December 15, 2003

First RSS WinterFest 2004 in Portland

DecisionCast, a Portland, Oregon-based Web conferencing company, announces that InfoWorld Media Group will be the media sponsor for RSS WinterFest 2004, a free, two day Webcast, wiki, and Weblog event on January 21-22, 2004, that will explore the uses, applications, and future of RSS and Internet content syndication.

RSS (or Really Simple Syndication) is receiving increasing attention as a technology that individuals as well as enterprises can use to communicate more effectively. RSS allows content to be sent directly to a person's desktop from a Website or Weblog without going through e-mail. Content providers use RSS to deliver stories, headlines, and updates from their Weblogs to their readers/subscribers. More and more companies and organizations are using RSS to alleviate e-mail overload as well as to manage projects, deliver important information, create effective knowledge management and content management systems, and push information to their customers.

InfoWorld is a pioneer in the use of RSS. It provides an additional channel through which readers can receive InfoWorld?s in-depth news and analysis. "With RSS we've been able to deliver our readers with the precise information they are interested in when they need it," says Chad Dickerson, CTO of InfoWorld. " As an early adopter of RSS, we have a unique insight into how the technology benefits both the content providers and users."

RSS WinterFest will be a forum to discuss RSS and its future as a technology for use within and outside of the enterprise. Attendees may choose which events they want to attend. They may also contribute by posting to their Weblog or to the wiki. Moderators will highlight Weblogs and the wiki during the Webcast and the intermissions.

Case studies will include those from a media campaign in InfoWorld that distributed advertising through RSS feeds, the Department of Justice and those from companies that have implemented RSS and other Internet content syndication technologies.

"The goal for RSS WinterFest 2004 is to elevate the discussion about RSS and other forms of Internet content syndication," said Alexander H. Williams, president and founder of DecisionCast. "InfoWorld adds so much to the discussion. We are honored that they are sponsors and participants in RSS WinterFest 2004."

DecisionCast is producing RSS WinterFest with KnowLogix, a Portland-based research and consulting company. In conjunction with RSS WinterFest, KnowLogix will unveil its inaugural report: "RSS and the Future of Internet Content Syndication."

"The report is designed for senior level decision makers," said Cynthia Carlson, the founder of KnowLogix. " It provides a comprehensive explanation of the concept of Internet-based content syndication and its associated technologies and applications, both current and future. Content syndication-related business/ enterprise opportunities also are explored."

RSS WinterFest will include a mix of prominent technologists, business leaders, and media analysts. Featured speakers include:

-- Anil Dash Vice President, Business Development, Six Apart

-- Jon Udell, Lead Analyst, InfoWorld Test Center

-- Chad Dickerson, CTO, InfoWorld Media Group

-- Bill French, Co-Founder, MyST Technology Partners

-- Robert Scoble, Technical Evangelist, US-.NET Platform Strategy, Microsoft Corporation

-- Scott Johnson, Founder, Feedster

-- Greg Reinacker, Founder, NewsGator

-- Chris Pirillo, Founder, LockerGnome

-- Ross Mayfield, CEO, Socialtext

-- Greg Lloyd, President & Co-Founder, Traction Software

-- Cynthia Carlson, Founder, Knowlogix

-- Greg Rasmussen, Consultant, KnowLogix

-- Matt McAlister, Vice President, General Manager, InfoWorld Media Group

-- Derek Scruggs, Founder, Escalan

RSS WinterFest will be as much a Webcast as it will be a Weblog. It will be a new kind of event, designed to maximize and extend the scope of a traditional Webcast. It will use RSS and the open editing environment of a wiki (a Hawaiian term for quick) so that concurrent discussions can take place during the Webcast and through other discussion environments that DecisionCast provides. Socialtext, a leader in enterprise social software, is providing the wiki for RSS WinterFest.

Event attendees can post their own Weblog entries and use the open editing environment of a wiki to quickly create their own Web pages (no html required) as well as post documents, engage in chat sessions, and participate in a new form of social networking.

Other sponsors of RSS WinterFest include Socialtext, NewsGator, MyST Technology Partners, Feedster, and Serence. For more information about sponsoring RSS WinterFest, please contact Alex Williams.

