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Archive for the 'RSS' Category

Pattern does OpenSearch in IE7 Beta

After my Virtual Prod about OpenSearch, Dave Pattern of the University of Huddersfield promptly delivered such an interface to his Dynix OPAC.

Following my broad hints about IE7 being a driver for everything to have an OpenSearch interface on it, it is good that Dave has found the time to download IE7 Beta 2 and give it whirl.

Looking good and easy to do are the messages I take away from looking at his posting.

It just reinforces the message that, once the dreaded Windows Automatic Update has distributed IE7 to most of the PC’s on the Planet, we will have a new de facto standard for ‘good enough’ search access to most things [yes that includes LMS/ILS’s] whether we like it or not.

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Structured Blogging

Dick Hardt, CEO of sxip Identity and subject of our very first podcast, draws my attention to the new Structured Blogging initiative.

“Structured Blogging is a way to get more information on the web in a way that’s more usable. You can enter information in this form and it’ll get published on your blog like a normal entry, but it will also be published in a machine-readable format so that other services can read and understand it.

Think of structured blogging as RSS for your information. Now any kind of data – events, reviews, classified ads – can be represented in your blog.”

I shall definitely be taking a closer look, as it sounds potentially powerful… …and it works with Movable Type, the technology behind this blog.

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Reading Lists – RSS & OPML

Having been in at the conception and birth of the Talis Academic Reading list product Talis List a few years back I’m always interested in developments in that area.
 
Over the last few months I have been mulling over where technologies like RSS could have application in the Reading List environment.  Things like providing feeds so that students could subscribe to the reading lists for their courses, being fed with updates and additions.  This could make the whole thing far more dynamic and alive, enabling the owner of the list to add ‘current’ things like blog entries/news reports/journal articles to the students’ suggested reading.
 
RSS published reading lists could also be a powerful tool for librarians trying to keep up with the recommended reading promoted by the lecturers they are trying to keep up with.
 
All this sounds simple until you start to multiply those thoughts by the number of reading lists (often several per subject/course/term/required or suggested reading) that a student are required to monitor and it all becomes a bit complex.
 
 
This is where OPML rides to the rescue.  OPML currently is mainly used for importing/exporting details of subscribed to RSS Feeds so that they can be transferred between feed monitoring solutions.  Dave Winer in his recent posting Next steps in RSS, Reading Lists raises the possibility of an RSS aggregator subscribing to an OPML feed instead of directly to the RSS feeds it describes.
 
When the author of the OPML document adds a feed, the aggregator automatically checks that feed in its next scan, and (key point) when a feed is removed, the aggregator no longer checks that feed. THe editor of the OPML file can update all the subscribers by updating the OPML file. Think of it as sort of a mutual fund for subscriptions.
So with RSS feeds becomming more mainsteam maybe there is a place for them to become central to the decemination of information to students, in a way that will take us a long way from those badly photocopied book lists that used to circulate.  Food for thought….

Microsoft IE7 + A9 Opensearch – a marriage made in Open heaven

As reported by the Amazon Web Services Blog and the IEBlog there have been some behind the scenes efforts between the Microsoft IE7 development team and their colleagues at Amazon’s A9 to roll Opensearch capability into the next IE release.

So why did Microsoft team go down this route? Because it was simple and built on stuff they had already:

IE7 Beta1 shipped with a set of 5 search providers and there wasn?t a way (short of hacking the registry) to add more search providers. When we started looking into how a site should describe itself, our first thought was the ?src? format. After all, it was pretty simple and it could describe how to construct the query to get the search result page back.

There were 2 things that made us pause, however. First, ?src? isn?t XML. This meant that we would need to write a custom parser. A new format would bring its share of security threats. ?src? didn?t seem so simple anymore. Second and more important, OpenSearch 1.0 had brought forward the idea of programming, re-mixing and subscribing to search results…. … With search being such an important aspect of our user?s daily lives, a browser ought to do something special with search results. In OpenSearch, we saw the foundation for making this happen in future releases of IE….

…OpenSearch 1.0 describes how to get search results as RSS. IE7 has great RSS support and renders search result RSS in a very readable way. So, IE7 could be backwards compatible with OpenSearch 1.0. But, we needed a format that could *also* describe a site with only an HTML interface.

Ah, but what about licensing – Creative Commons rides to the rescue again!

