

3 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 3 About Me Brian Kelly: UK Web Focus – a Web advisory post for UK HE and FE and cultural heritage communities Involved in Web work since January 1993, when helped set up UK HE's first (?) institutional Web service at Leeds University JISC representative on W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) Based at UKOLN – a national centre of expertise in digital information management Funding by JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) and MLA (Museums, Libraries and Archives Council) Introduction Ran "Automated News Feeds" session at IWMW 2001 in Belfast

4 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 4 About You What do you do? Techie, software developer, … Information specialist Manager, policy makers, … What do you know about news feeds, RSS, …? Knows what RSS stands for? Read RSS feeds Publish RSS feeds: Using simple tools Advanced developer (have read specs, developed RSS software, …) What's RSS? Introduction

5 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 5 What Do You What To Gain? What do you want to gain from the session? What topics would you like to be addressed? Introduction

6 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 6 What Do We Want To Do? We provide quality information services and we want all to have rich access to services & know about them. So we: Enhance service Run mailing lists Contribute to mailing list Run events Publish newsletters Provide Web sites Ask others to include news on their Web sites, newsletters, lists, … …. But: In what ways? Too much information, too much spam Not everyone attends Not everyone reads Time-consuming to process Limited user choice What we would like to do is minimise human bottlenecks in processing 3 rd party context for use on Web and , whilst allowing users more flexibility in handling information overload Background

7 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 7 Lets Kill ! Were all familiar with it We all use it (even when away at conferences) But: Why send messages which time-out when many users will read them too late? Why not use delivery channels which are spam-free? Why not use delivery channels which are more suited to receiving information (as opposed to discussions)? Why not use a solution which provides richer structure/metadata Why not allow users to select their preferred channels? Why not allow users greater customisation (e.g. dont deliver information when Im on holiday) Background

8 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 8 Initial Attempts Initial attempts at richer solutions e.g. BBC News: Solutions included: Scrolling Tickertape news display on your PC JavaScript to pull news items to your Web site Subscriptions to alerts Content often generated from single source User has choice: chose content; no tickertape displayed when away; suspend ; … There was a clear need for an open solution, which would allow use of standard authoring tools and viewers by any news provider Background But: Accessibility problems (JavaScript dependency,..) Proprietary Everyone else needs to replicate software, … No benefit of scale through standard solutions

9 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 9 RSS – A Universal Solution RSS: Initially developed as syndication tool for My.Netscape portal Potential for this lightweight solution quickly recognised Blogging software integrated RSS feeds Many RSS readers and authoring tools developed RSS becomes part of JISC's Information Environment (IE)

10 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 10 RSS Viewers Lots of different ways of reading RSS news feeds, which allows user to select preferred approach: Web page Tickertape Pop-up alerts Bookmark interfaces ( -style) interface …

11 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 11 RSS Aggregators An RSS aggregator: Brings together RSS news feeds from various sources We've seen desktop & Web aggregators designed for use by individuals (my favourite services, my weather report, my stocks and shares, …) A server-based RSS aggregator: Allows service provider to aggregate news feeds for its communities Feeds for student on a particular course Feeds related to a funding body We will now see the JISC RSS Aggregator, designed to provide easy access to news from JISC services and facilitate sharing and community building across the JISC community Viewing RSS

12 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 12 The JISC RSS Aggregator JISC RSS Aggregator: Single point of access to news from JISC services Efficient (limited management needed centrally) Well-designed, attractive interface Developed by EEVL Is this needed in institutions? This software is available from EEVL (or see alternatives )

13 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 13 Group Exercise 1 Now that you've seen an overview of RSS: List areas in which RSS could be used within your organisation List areas in which your organisation would wish to receive news feeds provided by others Exercise E

14 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 14 Issues Arising From Discussion Areas in which RSS could be used within your organisation Addressing workflow issues Evaluating & deploying technologies User issues … Areas in which your organisation would wish to receive news feeds provided by others Persuading them Reliance on third parties (can we trust them) … Exercise

15 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 15 RSS File Format RSS is a powerful, lightweight format. How do you create RSS news feeds? Creating RSS RSS Channels BBC News | UK | UK Edition k/default.stm BBC UK News updated every minute of every day RSS News Items Tony Blair quits over Iraq Tony Blair quits the cabinet, accusing George W Bush of breaking promises over UN's role in rebuilding Iraq. / stm NOTE: Trust is an important aspect of news feeds – is the supplier of news embedded in your Web pages, providing accurate information – the above news is not true!