For more information about RSS WinterFest and to register, please visit the RSS WinterFest Web site.

About DecisionCast

DecisionCast specializes in producing Web conferences and developing Web conferencing solutions. DecisionCast produces its own Web events as well as customized Web events for clients that seek full production services, content development, and the implementation of world-class Web conference programs. For additional information about DecisionCast, please visit www.decisioncast.com.

About InfoWorld Media Group

For 25 years, InfoWorld Media Group has provided cutting-edge coverage and evaluation of IT products and services for technology experts in senior management. Through integrated channels including print, online, events and demand generation, InfoWorld reaches the most influential senior-level information technologists -- those who drive their enterprises' strategies and technology purchases. Powered by a continued investment in an independent Test Center, InfoWorld analysts and editors provide both hands-on analysis and evaluation, as well as expert commentary on issues surrounding emerging technologies and products. Visit InfoWorld at www.infoworld.com.

Contacts

Alex Williams
President
DecisionCast
503.320.5022
alex@decisioncast.com

Paul Calento
Vice President of Marketing
InfoWorld Media Group
415-978-3212
paul_calento@infoworld.com

Posted by Ray_Matthews at 07:02 PM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2003

All Branches of Utah State Government Now "RSSified"

The Utah Legislature has joined Utah's executive branch and Administrative Office of the Courts in offering their web content by RSS feeds.

The Legislature's first official RSS feed is a "general interest" news feed that includes notices of the Legislature's Interim Newsletter (in pdf), legislative audit results, and other significant content changes on the Web site. The Legislative IT Staff say that, "we envision many potential uses" of RSS. You can grab the feed by clicking on the orange XML button on the Legislature's newly redesigned homepage http://le.utah.gov/.

It's not yet parsed to the site or to Utah.gov's newsroom for composite aggregated news. Your best bet, for the time being, is to read it using your news aggregator. We extend our congratulations to Mark Allred and Glen Johnson of the Legislative IT Staff for the first of what promises to be a very valuable and useful service.

Former State CIO, Phil Windley, points out in his Enterprise Computing Weblog that Brigham Young University's NewsNet also monitors the Utah State Legislature and produced a Utah State Legislature 2003 news feed, one of several feeds of local interest generated by their Cold Fusion news operation.

Dave Fletcher, Deputy CIO for the state, suggests recently in his Government and Technology Weblog that the state have "a subscription page at some point in time that will make it easier for interested users to subscribe to the various news channels." Phil suggests that the legislature publish their calendar in RSS so that notices of public meetings and meeting changes go out as feeds and that bill status reports are issued as RSS feed. This should be possible. Some calendaring systems are capable of generating RSS/XML. The Utah State Bar Association, for example, has plans to soon release their "Master Calendar" as a RSS feed.

Watch at the Utah Courts Website for an official announcement from the Administrative Office of the Courts feeds of Utah "Recent Court Opinions" and "Courts in the News." This is just the beginning in plans afoot for generating further State of Utah executive, legislative, and judicial streaming content.

See also: What Law-Related Material Can We Put in RSS Feeds? (Rory Perry)

Posted by Ray Matthews at 08:50 AM | Comments (2)

December 04, 2003

First Congressional RSS Feed

Here's one for the Guinness "Blog" of World Records. Rep. Julia Carson (D-Ind.) today becomes the first member of Congress with an official RSS news feed.

This information comes courtesy of Daniel Bennett, Partner at DotGov Communications and long time XML evangelist. Daniel is currently assisting Congressional agencies in creating metadata enriched RSS legislative feeds. DotGov is the first private webhoster to host Congressional websites.

Resource links: Press release | Congressional stylesheet

Posted by Ray_Matthews at 07:28 PM | Comments (0)

December 02, 2003

RSS eNewsletters: Bridging the Gulf

Virtually every federal and state government agency has at least one newsletter; many publish several. I still receive a lovely printed newsletter at home from our state's Labor Commission. Because of the expense, however, print newsletters are now a rarity. I'd venture to say that most government newsletters are now found only in online formats such as HTML and/or PDF.

