How The News Flows

Lately, the blogosphere has been echoing with questions over the possibility of a trend that could suggest that RSS is gradually empowering the back-end (server systems) just as well as the front-end (client news readers).

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RSS adds tremendous value to the underling information by structuring it in a simple and easily usable format, and I suspect that this trend may just be an indication of the widespread adoption of RSS for server-side applications in the near future. RSS as a standardized content delivery mechanism for interoperability between systems is growing.

Dave Winer, who pioneered the development of blogs and syndication (RSS), recently suggested that RSS is how the news flows:

If all the RSS on the planet were all of a sudden to stop updating (key point) the news would stop flowing. Any news guy or gal who thinks they could get by without RSS — think this through a bit more. We all love the Internet, but don’t shut off your gas and electric because your computer and router wouldn’t work without electricity. Same with RSS and news. RSS is how the news flows, whether you see it or not.

Marshall Kirkpatrick, a lead writer at ReadWriteWeb.com – one of the most widely read technology blogs online, contemplates that if you think RSS is dead then that’s your loss and it’s a big one:

Our team scans over thousands of company RSS feeds each morning for updates (what news writer wouldn’t do that?) and we use an open source customizable meme-tracker to make sure we haven’t missed anything important. We use open source RSS parsing software to set up a dashboard tracking all our competitors’ feeds, we use an RSS to IM alert system to get some feeds sent to us right away and at least some of us use Gmail Webclips for another layer of ambient feed tracking.

In other words, I use RSS all day long. Anyone who is competitive in their field and doesn’t just might be crazy.

The fact is clear, RSS is the backbone of content distribution online.

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New Features: Editable Titles, and Text Extraction

On popular demand, we have introduced two new features for Feedity users, as part of our version 2.2 release:

Editable Feed Titles: Premium and Pro plan users can now edit and change the title of the RSS feed to be more descriptive. The feed title is set to the source webpage title by default, but now the feed title can be edited to further customize the RSS feed. To edit the feed title, just click on the displayed title on the Feed Builder page.

Abstract Text Extraction: Up until now, Feedity used to only fetch and extract the hyperlinks from a source webpage to build a custom RSS feed. With the new abstract text extraction feature, users (even free plan users) can extract non-hyperlinked textual data from source webpages. This feature can be utilized by specifying a start block and an end block from the HTML code of the source webpage, through the Advanced Refinement option on the Feed Builder page.

Thanks to all our users for their support! Drop us a message if you need help, or if want to share some feedback.

We request RSS enthusiasts and Feedity users (specially our Premium and Pro plan users), to subscribe to our blog feed for new announcements and other service updates.

Have a good one!


Government web sites should focus on RSS, not redesigns

A new paper from researchers at Princeton University suggests that government agencies should abandon the dream of developing fancy or usable web sites, and instead focus on providing raw public data such as regulatory decisions, campaign finance data etc. in open, structured formats such as RSS and XML. This raw data would be made freely and publicly available to anyone who wanted it and could be used for any purpose.

Another paper called “Hack, Mash, and Peer” explains the basics of structured data formats and argues that releasing raw data in open, structured formats would make government agencies more transparent and accountable.

We at Feedity envision pain-less creation and distribution of data in a structured format. We provide a scalable hosted service for custom RSS generation, for pretty much any webpage/website. Our on-demand service facilitates rapid data extraction and content delivery in the form of RSS feeds for news or general information.

Organizations, Web developers, and government agencies, can instantly start leveraging the benefits of our Web service. For more details, please visit our website, or contact us for any other enquiries.


Web 3.0, the final frontier?

Let’s take a quick tour. The first-generation web, Web 1.0 (prior to 1998), with its text-only web pages, centered around the “web browser” (application host). Web 2.0 (2002-2007) is centered around interaction (application dynamics and logic). The Web 2.0 trend is bloated with API’s, mashups, Ajax, wikis, social-networking etc., but it does not expose the data itself. In the coming time, we’ll gradually shift to Web 3.0, the third-generation web, probably the final frontier in the decomposition of monolithic nature of the web into discrete “data” components.

Today, when someone mentions that xyz.com is a new “web service”, it doesn’t actually mean that its a true “web service” but rather a “web-based service”. However, Web 3.0 will bring true “web services” into the mainstream. Web 3.0 is about exposing the data model on the web. It transforms web pages to (reusable) web services, and thereby transforming the Web into a database. Web 3.0 is going to deliver a new generation of business applications. And I must say that RSS will be a driving factor in this process. RSS will lay the pipeline for the new service architecture.

Update: Read about Web4.0 on Seth Godin’s blog.


Video Tutorial of Feedity with Yahoo Pipes

Google Alerts notified me of a nice video tutorial which highlights building a custom data mashup using Yahoo Pipes with Feedity (there’s even a pre-built Webpage-to-RSS pipe which you can clone and use in your pipeline).

Video Tutorials of Feedity with Yahoo PipesThis video tutorial is located at Useful Video (tute 4). Its a great walkthrough for anyone wanting to create a dynamic data mashup from one or more data sources which lack web feeds support.

Talking of mashups, according to ProgrammableWeb, the number of “official” mashups has grown from roughly 900 in August 2006 to roughly 1550 till date. Web is the new database!


Introducing FeedTier

I’ll try and keep it simple. I’m sure that you can instantly recognize the small orange icon with “RSS” written on it, as seen on many web sites now-a-days. This orange icon links to a web feed or summary of the recent headlines or articles on that site. And let me tell you that a lot of web sites now have support for web feeds. You can use a web-based or desktop aggregator/reader tool to subscribe to your favorite web feeds, and read them all at one place as they are updated. This gives you rapid access to online publishing’ such as news or articles. And best of all, you don’t have to visit each site individually. Your aggregator tool does the syndication for you.

Now, there are still a lot of informational web sites which don’t have a web feed. How do you go about subscribing to their content? This is where a new service called FeedTier that we’ve been experimenting with comes in. FeedTier is a web feeds generator for web pages without an existing syndication format. It turns any web page into a live web feed. FeedTier performs content analysis, picks-up the most prominent cluster of hyperlinks and automatically generates RSS web feeds from web pages without existing sydincation options. FeedTier is an experimental service and free for personal use. FeedTier enables anyone to build custom web feeds for virtually any web site they desire. FeedTier requires no programming and is completely automated.

FeedTier 1.0 Beta currently supports feed generation in RSS 2.0 format. On a technical note, I wrote a pretty basic content analysis algorithm along with a custom hash-map tree type collection which makes the content harvesting possible. The application has been written in C# .NET 1.1.

If you are further interested in web feeds or syndication or aggregation, and knowing more about terms like RSS and Atom, then I suggest you have a quick look at the non-technical standpoint on these terms. You can also have a look at a vast list of feed aggregator tools (online or desktop).

FeedTier came out of our own necessity for subscription to web sites without any provision for web feeds. It’s an experimental service and not yet perfect in its results. But it can still be used for a lot of web pages and the results will improve gradually. We hope it helps!

So try it out, blog about it and send in your feedback.