January 27, 2004

Notify Yahoo & Weblogs of Your Updates

Jeremy Zawodny has announced how to ping Yahoo's RSS database when you post to your Movable Type weblog. Pinging has the advantage of getting your content much faster into those sites that crawl RSS feeds for news.

Movable Type, by default, supports pinging two weblog update notification sites. To activate those in your Blog Config preferences check the boxes to notify blo.gs and weblogs.com. Weblogs.com is a site that tracks and displays links to recently changed weblogs and news-oriented web sites.

When you enable this feature, Movable Type sends out an XML-RPC ping (i.e. http://ping.blo.gs/ and http://rpc.weblogs.com/RPC2). When these sites receives your ping, they will check your blog to determine if it has changed since the last check; if it has, your site will be marked as updated. These systems will schedule an immediate refresh of your site so that they offer the most up-to-date version of your RSS feed.

In addition to weblogs.com and blo.gs, there are other services that support the XML-RPC ping interface and provide similar functionality. You can ping these either manually or automaticaly. These include:

If you would like to ping these services automatically, you can add the URLs to their XML-RPC servers into the Others box found in your blog config preferences. Separate the URLs with carriage returns.


If you've made a donation to Movable Type user and have received a recently updated key, you can also add a ping to:


Other blogging software that supports pinging include Radio Userland, blosxum, pMachine, and WordPress.

In addition to XML-RPC, advanced users may be pleased to note that Yahoo.com, Bulkfeeds, and Technorati also offer the REST (REpresentational State Transfer) API interface.

Some examples:

http://api.my.yahoo.com/rss/ping?u=http://www.yoursite.com/blog [GET http protocol]
http://api.technorati.com/search?query=%22your+search+terms%22&key=your_API_key&start=1 [GET; POST]

Posted by Ray Matthews at 03:22 PM | Comments (1)

Lost Something? RSS to the Rescue

How many counties, cities, police departments, transportation systems, animal shelters, recreational outlets, and libraries operate lost and found services? Probably too many to count. No doubt many of these never connect lost property to the original owners. The process of auctioning unclaimed property is also imperfect. It can be both expensive to conduct and ineffectual in reaching a wide audience of potential buyers. What if there was an eBay auction service for lost and founds?

Coraider Services Limited may have the answer. They operate the Virtual Bumblebee lost and found property system jointly with the Surrey [UK] Police. At this writing, the system has logged a rapidly growing 31,749 lost and 1,322 found items and animals submitted by 15 participating organizations.

They also run a property disposal site for the Police constabularies for auctioning unclaimed property which, according to Coraider's Nick Browne, "we have recently updated with RSS feeds." Browne recently did a a presentation on RSS for the Director of Technology of the Metropolitan Police to show them the power of RSS in reaching potential buyers.

Take a look at what they've done. Lost property is entered into an asp driven database which is searchable by keyword, police department, and other criteria. The system then generates dynamic RSS feeds for those items that meet the search criteria.

Today Surrey, Sussex, Devon & Cornwall, Northhamptonshire, Wiltshire....tomorrow the world?

Sample Feed:

Posted by Ray Matthews at 09:19 AM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2004

The Scots Make A First in UK & Google

There is an unofficial feed for news generated by the Media Centre at 10 Downing Street. A number of syndicated feeds originate from the BBC, Guardian Unlimited, and the The Scotsman. Andy Powell and our mates at UKOLN have been aggregating UK news for years. The distinction, however, of being the first official UK government feed appears to go to the City of Aberdeen.

Aberdeen is the entertainment, leisure and cultural centre of North-east Scotland and the Aberdeen City Council's website is the premier one-stop destination to learn of local events and news. The city council created a RSS feed for its news releases in early September 2003.

Google News has been consuming the Aberdeen feed since late November listing the source as "Aberdeen City, UK." This appearance is significant because this may also be the first government created RSS feeds syndicated in Google News. This particular channel is content rich, well written, and is updated often. It just proves, as I've often said, "If you build it and have great content, they will come." Google has, indeed, noticed.

As more and more government news is syndicated we we hope to see greater Google News inclusion particularly of official government press releases. To get your own government's news listed in Google News, email an announcement about your feed to news-feedback@google.com. While Google doesn't guarantee to add all sources that are recommended, they will review all the suggestions they receive.

"As far as I am aware," reports Ian Watt, Website Technical Development Manager for the Aberdeen City Council, "we are the first UK Council, out of almost 500, to use RSS in this way and I think we are still the only ones doing so." Congratulations, Ian! The feed is archived and has a helpful background page explaining what RSS is and how the feed can be consumed.

Posted by Ray Matthews at 01:06 PM | Comments (4)

January 15, 2004

Jumpstart Your Syndication Project

A member of Utah's RSS project team asked this week, "what can I read to get up to speed about RSS?" The answer is visit RSS Winterfest! The two-day RSS Winterfest webcast takes place this coming Wednesday and Thursday, January 21-22. It offers a number of programs having direct application to governments with RSS syndication projects. The webcasts start at 8:30 a.m (PST) and will end by 1 p.m. (PST). Attend one day or both days, based on your interest. Attend any session you wish.

The first day focuses on technology and applications for RSS and Internet content syndication. There will be a lively discussion on the "Future of RSS" at 10:30 a.m. by luminaries Jon Udell, Robert Scoble, Chris Pirillo, and Steve Gillmor. Then stay online for Greg Lloyd, President and Founder of Traction Software, who will present a case study of "How the U.S. Department of Justice Uses Weblogs to Coordinate Western U.S. Law Enforcement Agencies," beginning at 11:30 a.m.

Sessions on Thursday explore the business opportunities of how RSS is starting to be used as a sales and marketing tool. The morning offers consecutive tools sessions beginning at 8:30 a.m. on content syndication technologies in enterprises. Are weblogs and business compatible? Find out at 10:30 a.m. in the lively discussion of "The Future of Weblogs and the Content Syndication Business."

For details, see the full schedule of events, and speakers.

You should still visit the site even if you can't make the webcast. They've collected links to buckets full of resources addressing the questions being asked by businesses and governments regarding using RSS for marketing, branding, news aggregation, and secure business communications. Just click the links in the upper right sidebar.

We extend our appreciation to MyST Technology Partners and DecisionCast for organizing such a timely event and assembling these productive resources.

Posted by Ray Matthews at 05:40 PM | Comments (1)

RSS Emergency Notifications and Alerts

We heard from Jason Blum at the Senate that there are Senators such as our own Bob Bennett (R-Utah) who are interested in streaming local news and alerts to their sites. In addition to weather alerts from the National Weather Service another option is from OpenWeather, a private effort to create raw xml and RSS 1.0 weather feeds for the capitol airports of all 50 states and the province of Ontario. Another very exciting service is RSSWeather. Enter a USA city, Canadian city, or international country, and it generates a RSS 2.0 feed and, in some cases, OPML feed that you can subscribe to. Because data comes from HAMWeather, there are feeds for remote locations and small air fields in addition to forecasts reports from the large airports.

What about other kinds of alerts? Wouldn't it be nice to pursue Bill French's vision to create "an emergency notification system that leverages the power of a simple RSS feed." RSS feeds can be deliverd to the simplest of handheld devices. What mountain snowmobiler wouldn't like to receive up-to-date avalanche conditions? What sailor wouldn't want the latest gale warnings?

Dave Fletcher has noted that the federal Media Security and Reliability Council is advising that government coordinate the development of a Media Common Alert Protocol designed to deliver emergency messages via digital networks.

Am I missing something, or is this not already built into the capabilities of RSS?

Some are apparently already doing this very thing. The Earthquake Hazards Program (EHP) of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has responded with a series of feeds for Earthquake Hazards syndicating alerts for quakes greater than magnitude 2.5. and those greater than 5 throughout the world.

The State of California has an Emergency Digital Information Service (EDIS) to deliver official information about emergencies and disasters to the public and the news media in the state. Their bulletins are published to the web. EDIS doesn't syndicate this themselves so Jason Fesler at GIGO.com has created a RSS EDIS Bulletins feed. Anyone can subscribe to this feed or parse it to their site as Jason has done at his GIGO site. If you don't know which parsing technology to use, I keep a public gigantic list of parsing tools, mostly free or open source, complete with examples of their use and links to their documentation.

Maybe some independent or government agency can take this on as a project to identify already existing government alert sites like EDIS that are not self-syndicating, scrape them into RSS feeds like Jason has done, and then package them into OPMLs to make them available to our Senators and media. Any takers?

Links to Homeland Security Email Mailing Lists (non-RSS):

Posted by Ray Matthews at 02:59 PM | Comments (2)

First Wisconsin RSS Feeds!

The Wisconsin Historical Society reports to Jenny Levine at the Shifted Librarian that they now offer three new Movable Type created RSS feeds. Web Development Coordinator James Ellis says these are the first such feeds to come from a public institution in the great State of Wisconsin. "I hope other state agencies will do this," Ellis said. "Maybe someday wisconsin.gov will have one big Wisconsin news page?one stop for what?s going on in the state." The feeds are created using Six Apart's Movable Type blogging software.

  • Wisconsin Historical Society News
  • Wisconsin Historical Society Features
  • Odd Wisconsin (quirky Wisconsin facts)

Read more: Wisconsin Technology Network News | The Capital Times

Posted by Ray Matthews at 08:17 AM | Comments (1)

January 14, 2004

Senate Begins RSS Rollout

Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del.) is the first senator with a RSS news feed for press releases on his official site. Feeds for other senators will soon follow according to Jason Blum in Enterprise Systems Support of the office of the U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms. Plans call for what Blum refers to as "RSS relay agents." These are local customized feeds for hometown constituents for NOAA weather alerts and state news.

At least one other, Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), had a weblog on his official Senate site this past summer, but he didn't provide readers of "Travels with Tom" with a subscription feed.