Only one thing stood in the way. Aaron and I looked through the OpenSearch spec and couldn?t find how it was licensed. We wanted to make sure it was as easy as possible to deploy this technology. The feedback from releasing the simple list extensions under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license was very positive. Our preference was that OpenSearch would have a similar license. We mailed Dewitt and within minutes, got a response from his BlackBerry that A9 was indeed planning on releasing OpenSearch 1.1 under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5, the very same license as simple list extensions.

And what have A9 got out of it – other than the not so insignificant point of having a massive validation of their handy little search standard? Well, validating and pushing some of the extra functionality in OpenSerch 1.1 [draft] standard. which includes extensibility around search formats, support for atom based feeds and http POSTs, XML Namespace extensions in the query.

Opensearch 1.1, starts to address some of the issues I mused about back in March:

OpenSearch I fully expect to grow beyond A9. It has a great opportunity to become a de facto simple search interface. With a bit of help from the library community, there is no reason why it couldn’t be built upon to become a suitable alternative for some of our search protocols, that are not so simple. [Do I hear a little cheer from the developers who have ever tried to get their head around implementing Z39.50]

There is an opportunity for our domain to build upon Opensearch to provide easy integration of Library searches in to the world of the Library user. As Lorcan Dempsey also suggests:

it is time for SRU/Metasearch/NISO/somebody to come out with some simple explanatory materials explaining the relationship between MXG, SRU, SRW, and Z39.50; a routemap for the future suggesting who should adopt what and what should go away; and materials explaining the relationship between a hopefully reduced set of these acronyms and OpenSearch.

The two questions that the promoters of SRU, SRW, and Z39.50 must ask themselves are 1. How come Microsoft have managed to influence Opensearch 1.1, but we have not?; and 2. A SRU client is as easy to implement as an Opensearch one so why, despite the fact that the standard has been around far longer, did it not get adopted by Amazon and perhaps more significantly by Microsoft?

Whilst you ponder those, lets all celebrate the the way developments and cooperations, only a few months ago the mere suggestion of which would have brought incredulity, just seem to happen in this Web 2.0 world. Why, because its easy technically and easy commercially.

In the wars again

We all remember The Unix Wars and the Linux Wars. There were of course the Browser Wars, which some say reemerged with FireFox as Browser Wars II.

Over the last few days I have started to get the feeling that there may well be the sound of troops massing just over the ridge again. Actually two ridges.

The first of these local skirmishes, which could turn in to a bit of a battle, is around the territory of RSS. As I blogged the other day, the father of RSS Dave Winer is upset by Microsoft’s decision to call RSS Feeds Web Feeds in IE 7. This pot has now been stirred by the announcement of RSS 3.0.

The other front that could open up is between web site publishers who believe that their content and its layout should be sacrosanct and not touched [by any gizmo on a user’s desktop or in their browser] and the Greasemonkeys.

The Firefox plug-in Greasemonkey, and its IE equivalent Turnabout, have up until now been impossible to stop by the web site publishers. But as I report on the Silkworm Blog, there has been discovered a way to drop in a Gunk script to your web pages to degreasemonkey them. This has been discovered by the community themselves and is already causing comments like “I’d rather just find a way to end the war before it starts.” to appear on their mailing lists. Once this gets in to the wild it could easily resurrect the debates that formed around Microsoft’s SmartTags and Google’s autolink.

Either of these could ignite in to a full war, or may be not. Whatever, its always interesting to watch and marvel at the passion people exhibit when defending their territory.

The RSS naming wars look to be over almost before they started!

Really Simple what?… or is it.. Rich Site something? Hands up those of you who’ve had a bit of evangelism to the uninitiated about the wonders of RSS Feeds thrown off course by a pointless explanation about what the letters ‘R’, ‘R’, & ‘S’ stand for! So you get over that hurdle only to fall in to the pot-hole of if its called RSS why does the orange buttons you need to click, have XML written on them?

Still its been fine up to now as RSS isn’t main-stream yet. Trouble is in a blink of an eye it will be. An that eye blink is called IE7. As soon as that starts rolling out in an anonymous Windows Update in a few months time, RSS capability will be on practically every personal, and many corporate desktops on the planet in short order.

