RSS – endless possibilities … if only

When I said at the turn of the last year that RSS would explode in 2007, I don’t think I was being particularly prescient.

The RSS standard was then sufficiently well established that it was only a matter of time (and in internet time, that means months rather than years) before it took hold. Blogs were already pumping out RSS as standard and most news sites were latching onto it; Firefox had added support for Live Bookmarks and I saw the release of IE7 as being the catalyst for wider awareness.

Although there are many desktop RSS readers around, most people are finding it more convenient to do their computing in “the cloud” and anecdotal evidence suggests that Google Reader is perhaps now the RSS reader of choice.

But the potential for RSS lies not simply in the benefits it provides for individuals to consume and manage breaking news/current awareness feeds for themselves, it lies in the literally endless opportunities it offers for us to repurpose that information to our own ends. There are numerous applications now that enable you to publish RSS feeds on your web pages; to aggregate and filter feeds and generate custom feeds from that; and to feed these feeds into services that themselves produce feeds.

The only problem I have with all this cool stuff is the nightmare vision that we are creating endless loops which sooner or later will bring the global network down!

In the UK legal field, there are plenty of useful blog and news feeds to be getting on with; but it is to their shame that, outside these spheres, established publishers have so far failed to come up with the goods:

  • the Statute Law Database – finally released after more than 14 years development – has not seen fit (despite my entreaties) to implement feeds of latest legislation (and if you do so, by year and number, both descending please!)
  • the law publishers may be doing things with their current awareness content behind the paywall, but the unarguable benefits of their publishing feeds of their latest publications have thus far escaped them (the only current exception being Wiley Law)
  • even BAILII – at the vanguard of the free legal web – does not yet (publicly) publish feeds of latest cases (they do produce an unannounced beta – from which a few pipes)

Get on with it!

13 thoughts on “RSS – endless possibilities … if only

  1. The frustration of being an early adopter. :)

    But you’re absolutely correct in saying these are the building blocks – mixing, filtering and creating content collections of value – all are dependent on these blocks being available.

  2. Yes, I wanted to aggregate feeds from ‘serious’ family law news sites, but neither Family Law NewsWatch nor Family Law Week has a feed.

  3. I absolutely share your frustrations with the lack of progress made by some very well established organisations in implementing RSS. I have today stumbled across an RSS feed from Blackwell online which isn’t strictly a legal publisher but good stuff nonetheless. Having said that I’m frustrated by the progress organisations are making with RSS, there has been some progress recently “behind the paywall” which is to be encouraged.

    One of the questions I’m often asked is what “Web 2.0 tool” should organisations start looking at first and I always usually say RSS, simply because as you suggest it underpins every other Web 2.0 too, without out it you couldn’t generate feeds from Blogs or Wikis or distribute content internally. So your point about RSS being a building block is absolutely correct and now more then ever valid.

  4. Legal publishers are still trying to find their way in the 2.0 world, just at music publishers are still trying to figure out their business model post-iTunes.

    If they push it out for free through RSS how do you make money?

    I am seeing movement to pushing out RSS, but it is still slow.

  5. @Doug I’m not suggesting publishers should necessarily push out anything that isn’t already free. The examples I’ve cited are all free access materials; we just need them to hook us into it with RSS.

  6. @Nick, Of course if it is free, they have less money or incentive to change. Government is one of the best examples.

    In the US, the SEC only pushes part of its new stuff out in RSS. Courts should be pushing their decisions out by RSS.

    It is interesting to see the ABA publications and American Lawyer pushing their stories out by RSS.

  7. Thanks Nick. Do you know how to merge 2 feeds into one? Been trying various methods, including Yahoo Pipes, but for some reason it doesn’t seem to like the feeds that feedity created.

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