16 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 16 RSS Authoring Tools Many ways of creating RSS files: By hand (don't!) Dedicated RSS tools Web-based tools Blogs (see SOSIG) Generation of RSS and HTML from database Transformation of HTML RSS (or vice versa) Externally-hosted value-added service providers e.g. Feedburner … Creating RSS

17 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 17 RSSxpress RSSxpress: Combined RSS viewer, editor, directory and validator Developed at UKOLN Widely used for creating RSS files Creating RSS Note: UKOLN planning updates & new RSS tools. Suggestions welcome. Similar tool: RSS Configurator - < >

18 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 18 Publishing Your RSS Feed When publishing your RSS feed: Save file at stable location on Web server e.g. Validate file (please!) e.g. using RSSxpress interface, etc. (Broken news is bad news!) Ensure Web administrator gives correct MIME type for.xml,.rss, … file Include in your HTML news page so that tools like FireFox dynamic bookmark can be used (see later) For completely new feed register at RSSxpress, JISC Aggregator, Syndic8, etc. View feed in various types of RSS viewers Creating RSS Validators available at,, etc.

19 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 19 Viewing RSS Feeds (1) RSS may be used in ways you have not considered: Search results … If you include a tag, users can automatically add a dynamic bookmark to Firefox

20 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 20 Viewing RSS Feeds (2) An example of an interface to an RSS file: This shows Thunderbird open source client Similar software (but licensed) available for MS Outlook User can chose whether to view Web page or just text This has been described as authenticated spam- free opt-in Note that with some RSS tool the user can choose to view text-only. Great for the user – but should you worry about your logo not being displayed?

21 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 21 Viewing RSS Feeds (3) "If you've got a late-model wireless device and want to try accessing your favorite syndicated content on-the-go, give FeedBurner's Feed Reader (MFR) a test drive: Supports feeds in all major formats (RSS, RDF, and Atom) Smart "If-Modified-Since" content retrieval conserves wireless bandwidth … Other examples of viewers for PDAs: Plucker Hand/RSS for Palm See Note this is intended as a illustration and is not a product endorsement! The software has not been tested and it is not known if it complies with appropriate standards. Viewing RSS

22 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 22 How is RSS Being Used? IoP provide RSS feeds for: Events Features Jobs Latest papers news Press releases … Uses Of RSS

23 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 23 What The Libraries Are Doing Many libraries, especially in the US, are taking a similar high profile approach to RSS Topic=Consumer%20Information&Display=Consumer%20Information Topic=Consumer%20Information&Display=Consumer%20Information Note that the URL of the RSS file shows it is being generated by a Cold Fusion script Uses Of RSS Issue: How persistent is this feed likely to be?

24 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 24 RSS - User Issues Some issues to think about: RSS is great, but what RSS tool / model should we provide for our users? RSS file has been described as 'the programmers undergarments". How do we ensure users know what to do with an RSS file: View it Copy URL and paste into RSS viewer Draft and drop into RSS viewer Native XML file view Styled XML file – but where's the navigation? Is there a need for tips in the link to the RSS file?

25 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 25 What Else Can You Do? (1) What else can RSS be used for? Syndication: You have content you want others to include in their Web site (e.g. IWMW 2005 conference details) Alerts: Alerts of new search results, items in eBay, …. Tracking: You want users to be able to track progress of their items (currently available for Parcel tracking; how about book order; fault reports; …) Personalised Interfaces: Weather from weather service; stocks & shares; …. Replacing … Uses Of RSS

26 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 26 What Else Can You Do? (2) You can read your GMail using an RSS viewer Lsoft now provide RSS for their archives e.g. JISCMail archives (and thoughts on differences?) Awasu RSS reader has free plugin for reading

27 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 27 What Else Can You Do? (3) Search Amazon: Third parties services can be used to generate RSS results for Amazon searches See:

28 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 28 What Else Can You Do? (4) Search Amazon: Third parties services can be used to generate RSS results for price changes on Amazon Further info

29 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 29 Exercise 2 Now you have seen the range of possibilities for RSS and the different approaches to creating RSS files: Discuss the authoring models you feel may be applicable within your organisation Outlines the advantages and disadvantages of the approaches List other potential barriers to effective use of RSS Exercise E

30 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 30 Exercise 2 - Discussion Authoring models / Advantages and disadvantages By hand or dedicated editors Simple Prone to errors, data re-entered & not repurposed From backend database / CMS Repurposed existing data May be included as standard Conversion Repurposed existing data Which way: RSS XHTML or vice versa (pros & cons) Potential barriers to effective use of RSS Inertia? Lack of interest to end users? (supplier-driven?) … Exercise E

31 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 31 Content Issues Accuracy, relevance, timeliness, … of content Display of content (don't make assumptions) Context of content (e.g. MLA news from UKOLN) Quality Issues Technical Issues Important to validate RSS file Incorrect syntax / characters may or may not be displayed Be aware of non-standard characters (e.g. £,, ©,...) Note that special characters (e.g. ) may cause problems Avoid clever tricks – keep to standard (may work in some cases but not others

32 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 32 Architectural Issues We need to think about: Technical architecture for creating RSS Architecture for processing RSS (ourselves, partners and 3 rd parties) RSS Design: How many items Removal of old items Finding old items Support issues: Developers Content creators Users

33 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 33 Case Study – QA Focus (1) QA Focus: JISC-funded project Developed a QA framework, 80 briefing papers, … As part of exit strategy : Documents available with CC licence RSS feed to enable 3 rd parties to embed details (syndication) Documented QA OPML file User can select groups of RSS files to add to RSS reader

34 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 34 Case Study – QA Focus (2) The approach (similar to IWMW feeds): RSS and OPML files created by hand Tried using 3 rd party XHTML RSS, but didn't work No time (expertise) for simple backend scripting Files validated and viewed by RSS viewer Policies documents – subtext is you can trust us

35 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 35 What Does RSS Stand For? RSS naming and versions can be very confusing Caveats RSS 0.9 Developed by Netscape to allow 3 rd party content to be embedded in My.Netscape portal RSS=Rich Site Summary Issues Which to go for? (JISC IE uses RSS 1.0) Really Simple Syndication is probably the best abbreviation (RSS 1.0 abbreviation is recursive and confusing) Issues Which to go for? (JISC IE uses RSS 1.0) Really Simple Syndication is probably the best abbreviation (RSS 1.0 abbreviation is recursive and confusing) RSS 1.0 RSS=RDF Site Summary RSS – great idea! Let's make it extensible and part of Semantic Web; so we'll use XML RDF. RSS 2.0 RSS=Really Simple Syndication RSS – great idea! Let's keep it simple. So we'll use XML.

36 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 36 RSS 1.0 Extensions Developing Feeds With RSS and Atom, (O'Reilly), Ben Hammersley lists some RSS 1.0 extensions: RSS for LOM, Distribution of molecular information in CML, But some of the proposals mentioned seem not to be being developed Note: Some of the proposals mentioned seem not to be being developed But interest in XHTML 2 and news feeds and W3C's standardisation of Atom A News Standards Summit was held in Amsterdam in May See Latest News Caveats

37 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 37 Limitations Of The RSS Format Limitations Of RSS Format RSS's strengths are based on its simplicity The simplicity means limited display capabilities and functionality You can't apply rich formatting or embed hyperlinks, search interfaces, … in RSS feeds Actually can by using XML escaping techniques Such tricks make work in some viewers (e.g. browsers) but could cause problems in others Do you want to repeat the problems caused during the browser wars in late 1990s (pages looked and behaved differently in different browsers)? Aim to maximise interoperability rather than maximise functionality Caveats

38 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 38 Limitations Of RSS Statistics RSS Statistics There are lies, dammed lies and Web statistics! Be wary of RSS statistics Issues RSS aggregators may harvest resources which are not read RSS items may be retrieved while your PC is left on over the weekend 40% of my visitors now get information via RSS. What does this mean? What are the implications? Caveats

39 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 39 Beyond Text (1) Podcasting: Automated delivery mechanism for transferring sound files to you MP3 player (or PC) Concept invented in 2004 Exponential growth Based on RSS 2.0 (plus enclosures) Is it of interest? Accessibility Learning processing information on the move Twenty-nine percent of US adults who own MP3 players like [the] iPod say they have downloaded podcast programs from the Internet, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found... more than 6 million people are listening to a form of communication that emerged only last year …. See Wikipedia entry Futures

40 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 40 Beyond Text (2) On 5 April 2005 the Bibliocasting list was announced: ".. dedicated to discussion of streaming media in library environment. This list grows out of increasing popularity of "Podcasting,".. use of RSS.. to download audio programs (like audio blogs) to computers and MP3 players. So what to post on the list? Examples of how libraries can build on the growing excitement of Podcasting; Questions on how libraries can use podcasting and other multimedia information they create to promote themselves and provide better service; … We have also set up a podcast for the list...that's right, you can listen to the list. Each post is transformed from text-to-speech, and syndicated using RSS." Futures

41 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 41 RSS & Podcasts RSS feed of automated text-MP3 conversion of messages on biblio list: … can you image anything more boring to do with an iPod? But this led to UKOLN experiment: Take UKOLN news item Use festival to convert to WAV and lam to covert to MP3 (open source utilities) Now have an MP3 sound file Potential of this idea: Sound version of news available to blind users (avoiding reading navigational elements, etc.) Use with RSS Podcast to deliver automatically to MP3 player Potential for application with dynamic RSS feeds (e.g. new Google search results, info on Glastonbury tickets on sale on eBay below chosen price, …) Futures

42 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 42 Integrating RSS & Podcasts Awasu: An RSS reader & Podcasting client Also has plugins for: IMAP/POP Alerts for searches … Thoughts: We once wanted a Web interface to everything Do we want an RSS interface to new stuff? Thoughts: We once wanted a Web interface to everything Do we want an RSS interface to new stuff?

43 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 43 Related Standards (1) We've discussed RSS and RSS Also relevant: Atom: Proposal to merge RSS See and OPML: Outline Processor Markup Language Can be used to manage (e.g export/import) groups of RSS feeds Widely used by BBC See Seemingly informal governance – but popular Futures

44 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 44 Related Standards (2) iCal: Syndication standard for event information Example: click on iCal file for conference dates and date automatically added to your calendar Used by CETIS See NewsML Heavyweight standard for syndicating news "NewsML is designed to provide a media- independent, structural framework for multi-media news." Used by news profession (e.g. Reuters) Includes embargo deadlines, version control, etc. See Futures

45 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 45 Engaging With Standards (1) An opportunity to engage with development of the standards: Exploiting RSS 1.0's Extensibility Using RSS events What additional extensibility is required? Subject xxx Note: RSS 2.0 extensibility based on XML namespaces doesn't resolve semantic interpretations

46 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 46 Engaging With Standards (2) Engaging With Atom Development Atom – son of RSS ? Blog-focused – what about library's and publisher's needs? See Atom Wiki -

47 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 47 Exercise 3A: Newsletter Exercise: Your organisation produces many newsletters You have been asked to update the technical architecture Is there an opportunity to use innovative technologies (& need for the technologies)? What role can RSS have? What authoring model should you use? What support will end users need? How do you address the issue of trust? Exercise E

48 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 48 Exercise 3B: Trust Issues You feel RSS is a key technology for your organisation. You want to use if to disseminate mission-critical info (course info, exam results, …) You are worried that use of RSS may be hindered by: Concerns by 3 rd parties in letting you publish on their Web site Your legal adviser's worries … What should you do to address such concerns? Is a service agreement needed? If so, what should it cover Exercise

49 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 49 Exercise 3B: Trust Issues RSS Partner service agreement This agreement related to the RSS feeds listed. The PARTNER SERVICE agrees to: Make reasonable effort to ensure that the RSS feeds are persistent until at least DATE. Validate RSS files when they created or updated and ensure usable in wide range of RSS readers Make reasonable effort to ensure that titles and descriptions have consistent length and style Make reasonable effort to ensure that the content of the RSS feeds is accurate and appropriate Allow the content to be reused as defined in the Creative Commons licence Exercise

50 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 50 Conclusions RSS: Powerful lightweight solution for news syndication Provides users with flexibility in how they choose to receive content More than just news – potential for richer syndication of content, dynamic content, … Quality of content important in ensuring end users trust the content Need to develop appropriate publishing procedures for news Still some issues about standards – but this shouldn't prevent deployment

51 A centre of expertise in digital information managementwww.ukoln.ac.uk 51 Discussion Opportunity for general discussion


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