Strategies for Delivering Content Using RSS

Many (maybe most) of us in the information industry know what RSS is—a way to have a summary of new content from selected web sites automatically delivered to you. It is one of the features of Web 2.0, and so this session was appropriate for “Web 2.0 Day”. It was kicked off by Peter Griffiths and Karen George, representing the UK Home Office, the department of the government concerned with immigration, customs, prisons, and related issues. The information services unit has developed RSS services to help keep Home Office staff up to date on developments. They are now delivering 400 current awareness “bulletins” every two weeks (“fortnight” here in the UK) plus over 40 alerts a day. Is there any doubt that RSS has progressed from something used only by “geeks” into the mainstream?

Griffiths noted that political blogging has grown dramatically in the last year, and some prominent political bloggers have a high profile. One blogger got more hits on his blog than either major party in a recent UK election! (This blog hasn’t achieved that status yet, but we’re working on it! 🙂 )

George said that even in a government department, it is important to monitor new technology (bloggers do!), and the Home Office information center would never go back to its old way of doing things—a progressive department indeed!

But RSS is not without its problems. In fact, because of the tremendous amount of information available, it suffers from the very problem it was created to solve: information overload! There are too many feeds, too little consistency among them, and too many posts. So what’s next? Nicholas Ampazis, Associate Professor at the University of the Aegean, has one suggestion: give RSS readers intelligence to sort and rank information according to criteria more convenient to users, such as by author or by subject instead of today’s typical date sort. He has created a prototype, Feeds2.0, to address some of these problems and invites us to try it.

Where is Web 2.0 going? What will be its future and how will it affect the industry? That’s the topic for another posting on the last session of the day.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today

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