RSS Enabling the enterprise

UPDATE [Sept ’07]: I am the Infrastructure Architect for a 9000+ organisation. We finally deployed RSS Bandit and RSS Feeds are being created on the Intranet and in applications. The picture is far from complete as I attempt to build out capabilities in the Social Software space and pitch these into the existing technology ecosystem. For the last year all my blogging has been internal, but I’ve recently started putting some thoughts back out into the public arena. If your struggle reflects mine you might find my new blog of interest.

With some success on the introduction of RSS Readers into the organisation I am shifting my focus to enabling the generation of RSS feeds from internal sources. I have long contended that RSS should become the way forward for internal communications, replacing the oft ignored blunt instrument of email. The big win here is revitalising internal sites. We have many internal sites set up around pieces of work or communities of people. Both suffer from a low number of active, interested readers – a bit like this blog ;).

RSS is part of the cure. I’m sure there are cultural elements to the problem too. The question is how best to go about this. So now I find myself on the other side of the chicken and egg situation. When introducing an RSS Reader the question is why would you without any feeds? Now, still with no full resolution to that problem, why generate feeds before we have a reader?

The answer is simple:

  1. RSS is coming – IE7 and Vista will both have a common feed store.
  2. The desktop isn’t the only place to display feeds – you can put them on your intranet sites too.

So do you go to every type of application and find a way to generate an RSS feed from that content? Maybe, but there should be a smarter, quicker way to get there – at least some way there. What I invisage is an engine that will harvest data from a variety of sources (HTML pages, databases, text files etc). Another engine would present this data as RSS. Yet a third will aggregate a list of feeds into one single feed, perhaps with a filter applied.

Such an engine will be able to produce and supply a feed off almost any source without the need to recode that source application. The aggregation element enables several sources to be combed and one feed generated.

So I’ve done a bit of searching to find out what solution may be out there. I found these:

  • The Urchin RSS Aggregator – this appears to do exactly what I want, it’s free and written in pearl. If it was written in a language I already know I’d be overjoyed; there’s may be a learning curve here, although I may not need to dig into the code at all.
  • RSSdotnet and Atomnet are libraries written in .Net for handling feeds. Unfortunately they have different APIs.
  • RSSOwl looks to have a competent reader, which I’ll take a look at, but more importantly an API that handles both RSS and ATOM (0.3 only though). It’s written in Java.

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