The problem unfortunately has always been 'who reads online newsletters?' It's the kiss of death for any business to depend exclusively on visitors stumbling upon their Web site. Governments don't seem to particularly care about Web traffic, but they should. We have important information and services that will benefit the health and welfare of the public...if the public only knew it was there.

So, a few years ago enterprising public information officers began sending out enewsletters via email, first in plain ASCII text, and then as cute HTML pages complete with graphics, templated content, and hot links. I even experimented myself using a service called Constant Contact to deliver eNewsletters and announcements regarding my state's Government Information Locator Service program.

The limitations are well known to those who have tried this. It's not always easy to shovel newsletter content into HTML templates. And because you want to limit your email news to a screen or two in size, you always have to prepare Web pages with detailed content for the briefs in the eNewsletter to link to. Then there is the problem of reaching an audience. There is a ceiling on the number of subscribers who learn of your eNewsletter and are willing to subscribe to it. And their willingness to stay subscribed is more a function of how little you spam them than anything else. In other words it's pretty ineffective, but it's the best alternative if you don't have much of an advertising budget.

It was, of course, until RSS happened on the scene. Weblogging software can now easily create dynamic Web content with minimal effort. The software produces XML/RSS feeds which can be syndicated. Scripts and add-ons can convert that content into eNews. All this is at the click of a mouse button. The weblogged content has the additional virtues of being archivable, web searchable, and immediately available to interested consumers via pings and trackbacks.

We've attained the information marketing Nirvana, or...not quite. Perhaps you have arrived there in your organization, but as I work with my government agencies, all of these pieces don't seem to come together just yet. The content people are still using their Web creation tools to create their newsletters, but getting them published via RSS has some hurdles.

Here come the marketers to the rescue. There is an emarketing firm IMN, Inc. (formerly iMakeNews) that has launched an RSS service (see their PDF press release and white paper) that integrates RSS into its existing eNewsletter and DirectBlog platforms. As an IMN customer you can now publish your eNewsletter content for distribution in multiple ways including email, the Web, or RSS feeds. With the IMH RSS Servive you use customized templates just as you would do with your Web newsletter. As the newsletter publisher, you set your eNewsletter to be published as an RSS feed at the same time you post it to the Web. The process is designed to be transparent. You use the same procedure to publish content simultaneously as an email, Web site, and RSS feed.

eLaw Marketing is another firm that offers a RSS feed templating to newsletter service. Each time you publish a new alert of newsletter, subscribers are notified and given a link to view the new online issue. Templates allow users to distribute fully formatted HTML newsletters by email. Their target audiences are law firms and bar associations.

While impressive, this isn't black magic, and not terribly difficult to duplicate. These newsletters are basically blogs. IMN's Informed Marketer News (and other examples) and eLm's samples are really just blogs formatted with newsletter characteristics such as a masthead and volume/issue numbers. Content can originate from an ordinary RSS feed (for example Release Notes and its feed). I suspect that a blogging system that supports templates, like Movable Type, would allow the creation of templates into which RSS feeds could be streamed. Then you could use mailing list software like Mailman or Lyris to distribute a fully formatted eNewsletter.

How many government agencies or agencies are now doing this by integrating the web authoring, blogging, and mailing list tools at their disposal? Have many organizations opted to go with a commercial solution such as that offered by IMN or eLm? Either way, the promise of instant, all-medium publishing of newsletters is here or at least closer to being realized than we may have thought.

We'd love to have you comment here on your eNewsletter publishing experiences and solutions or provide trackbacks so that we can link to a solution that you may have described at your site.

Posted by Ray Matthews at 02:19 PM | Comments (5)

December 01, 2003

Canada Stealthily Unveils Newsroom

Without fanfare the Government of Canada has surprised many media watchers with its rollout of a mature syndicated news portal. The portal or Government of Canada Newsroom provides its citizens up-to-the-minute Web access to government news releases and media advisories. In this Phase II of the project, news is being syndicated via 35 RSS channels from more than 40 contributing organizations.

Content is aggregated on-site for reading into newsrooms organized by audience and regional news. There are corresponding RSS 0.91 channels for national news, regional news, provincial news, and news by audience. No other national government has undertaken such a holistic and well-developed plan.

A core foundation of the Newsroom is the use of metadata and controlled vocabularies. These are maintained by the National Library and Archives and allow content to populate the five main news types under citizen centric views by "audience" and "region."

The types (news release, media advisory, speech, report, and warnings/advisories) are defined in the dc.type controlled vocabulary. Audiences (aboriginal, seniors, veterans, etc) are defined in the dc.audience element. Regions (provinces and territories) are defined by the dc.coverage.spatial controlled vocabulary. Core Subject Thesaurus terms and subject categories along with the vocabularies associated with the metadata elements allow precisely targeted searches.

Agencies supplying news use an online form with fields that allow them to identify the source URL and associate the desired metadata. Submissions are stored in a database and then extracted and transformed in the XML transformation engine into RSS feeds.

The Newsroom is being developed under the direction of Robert D. Oates, Project Management Officer with Communication Canada.

A faceted advanced search provides full access to the news archives. Off-hand, my only suggestion would be to substitute RSS 1.0 versions of the feed so that external aggregators could take full advantage of the Dublic Core metadata as well.

Gary Lawrence Murphy has announced in The Communique a composite listing from Teledynamics that allows readers to view the news from all the gov.ca feeds using the Drupal news module.

We congratulate Communication Canada on a job well done and extend our appreciation to Stephen Downes, of the National Research Council Canada and prolific inventor of RSS technologies, and Todd Sieling for the alert.

Read more: Newsroom Fact Sheet | Canadian Metadata Forum news.gc.ca | Canadian Metadata Forum - Summary (Stephen's Web) | Site TinyURL (via ResearchBuzz) | Government Uses for RSS (BlogsCanada) | Scripting News (Dave Winer notes the 0.91 feeds use features only available in 2.0)

Posted by Ray Matthews at 05:07 PM | Comments (0)

Arkansas Government eNewsroom

Arkansas has joined the growing number of states syndicating agency produced headlines for its citizenry using RSS. The Arkansas Government eNewsRoom is a news portal featuring a RSS 0.91 feed that indexes news releases in PDF format.

News can be filtered by categories such as "business" and "natural resources" and then sorted by either by creating agency or date. The most recent headlines are also parsed to the Arkansas.gov homepage (formerly AccessArkansas). Because the service appears to be limited to formal press releases and may not yet have full agency participation, the news is not yet comprehensive nor current. Only three stories were published in the past month and all were from a single agency.

The eNewsroom is a service produced for the state by The Information Network of Arkansas (INA). Arkansas participates, as does Utah, in the National Information Consortium (NIC) managed network of state and local government portals.

Posted by Ray Matthews at 04:10 PM | Comments (0)

Syndicated U.S. Weather Alerts

The National Weather Service has initiated an Experimental Listings of Watches, Warnings, and Advisories by State and Territory. There is a national listing and one for each state and territory in three different formats: HTML, RSS 2.0, and CAP/XML. Common Alertings Protocol (CAP) is an non-proprietary standard data format for the interchange of hazard warning and reports.

These files are updated about every two minutes and the RSS feeds can be read using news aggregators or syndicated to any website.

This is an experimental service. Your comments and feedback, accepted through December 30, 2003, will help determine if it is continued.

Posted by Ray Matthews at 03:00 PM | Comments (0)

E-Government Savvy Kiwi Integrate RSS

The Award for Best Government Website went to www.govt.nz at the 2003 NetGuide Awards in Auckland on November 14. New Zealand's State Service Commission´┐Żs E-government Unit develops the portal and has authored a RSS standard for press releases and event-related content published by government agencies.

A Standard for the Publication of Government News Summaries (HTML, PDF) by Ferry Hendrikx calls for the use of the RDF Site Summary 1.0 (RSS) specification and NZGLS metadata, a standard closely resembling Dublin Core. The document explains to government agencies how to construct RSS feeds.

The portal collectes and aggregates news from agency feeds and provide an archives of stories. A syndication service to allow government agencies and others to subscribe to aggregated news feeds is currently under development.

According to the official announcement, the portal now has some 5,500 local and central government services and information resources listed. It receives some two million hits a week making it one of the most visited sites in New Zealand.

Posted by Ray Matthews at 12:55 PM | Comments (0)