UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Memolane Timelines (Not Only For WordPress Blogs)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 Jul 2011

Last week’s news on the blog that “ oEmbed Provider API Now Available” will be appreciated by developers who feel that the WordPress platform provides a rich and interoperable environment not only as a blogging platform but also as a content management system.  The announcement describes how:

oEmbed is a format for allowing an embedded representation of a URL on third-party sites. The simple API allows a website to display embedded content (such as photos or videos) when a user posts a link to that resource, without having to parse the resource directly.

Whilst reading this news earlier today I followed a link to Third Party Applications on the Develop site which currently only lists one application which is “built to work with and enable you to interact with your blog in new ways” – namely Memolane.

I registered with the Memolane service for producing timelines some time ago but the connection with WordPress made me revisit the service. A display of my timeline is illustrated.

I have configured Memolane to include a feed from this blog. In addition to a display of recent blog posts I have also included RSS feeds of areas of work for which several years ago I recognised that RSS could have a significant role to play.  In particular I have included a link to the RSS feeds for my forthcoming  events, previous events (for every year since I started in UKOLN in 1997)  and for my peer-reviews and related papers.

As show in the bottom of the image you can quickly display previous events, so I can find that in the latter part of 2000 I gave a talk on “Externally Hosted Web Services” on 12 October 2000 (well-before the current hype about Cloud Computing!) and a talk on “Approaches To Resource Discovery In The UK HE Community” at the Verity 2000 conference on 30 November 2000.

It seems from this timeline display that life was much more leisurely eleven years ago,  with the record of public engagement suggesting a six week gap between my activities! Of course I will have posted to email lists and written documents, but it is now difficult to see what I was doing back then.

RSS feeds provide a means of keeping a reusable record of activities which can be processed by a variety of applications. This is the reason why I maintain a page of RSS Feeds For UK Web Focus Web Site and provide similar links for the QA Focus project which I was the project director for from 2002-2004.

Despite a number of third party services having withdrawn support for RSS I am still convinced of the benefits of RSS.  Those who make use of WordPress software either as a blogging platform or as a CMS will be able to exploit the feeds provided by the platform and many other services still provide RSS.  The most significant gap in the services I make use of, however, is ePrints which drives our institutional repository service.  Sadly ePrints support for RSS is very limited and so I am forced to maintain my RSS feed for my publications separately :-(  It would be great if ePrints were to support the interoperably provided in a Web 2.0 world by RSS and not just the much smaller Library world based around OAI-PMH.  But, as I asked last year: Is It Too Late To Exploit RSS In Repositories?

5 Responses to “Memolane Timelines (Not Only For WordPress Blogs)”

  1. Re: “Of course I will have posted to email lists and written documents, but it is now difficult to see what I was doing back then.”

    It’s OK… none of the rest of us in UKOLN knew what on earth you were doing either! :-)

  2. Tim Brody said

    Hi Brian,

    I’m a bit confused by why you think EPrints has “very limited” support for RSS. Every live RSS feed I’ve come across limits the number of records returned.

    RSS isn’t intended to be used for harvesting the historical record of events. It’s supposed to be a very lightweight (and small) set of data that can be regularly polled with minimal overhead on the server + client, which is what EPrints does.

    You need to either retrieve records in a different format or arrange a separate access mechanism that will generate the complete record set in RSS format. That’s pretty easy to do but must be be done separately to avoid clobbering normal RSS consumers.


    • Hi Tim

      Thanks for the comment.

      If you visit you’ll find a manually maintained list of my papers which I use to feed into various services, as I’ve described in my post. I’m aware that that’s not a very elegant way of managing the data and several years ago was informed that our repository would manage the information for me and provide the RSS feed for me to use, either for individual papers, departmental papers as well as for arbitrary search queries.

      Whilst I appreciate dynamic generation of RSS feeds may be computationallly intensive for the first two use cases the feeds (which will not be very volatile) could be generated overnight.

      Note that the small limit on the number of RSS items was defined in RSS 0.9. However RSS has developed since then – and it should be noted that it is no longer regarded as just a news alerting mechanism; rather it is a syndication technology with syndication of changed items just being one aspect of what it can be used for. RSS has grown up!

      Note that if there was a button which said “Export current view into foo format” and foo could be transformed into RSS, that would seem to be a solution which could minimise load on ePrints servers.



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