Government is already rife with chiefs, why not one more? HighBeam Research, Inc. has set the pace by announcing today the appointment of Christopher Locke as Chief Blogging Officer (CBO). Looks like the role of CBO is a pace setter who creates a buzz about the company products and enlists others to blog the cause. Ironically, the announcement came in the form of a (oh, so 20th century) press release.
HighBeam is looking for bloggers interested in exclusive use of its new "blog this document" tools and free access to the company's premium archives of over 3,000 print publications for adding depth and historical background to virtually any subject. HighBeam, under the direction of Chairman and CEO Patrick Spain, is the recent amalgamation two paid content sites (eLibrary and Encyclopedia.com) and a meta-search site, Researchville.com.
Locke says, "The HighBeam database of 33 million articles going back almost 25 years is the best resource I've found for adding historical depth of focus to the sort of stuff I write about. Any blogger who wants to get at the trends and issues underlying today's headlines will immediately see the same benefit I did. And their readers will too. I'm turned on at the prospect of making the HighBeam Research content and tools more accessible to the blogging world."
I don't think Highbeam will need to look too far for volunteers. Chris' own Chief Blogging Officer blog, offers a preview of how you can turn your own ordinary blog musings into a Blogipedia.
According to ClickZ News, HighBeam plans to begin offering its new blog content tool in late January or early February for $19.95 a month or $99 a year.
A crack cocaine smoking judge who allegedly presided over his court while high? An attorney disbarred for abandoning his law practice and clients in the pursuit of the unlawful use of methamphetamine? These are only some of today's tintillating stories from official Utah judiciary sources that my news aggregator served me.
The Utah Administrative Office of the Courts and the Utah State Bar have been experimenting with the syndication of news and publications for quite some time. They've now published links to their first public syndicated feeds on their homepages.
Utah Courts offers an RSS feed for "Recent Court Opinions" that links to recently released and archived opinions of the Utah Supreme Court, Utah Court of Appeals, and Per Curiam decisions. If you'd rather get the same information by email, Steve Brown, Courts Webmaster, offers a notification subcription service.
The editors of the Utah Bar Journal with the assistance of Utah State Bar IT Director Lincoln Mead have imported the Journal into Movable Type. Recent past issues are also archived in PDF format.
This is a good trend because RSS syndicated legal information makes its delivery more timely and its content more findable and accessible.
We interrupt this irregularly scheduled broadcast.... to share a message more momentous than we've reported on before. We bring a message of hope, of goodness, of peace, of universal brotherhood. Here's how we can join our voices in a global conversation that can forever change the world.
"In one's own way," my mother told me long ago, "every person can change the world." That advice was at the time more prophetic than a truism.
Hyperbole aside, I do believe that individuals are now empowered as never before in history. Individuals are no longer bound by the confines of time, place, language, and political regime in their quest to do good in the world. We now have the capacity to find each other, to gather, and to converse without ever meeting in the flesh. It's all made possible through virtual communities and virtual networking.
Why does that phrase in the United States Constitution "we the people" so resonate in the hearts of people throughout the world? I think it has something to do with our nature as social beings.
In the past, institutions such as governments and churches were needed to organize and rally people. The problem is that all institutions by their nature become corrupt. Leaders succumb to power and greed, and institutions stray from their altruistic beginnings as they amass fortunes and property, gain political power, and build monuments unto themselves.
To Jesus, the church was the community of believers. It wasn't a building, it wasn't an organization, it wasn't a corporation. The church was not a place nor did it own any property. It's unfortunate, but institutions calling themselves churches have embellished to the point of distraction those simple teachings of Jesus to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. The true church remains the community of believers.
To do good in the world, you don't need institutional wealth, buildings, and treasuries. To self-organize, you don't need creeds, dictums, laws, governments, and rulers. People just need to do be free to do two things: talk and act. You just need to be able to communicate with others of like mind and then to collaborate with them in resolving needs. All conversation inevitably leads to understanding. Understanding leads to acceptance and concern, which in turn naturally leads to the desire to act.
So why can we be so optimistic?
Think for moment about peer-to-peer networks, instant messagers, collaboration workspaces (wikis, collaborative blogs), online communities (Meetups, AOL, Craigslist, Tribe.net, eWomenNetwork, Yahoo Groups, Ecademy, Idealist), alumni communities (SelectMinds, Classmates, TheSquare), syndication technologies (blogs, moblogs, RSS news feeds), and social and business networks (LinkedIn, Ryze, Orkut, Spoke Software, VisiblePath, ZeroDegrees, Knowmentum, Company of Friends). These social networking inventions are now in place and changing the way we interact and converse. But they only portend the future; more powerful social networking is on the horizon.
Social networking facilitates real-world and online conversations. Each of these technologies helps us bridge the six degrees of separation in finding others with similar goals and interests. We just need to apply this knowledge to loftier purposes. It's high time we used what we know for a higher purpose than dating, deal making, and job hunting. How about world peace? Maybe that generation of Miss America contestants had it right after all.
