May 21, 2003

New Court Opinion Feeds

While the Utah Administrative Office of the Courts has provided a mailing list to new Appellate decisions for quite a few months, we're still hoping to soon see syndicated decisions.

Rory Perry of the West Virginia Office of the Clerk used the Radio Userland weblogging tool to be the first to syndicate court opinions and in so doing build one of the very first practical applications using RSS in government. Rory offers the following feeds from the West Virgina Supreme Court:

His channels are nicely integrated into the court's website and he uses Radio's activeRenderer to create an expandable index to Term Opinion Summaries. You can also join his 3,000 subscribers who receive his RSS created opinion summaries by email. Courts interested in exploring the seemingly endless possibilities of RSS might want to start with Rory's "unrefined suggestions" that he posted to his personal weblog in February.

I've seen other court opinions surfacing informally in weblogs. Steven R. Minor, for example, reports summaries of decisions from the Virgian Court of Appeals in his SW Virginia Law Blog.

Taking up the challenge, Elmer's Weblog and others reported yesterday a posting to the Teknoids mailing list that Thomas R. Bruce, Co-Director of the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School has begun syndicating recent U.S. Supreme Court Opinions. These two channels, too, are created using Radio Userland and both are updated within minutes of decisions being handed down by the court:

May 01, 2003

RSS to Email Primer with Movable Type and Bloglet

Movable Type Notifications

Movable Type supports "notifications" using Ben Trott's mt-add-notify.cgi. The blog administrator enters email addresses using the notifications screen.

Notifications are never sent automatically. The administrator of the blog can elect to send a notication of a particular posting to those on the list. After entering a new story, and saving it, the person publishing the story can send the entry along with an optional personalized message.

As used in this way, notifications have a very limited value. Users cannot self-subscribe and the process is not at all automated. There is no way to filter so that stories posted to particular categories can be sent to subscribers interested in those topics.

MT comes with a simple CGI script to allow visitors to add themselves to your notification list. You just have to enter this form script in the template HTML code where you want it to appear.

The process, however, is still manual and users are dependent on the story publishers to elect to and remember to send notifications. The visitor who subscribes in this way, doesn't get an email notification confirming the subscription, nor can she or he unsubscribe at will.


A second option for sending RSS channel stories to subscribers by email is to use Bloglet. Bloglet is a service developed by Monsur Hossain using Blogger's XML-RPC interface. Think of it as a RSS-to-email conversion subscription service. Anyone can register and enter the XML channel URL for any feed, and then receive the new headlines in a daily email message. It's very easy to register and add channels. Here's a typical bloglet email update:

Advantages of using Bloglet:

  • It's automated and there's no work required on the part of the blog owner

  • There are no advertising banners
  • Subscribers can unsubscribe at their choosing

  • Headlines from multiple channels are aggregated into a single email message. It's like receiving one long newspaper from multiple sources.

  • The person registering the feed can elect to limit the feed to headlines, a certain number of characters, or the full description.

Limitations of Bloglet:

  • There is no option to vary the frequency of distribution to weekly, biweekly, or monthly

  • The service is erratic; sometimes its down for days at a time

  • The code is not open source so you can't host a bloglet service on your own server

MT-Notifications/Bloglet Combo Script

Girlie wrote a script for combining the above two methods.

I've place this experimental script here at RSS in Government with some minor modifications such as removing the notification url box.

My appreciation goes out to Monsur Hossain, Ben Trott, and Girlie for sharing this code.

In the next installment......

Some examples of customized 'RSS to Email' scripting in use by others.

Posted by Ray_Matthews at 05:25 PM | Comments (1)