Internet Librarian 2006 Notes: Javascript and RSS

At last year’s Internet Librarian conference, RSS was a very popular topic. I came home and related all I had learned about RSS to my fellow librarians. I told them about RSS, XML, feed aggregators, etc. After a month went by I sorta felt like it wasn’t that useful. At that point, I really didn’t think most patrons would be into it. How many would actually get an aggregator? Not many, I think.

Over the last year, however, the web development world really seems to have figured out how to make RSS useful. A lot of portals, like My Yahoo!, allow you put new feeds on your homepage. Stuff like that is all RSS. Podcasting has really taken off, and as noted earlier, to be true podcasting one must be able to subscribe to it. And the subscription is all RSS. People are using RSS without knowing it.

So for those of us who manage web sites, what does this mean? Well, there are a lot of Javascript tools out there that we can use to put news feeds on our webpages. I will refer again to the LibrarianInBlack for some details about the session. Likewise, the presenters at this session have put their very useful material on this wiki for our convenience. The “Tools” page on this wiki is particularly cool. It includes tools for creating RSS feeds, taking multiple feeds and blending them into one, tools for syndicating podcasts, and tools for displaying RSS feeds on webpages. Very, very cool.

One potential hangup for me is that most of these require putting some Javascript code into my webpages. Unfortunately, our content management system may not allow it. There’s a good chance it will simply strip out that code if I paste it in. Our Sharepoint intranet site may be a little more flexible, but I’ll have to explore this.

I’m hoping this stuff will be useful for several applications. First, I’d like to have an intranet page that aggregates news feeds from organizations relevant to our city government. I’d also to be able to create a feed for stuff from our intranet site. For the public library, I’d like to use RSS to allow librarians to update some of the “internet links” pages from outside the content management system. I’d also like the public library website to include an RSS feed of our news and events that our users could subscribe to. And of course, I want us to do some podcasting, so we need to be able to syndicate that content too.

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