I'll call this repurposing of social networking the "Good News Network." The Good News Network needs no place, no domain, no trademark, no sponsors. It needs only open access and to be built on standards -- standards to converse one language with another and standards to programmatically exchange information. It consists of you and I, our friends, friends of friends, and those yet to be brought into our circle of friendship.
The Good News Network has two functions: to promote conversation and action. We converse by sharing the good news, our faith, and our belief in the goodness of humanity. And we act. We act in small ways, in big ways, but always in individual and personal ways, to share the good news of universality and peace and to promote well-being.
We speak multitudes of languages, we live in diverse regions of the globe, and we comprise all races and nationalities. In this day and age that is unique in history, we can all converse, we can join a global conversation, and we can meet in the virtual living room or the virtual temple of our choice.
So back to the age old question, how do you change the world?
Start by entering the conversation. In your blogs, in your chat rooms, in your networks, in your music, in your poems, in your art, in your families, and in your communities -- tell your story. Let your voice be heard. Sign on in whatever way makes sense to you in order to make a difference. As the marketers say, create a buzz. In the sense of paying it forward, start something in your own way and in your own voice. Start a conversation that will spread, that will continue, that will penetrate the hearts and minds of the power brokers. Those in high places will join us. They will, as Saul of old, see the vision and join the conversation. Perhaps in fulfillment of ancient prophecy, those with ears to hear will find each other, and they who are confused will recognize the voice.
Interrupt your own broadcast to begin the conversation. Let it begin with you; let it begin now. Spread the Good News!
Season's greetings, my friends,
Editor RSS in Government
Unlike Yahoo, Google has had a long standing resistance to offering RSS feeds for Google News queries. Hacks have long abounded from Julian Bond's GNews2RSS, Ben Hammersley's Google to RSS using the Google SOAP API, and Steve Rubel's advice in "RSS Hack for Sites That Don't Offer Feeds".
In this spirit, Justin Pfister has created gnewsfeed. Filling out the form uses a script that converts a Google news query (example) into an RSS feed (example). "I welcome anyone in the world," he humbly proffers, "to use it in an effort to become a more informed public."
Poor Justin. He's looking for a job. Maybe Adam Smith, and the Google Alerts product team will hire Justin to build in the syndication that Google should have offered long ago (hint).
Two Irish County Councils and several other Irish, Northern Ireland, and UK government agencies are publishing press releases using the new Nooked hosted online RSS publishing service.
Aimed at enterprise users who want to quickly and easily syndicate their news, the Nooked online Newsroom, a wizard–based user interface, provides several public relations templates for the creation, editing, publishing, and validation of feeds.
While the cost of "less than $5 per day" may be steep compared to free services such as Ice Rocket's RSS Builder, Nooked does offer clients measurable user statistics. The company provides real time statistics about who is monitoring the channel, how often they are reading news stories, and if readers click through to the website. For more information about the product see the Nooked Guide.
The real oddity in their list of customers is Six Apart France, a subsidiary of the company that develops Movable Type and TypePad. Governmental customers include:
The State of Virginia was recently recognized by the Center for Digital Government with a third place ranking in the Best of the Web and Digital Government Achievement Awards. The recognition came largely for Virginia's new syndication and alert services.
In recognizing the honor Governor Mark Warner said, "Our real-time online live help customer service continues to set the pace for the nation, and the portal's desktop alerts via live RSS feeds ensure that Virginia.gov users always have access to the most current information."
The VIPNet portal and its RSS feeds are managed by the Virginia Information Providers Network. There are currently at least 34 feeds. Virginia uses RSS feeds not only for alerts, but also for a monitoring service that keeps citizens informed of new resources and services added to the portal.
In addition to providing standard fare such as feeds for press releases, emergency notifications, and what's new, Virginia.gov creates feeds for lists of topical services and resources. You can subscribe to forms, licenses and permits, information about visiting Virginia, business resources, and many other topics.
Any government or agency that creates Yahoo-style directory access to resources could use RSS feeds in the way that Virginia does. A neat side-benefit of streaming links in RSS is that it offers a built-in web--page monitoring service. Citizens using a news aggregator can subscribe to the page and be automatically notified when you've added new resources to the page. Neat!
The next step would be to create a search of the directory and have that search create RSS feeds based on keyword queries. In way of example, take a look at the xmlhub Open Directory Search - Custom RSS Feed Generator which searches the DMOZ Open Directory and creates keyword query feeds.
Not everyone lives in a state that has ready made feeds of this kind. If you find a resource page of interest thas has not yet been syndicated, converted them to RSS feeds, you can try scraping pages of interest using a tool like xmlhub's RSSgenr8: HTML to RSS Converter.
Here's a list of some of the State of Virginia RSS feeds that you can subscribe to: