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Friday, February 07, 2003

Filtered feeds

Although I couldn't find Network World's RSS feed last week, a helpful comment from the site's executive editor Adam Gaffin quickly pointed me in the right direction.

I immediately put the feed into Loosely Coupled's news page, taking the place of InfoWorld's feed, which has not been updated since that site had a redesign a few weeks back. This seems to be an oversight by the title's designers rather than a deliberate move. Jon Udell's weblog is also part of the Infoworld site (and also features on our news page). Today, it got a new look to bring it line with the look-and-feel of the rest of the site. It forms part of a new section called "iDiscuss", and right there on the iDiscuss home page, there's a box highlighting InfoWorld's RSS feeds. The Web Services feed I'd been using is there at the bottom of the list, but at the time I write this, it's still showing the same stale old stories from late January. Someone still needs to crank it back into life.

I will welcome its return, because filtered feeds are so much more convenient than global site feeds. The Web's biggest problem is oversupply of unfiltered information, and sites like Loosely Coupled are only useful to their readers if they stay as focussed as possible on their chosen topic. Being able to scrape InfoWorld's ready-filtered feed of web services stories has been a big help in that respect.

Coincidentally, I got a friendly email from CNET this week in reply to a syndication enquiry I'd sent in many months ago, which I'd long since despaired of ever getting answered. ""We began to promote our existing RSS feeds ... this year," it noted, complete with a pointer to the full list. It's good to see CNET encouraging takeup of its RSS feeds, but disappointing that they don't provide a way of filtering by topics of your own choice. If Network World can do this with its search engine, surely it's not beyond the wit of CNET to adapt its own much-vaunted search capabilities to the task?

Of course, they might well riposte that, if I'm so eager to filter feed results, why don't I do it myself instead of overloading their search servers? Which is a fair comment. That capability is now on the development list, as part of a shake-up of the news page to order stories by date rather than simply republishing each feed separately — which by the way will mean that it will at last conform to Dave Winer's definition of a news aggregator, although as others have noted, that's not the only definition in town. Categorization in particular is an important secondary attribute, and, as I've said before, I can see some exciting potential arising if the idea of aggregators republishing filtered aggregations catches on.

posted by Phil 2:33 PM (GMT) | comments | link

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