Whatever criticisms people may level at Microsoft, you can’t knock their desire to make the adoption of new functionality by the masses as simple as possible. So you can imagine the initial conversations in the Microsoft usability labs when the technical wizards announced that this wonderful new feature was called RSS, and RSS stands for…… feed_dialog_box.jpgIt’s therefore not a shock to discover that the feature has been christened ‘Web Feeds’ [shortened to just ‘Feeds’ on buttons etc.] in the beta release of IE7.

This simple move triggered quite a reaction from Dave Winer, a father of RSS, who sees a conspiracy between Microsoft, Google [who are also calling them Feeds in their Google News announcement] to hijack the standard by calling it something else.

IMHO, Dave can be more than proud for the dramatic difference he has already made to people’s lives with RSS, but he is being a bit too precious about his charge as it starts to make its way in the big wide world.

Richard MacManus in his Feeds is the new RSS posting details some of the saga and quite rightly in my opinion concludes “So sorry Dave and Robert, but it looks like the tide has turned. All 3 bigco’s are using ‘feeds’ and the majority of people that commented on my post are too. The people have spoken – feeds is it.“.

Whilst on the subject of Feeds, I recommend the RSS4Lib Blog all about Innovative ways libraries use RSS . The latest posting RSS Creator details the work by Dave Walker at the Cal State San Marcos library using the XML API of his Metalib installation to create feeds for all the electronic journals that are accessible via their SFX URL Resolver. I have been preaching for many months now that if you provide an XML API [just like Amazon AWS], or Web Service, you provide the ability for others to innovate in ways you never envisaged. Here is yet another example.

RSS is not just another TLA

The quiet appearance of those three letters RSS on the scene back in 1999 was not an earth shattering event, but the uses to which the technology is now being put are growing by the day.

It gave rise to the now infamous podcasting last summer, which allows the automatic download of [or ‘tuning in’ to] Internet broadcasts or ‘Podcasts’. So when you want to listen to your favourite hour of the week, it is already loaded on to your iPod or PC drive.

At Talis, as part of Project Bluebird, we are researching the usefulness of RSS as a way of alerting library users to events that take place in their library account.

The Tony Hammond article in D-Lib on the Role of RSS in Science Publishing and the recent announcement from IngentaConnect of:

in excess of 20,000 new RSS feeds containing the latest table of contents data for the academic journals that are still being actively loaded into our databases. Like our friends at Nature

Now MSN have release a Beta version of RSS Feeds for Search Results. So enter a search into your RSS reader and get alerted when new results turn up!

Cool, so now applying that idea to the library world it won’t be long before an OPAC is brought to its knees with all its users’ RSS readers polling their favourite subject search for new items!

Whence RSS next?

Alerting tools – changing the focus

I’ve been reading an interesting article in Dlib about Scientific publishers investigating the use of RSS, this has got me thinking about whether alerting will finally reach mass take-up in libraries: http://www.dlib.org/dlib/december04/hammond/12hammond.html

Profiling and alerting has hitherto been a feature built into the systems that people use, eg ‘provide alerts’ option to watch a topic or subject, or ‘email me’ with new tables of contents as a journal is published.

The increasing availability and adoption of RSS tools is disrupting this model – shifting the tools known by librarians as ‘SDI’ (that’s Selective Dissemination of Information, rather than Strategic Defense Initiative) into the hands of the users. There are now lots of RSS readers available for free download – these are tools that allow users to subscribe to ‘feeds’ (ie changes to a site) and manage the content from these. Systems and web sites are increasingly becoming RSS-aware and publishing RSS feeds. The key advantage for users is that they have a single interface to use to set up and manage their feeds – that’s why RSS will be used where current models aren’t. Question is, who’s using RSS to date – is this a tool used by the users of libraries?

I guess this will spawn demand for a new set of tools allowing discovery of and subscription to relevant RSS feeds – maybe aggregation services for the best feeds in a subject?

It also prompts libraries to change the way they think about their content – how can they make their content and services available through ‘push’ technogies?

Suspect the world will change further if Microsoft embed RSS in the next version of IE/Outlook, as expected.

RSS – good article

RSS offers libraries the potential to deliver services in new ways and to create completely new services, with relatively little effort or cost. What is RSS and how can it serve libraries? [pdf] is a 14 page thorough introduction to RSS, how it works and how it can be applied, with a full section on its potential for libraries. Well worth a read by anyone wanting to be inspired to exploit RSS for library services.
Found via blogwithoutalibrary.