The most sophisticated uses of RSS in the Senate are currently found at the presidential campaign blogs of Senators Edwards, Kerry and Lieberman. The site of the Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) campaign blog also hosts the Edwards Family Blog, "custom blogs" for registered members of his campaign, nine state specific campaign blogs, and four special purpose blogs including a nascent Spanish language blog.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and the newest member of this blogging trio Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) both have Movable Type installations. Former Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.) may not be in the race for the presidency, but supporters will be happy to know that he, too, has a news blog where they can leave comments and well wishes.

Subscribe here:

    Sen. Joseph Biden
    Sen. John Edward
    Edwards Family News
    Sen. John Kerry
    Sen. Joe Lieberman
    Gary Hart

Posted by Ray_Matthews at 10:43 PM | Comments (1)

January 12, 2004

Reinventing the Book

The book is IN. Just when you thought that the future would be in eBooks and in the digital consumption of literary works, along comes Kevin Parker. This inventor of automated binding systems is insuring that the old familiar feel of curling up with a book in hand will continue for future generations of readers. At the same time, his invention will be reinventing libraries and turning the publishing world on its head.

Fastback Binding Systems by Powis Parker, Inc. allow libraries, schools, and copy shops to profitably print and bind single or multiple copies of books on-demand. At prices ranging from $1,395 to $4,295 these compact machines, the size of desktop printers, are easily affordable. The systems support tape binding, perfect binding (paperback) and case binding (hardback) books and documents of up to 350 sheets (700 pages). The systems are available through a network of 200 dealers in 60 countries. The company holds 11 patents for binding-related technologies and innovations.

The secret (and the profit) for Powis Parker is in the glue. Kevin Powis Parker was a young man with a goal to invent a better adhesive for book binding. He dropped out of UC Berkeley to pursue his dream. Professionals told him there no money to be made at it. But with the continued encouragement of his high school teacher and mentor, Jim Kelley, he kept at it. Parker says "the way I made any of the big steps was out of ignorance." Such is it with many great inventions.

The company sells the adhesive strips that cost 25 to 38 cents each. They are both durable and attractive withstanding more than 50 pounds of pull while not getting brittle with age. Fastback Binding Systems are currently in use by all branches of the Federal government including the White House copy room and at copy shops such as Kinko's, Sir Speedy, and AlphaGraphics.

Like RSS news syndication this appears to be one of those disruptive technologies that will transform the way we share and consume information.

Libraries will be able to print and bind works that are in the public domain in-house in less than five minutes. The system can also rebind existing books with new covers at costs ranging from 28 cents to a dollar, less than a one-quarter of the cost to libraries of sending books out. Library technical services departments will come to resemble a Kinko's. Distribution will be on demand. No longer might there be too few copies of popular works. No longer will libraries need to maintain an inventory of unpopular tomes gathering dust on miles of shelving. Libraries will be able to greatly reduce costs (now about $35 per volume) by cutting back on the cataloging and processing of books for their own permanent collections. What if you're the only library patron in this hemisphere wanting a particular volume? No problem, at a dollar or so per copy, your library can afford to print it for you. The price to you might be what you'd expect to pay for an overdue fine.

Coupling the means of publishing with the availability of terabytes of digitally preserved publications and government documents is the librarian's dream. It is the nexus of the old world print media and the digital new media. I can already see the genealogists salivating. All of sudden those hundred year old, rare, out-of-print gems laden with family and local history could be available at every local library. If you find an out-of-print volume in the Library of Congress catalog, you just tell your librarian, "I want this." Self publishers, too, such as family historians and scrap bookers will now have a ready means for printing and binding their own histories and family albums.

Radio penetrated the Iron Curtain. The Internet brought global ecommerce and person-to-person communication to every continent. The basic tool of literacy, the book, is still beyond the reach of many in this world. Fastback self-publishing has the potential of bringing information and fostering education and democratic institutions to underserved populations.

Could this invention revolutionize the publishing industry? You betcha. Could its use revolutionize intellectual property law. I expect so. I'm sure the Chicken Little's in publishing will view it a threat just as peer-to-peer was to the digital recording industry. As a librarian, though, I hail Mr. Parker as the Gutenberg of our generation. He is someone whose invention will put books in the hands of millions of people who otherwise would be deprived of such access.

So much hyperbole? I don't think so. If it's not this particular glue strip it will be someone else's that makes it happen.

As a proof concept, the genius behind the Internet Archives, Brewster Kahle, already has a bookmobile touring Uganda under a grant from the World Bank. Complete with a satellite disk, computer, printer, and Parker Powis Fastback binder, this bookmobile stops at villages and produces books for children, in minutes, in their own language. Kahle simply says, "it's wild."

-- Ray Matthews, Utah State Library

Read more: Powis Parker, Inc. | San Francisco Chronicle, Nov 12, 2003 | NPR Morning Edition, Jan. 12, 2004 (audio)

Posted by Ray Matthews at 12:18 PM | Comments (3)