UK Web Focus

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Archive for June 12th, 2008

RSS For Events

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 12 June 2008

Over the past few years UKOLN has made use of RSS to support its annual Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) series. Initially RSS was used to provide access to news about the event, allowing delegates to be alerted to updates about the event without needing to visit the Web site, thus allowing users the choice of avoiding the intrusiveness of email.

But as more applications and Web-based services became available which exploited RSS, we started to appreciate the wider ranges of potential uses for RSS. Since 2006 we have used RSS to syndicate structured data for the event, including, as can be seen for this year’s event, lists of the plenary talks, workshops sessions, speakers and workshop facilitators. This frees the data from the constraints of the event’s Web site allowing the data to be accessed by users in more varied ways including the user’s preferred RSS reader, PDAs, mobile phones and even, using an RSS iPod Reader, having this data conveniently available on a iPod.

Location of host instituion of speakers at IWMW eventsMore recently we have made use of geo-located RSS data to enable the locations of the IWMW events to be displayed on a map. This then led to a geo-located RSS feed of the host institution for plenary speakers at all twelve of the IWMW events (including this year’s event, to be held at the University of Aberdeen on 22-24 July 2008). This provides the event organisers with a management tool which can help to visualise the participation at the event on a geographical basis – have we, for example, provided opportunities for plenary speakers from throughout the UK? I’m pleased to say that we do seem to have a broad representation throughout the UK, will speakers from as far north as Aberdeen, as far south as Southampton, as far east as Norwich and as far west as Belfast. In addition, if you zoom out from the UK you will discover that there have been a number of speakers from overseas including the Republic of Ireland and Australia.

In a recent post on RSS For Your Project Web Site I cited Stephen Downdes’ comment that failing to provide RSS is unsocial. But a couple of people posted comments and argued that RSS only has a role to play in specific cases. I disagree, as I feel that providing RSS feeds for structured data can allow the data to be used in interesting, and perhaps unexpected ways. Let’s make much more use of RSS generally, I would say. But how else can it be used to enhance events, I wonder? And are there any developers reading this post who might be in a position to submit an entry to the IWMW 2008 Innovation Competition which makes use of this data?

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