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  • Uploaded on RSS and JISC Services Newsfeed Aggregator Demonstrator . Contents What do we want to do? Why use RSS? RSS examples The JISC RSS aggregator Ensuring quality Other issues. Brian Kelly UK Web Focus UKOLN. Email

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rss and jisc services newsfeed aggregator demonstrator

RSS and JISC Services Newsfeed Aggregator Demonstrator

  • Contents
    • What do we want to do?
    • Why use RSS?
    • RSS examples
    • The JISC RSS aggregator
    • Ensuring quality
    • Other issues

Brian Kelly

UK Web Focus




UKOLN is supported by:

what do we want to do
What Do We Want To Do?


  • We provide quality services and we want everyone to know about them.
  • So we:
    • Run events
    • Publish newsletters
    • Run mailing lists
    • Contribute to mailing list
    • Provide Web sites
    • Ask others to include news on their Web sites,newsletters, email lists, …
    • ….
  • But:
    • Not everyone attends
    • Not everyone reads
    • Too much information, too much spam
    • Not everyone reads
    • Time-consuming to process
    • Limited user choice

What we would like to do is minimise human bottlenecks in processing 3rd party context for use on Web and email, whilst allowing users more flexibility in handling information overload

initial attempts


    • Accessibility problems (JavaScript dependency, ..)
    • Proprietary
    • Everyone else needs to replicate software, …
    • No benefit of scale through standard solutions
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 email alerts
    • Content often generated from single source
    • User has choice: chose content; no tickertape displayed when away; suspend email; …

There was a clear need for an open solution, which would allow use of standard authoring tools and viewers by any news provider

rss a universal solution
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)
rss viewers
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
    • Email (email-style) interface
rss aggregators
RSS Aggregators

Viewing RSS

  • 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

the jisc rss aggregator
The JISC RSS Aggregator

  • JISC RSS Aggregator:
    • Provides single point of access to news from JISC services
    • Efficient (limited management needed centrally)
    • Well-designed, attractive interface
    • Developed by EEVL (Geir Granum and Malcolm Moffat)
rss file format

RSS News Items

RSS Channels

<item><title>Tony Blair quits over Iraq</title><description>Tony Blair quits the cabinet, accusing George W Bushof breaking promises over UN's role in rebuilding Iraq.</description><link></link></item>

<channel><title>BBC News | UK | UK Edition</title><link></link><description>BBC UK News updated every minute of every day</description></channel>

RSS File Format

Creating RSS

  • RSS is a powerful, lightweight format. How do you create RSS news feeds?

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!

rss authoring tools
RSS Authoring Tools

Creating RSS

  • Many ways of creating RSS files:
    • By hand (don't!)
    • Dedicated authoring tools
    • Web-based tools
    • Blogs (see SOSIG's approach)
    • Generation of RSS and HTML from database
    • Transformation of HTML  RSS (or vice versa)


Creating RSS

  • RSSxpress:
    • Combined RSS viewer, editor, directory and validator
    • Developed at UKOLN
    • Widely used for creating RSS files

Note:UKOLN planning updates and new RSS tools. Suggestions welcome.

publishing your rss feed

Validators available at <>, <>, etc.

Publishing Your RSS Feed

Creating RSS

  • When publishing your RSS feed:
    • Save file at stable location on Web servere.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 <LINK> 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, etc.
    • View feed in various types of RSS viewers
viewing rss feeds 1

If you include a <LINK> tag, users can automatically add a dynamic bookmark to Firefox

Viewing RSS Feeds (1)
  • RSS may be used in ways you have not considered:
    • Search results
    • Email
viewing rss feeds 2
Viewing RSS Feeds (2)
  • An example of an email interface to an RSS file:
    • This shows Thunderbird open source email 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 email” 

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?

quality issues 1
Quality Issues (1)

  • 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. < and >) may cause problems
    • Avoid clever tricks – keep to standard (may work in some cases but not others
  • 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 2
Quality Issues (2)
  • Who is the target audience for your news?
  • Initially early RSS adopters across JISC services:
    • Used RSS to provide news to their user communities
    • Used RSS to provide automated news on additions to collections, search results, etc.
  • But:
    • This doesn't necessarily help JISC and other JISC services
    • JISC & JISC Services are important stakeholders
  • Therefore:
    • Need for RSS news aimed at JISC
    • This can help in promotion to related bodies (e.g. JISC RSCs)
some of the caveats
Some Of The Caveats
  • What does RSS stand for?
    • Several independent driving forces for RSS:
      • Netscape called it Rich Site Summary (v 0.92)
      • W3C felt it should be based on RDF/XML to provide extensibility and called it RDF Site Summary (v 1.0)
      • Dave Winer (& others) valued its simplicity and developed an alternative called Really Simple Syndication (v 2.0)
    • JISC IE uses RSS 1.0
    • In practice many viewers handle all versions
  • Limitations Of RSS Format
    • You can't (shouldn't) embed hyperlinks, formatting, search interfaces, … in RSS feeds
  • RSS Statistics
    • There are lies, dammed lies and Web statistics! Be wary of RSS statistics

Further Information

useful rss tools
Useful RSS Tools
  • Lists of RSS viewers available at:
    • <>
    • <>
  • EEVL's RSS Aggregator software:
    • Used in JISC & EEVL's jobs aggregators
    • Software available from <>
  • Urchin RSS Aggregator:
    • Web based, customisable, RSS aggregator and filter
    • See <>

Further Information

Why not encourage colleagues to use variety of RSS viewers so that they can give feedback on problems

  • RSS:
    • Powerful lightweight solution for news syndication
    • Provides users with flexibility in how they choose to receive news
    • Quality of news content important in ensuring end users trust the content of possible unknown organisations (BBC is widely known but what are EEVL SOSIGs?)
    • Technical quality important to ensure news processed correctly be wide range of tools
    • Important to develop appropriate publishing procedures for news
    • Need for news targetted at different user communities, including JISC
further information
Further Information
  • RSS @ A Glance, Guidelines from the JISC News Working Group,Malcolm Moffatt, <>
  • RSS - A Primer for Publishers & Content Providers, Malcolm Moffatt, <>
  • Links to RSS Resources, The Fuss, <>
  • Improving Communications within JISC through News Aggregation, Paul Davey et al, Ariadne 41, <>
  • Syndicated content: it's more than just some file formats, Paul Miller, Ariadne 35, <>
  • RSS: the latest feed, Judith Wusteman, Library Hi Tech, Vol. 22 (4),<>
  • Rich Site Services (sic), Gerry McKiernan, <>