Atom, ASF, APP

Here’s a handy piece from Computers in Libraries, April 2007 issue. It’s from an article entitled, “A Dozen Primers on Important Information Standards”.Atom

Just a bit more information to follow up the RSS presentation.

[Atom, ASF, and APP all = Atom syndicatication Format, Atom Publishing Protocol]


RSS (Group Presentation)

What is RSS?

Who is Oprah Winfrey? What is an RSS? Most people know the first answer but have no clue about the second one. Here is an article that explains RSS “the Oprah way”. To make RSS much easier to understand, Oprah defines the acronym as standing for “I am ‘Ready for Some Stories’.” Is it cool? I think most people have already got the point and would like to explore more about what is an RSS.

RSS, Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary, is an XML-based format widely used by bloggers and commercial industries to distribute web content. From an article on Rogers Cadenhead’s blog “workbench” in which he discusses the variety of icon links, here common icons that you may see on web pages that are linked to RSS.


History of RSS

Timeline (RSS History & Web RSS History):




Dec. 1996

Pre-XML MCF (Meta Content Framework)

Ramanathan V. Guha at Apple

Mar. 1997

CDF (Channel Definition Format)


Jun. 1997

MCF (using XML)


Oct. 1997

RDF (Resource Description Framework)


Dec.27 ,1997


Dave Winer at UserLand

Mar.15, 1999

RSS 0.90 (RDF Site Summary)


Jun.15, 1999

ScriptingNews 2.0b1

Dave Winer at UserLand

Jul.10, 1999

RSS 0.91

Dan Libby at Netscape

Aug.14, 2000

RSS 1.0

The RSS-DEV working group at O’Reilly

Dec.25, 2000

RSS 0.92

Dave Winer at UserLand

Sep.18, 2002

RSS 2.0

Dave Winer

Jul.13, 2003

RSS 2.0 specification

Harvard Law School

RSS Feeds and Feed Readers

RSS Feeds work similar to a Bookmark in a web browser. Content providers publish content summaries in a RSS feed to their potential readers. RSS feeds are “a spam-free, quick and efficient way to read news and weblogs” (Brian, Introduction to RSS).

A feed reader or aggregator is a client software used to retrieve syndicated web content such as news, blogs, podcasts, etc., through web feeds. There are generally two types of RSS readers (RSS Specifications). One is a self-contained program such as SharpReader, the other one is web-based such as Google Reader. Some web browsers, such as Firefox, Opera and Safari, are also capable of tracking RSS feeds.

Top RSS readers include READ3R.COM, Google Reader, FeedDemon, NewsGator, NetNewsWire, Bloglines, Blog Navigator, SharpReader, NewzCrawler.

How Does RSS Work?

Basically, RSS keeps track of the changes of content or webpages posted on the Internet and delivers the changes to users. The following describes how RSS works:

  1. Users download RSS reader;
  2. Information sites publish content summaries in RSS feeds;
  3. Users selct summaries and content; and
  4. Users add URLs of RSS feeds to RSS reader.

 Users are not confined to access RSS feeds by using a computer. They can access the feeds through their mobile devices such as cell phones and blackberries.


I have some personal experience with RSS readers. The time-saving feature of RSS is what I appreciate most. I believe that many of you have some bad experience in finding what you want across various web sites. Pop-up ads and slow downloads are really annoying. Even worse, you are very likely to get lost in some poorly organized web sites. However, with a RSS reader, all you have to do is just a simple click. Also, RSS feeds save you the time of going to check a website to see if information has been added or updated, as the information is sent directly to you when content changes. No searching is required beyond the initial set-up; having already identified the news areas of interest to you, information from the same source will continue to arrive as it is created.

RSS in libraries

Many libraries adopt RSS for distributing library related information such as library news (e.g. Reno Libraries), subject blogs (e.g. Georgia State University Library), new acquisitions (e.g. University of Alberta Libraries), book reviews (e.g. Colorado College Library), catalog search queries and personalized circulation information (e.g. Hennepin County Library), and staff communication (e.g. Oregon Libraries Network) (Yue and Greene, 2006). Reno Libraries offer RSS feeds of electronic journals to patrons.

As some of you may already know, RSS is available through the Western Libraries. Western Libraries offers information news on all the campus libraries. Other academic libraries offer other types of information through RSS like the University of New Brunswick Library, which offers “e-resources status”. McMaster University Library offers a variety of information ranging from instruction, new books, and trial e-Resources. Universities’ Libraries can use RSS feeds in different ways in order to keep their community informed on all fronts.

Other good applications of RSS could be associated with electronic journals as they are usually updated regularly, monthly, semi-monthly, bimonthly, etc. Also, RSS can be applied to e-books. For example, there could be a feed of new titles of an author or even subject related feeds for patrons wanting to know about specific acquisitions rather than getting a full list of all the new library acquisitions. They could choose their areas of interest, and get those titles. RSS could also be used for informing patrons of their upcoming due dates on loaned material, as a warning could be sent in advance.


The Future of RSS

Internet Explorer 7.0 released this year implements RSS. Since it is the market leader, it is very likely that more and more users will be exposed to RSS. We can expect a fast growth of RSS user group.

The use of RSS for current awareness groups can be particularly useful and important for libraries working in fields that have a rapid changing environment such as science and technology, research or medicine, as the need for up to date information can be crucial and important to clients. Another substantial advantage with RSS is that it can save users a lot of time from going back and forth to sites, when they are looking for new information. As we all know, time is something that is very valuable, and RSS offers some help with managing time better as it saves users from going to sites looking for the new updates, RSS feeds bring the updates to the users, saving them the time of going and looking for the information, which may or may not be there. New programs such as Feed Digest even make it possible for you to group all of your feeds together into one site and re-publish them according to your own interests.


Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary is a valuable communications tool that serves information providers and consumers alike. In making it simpler for web users to consistently find new information via self-customized feeds, users are better able to find the answers they require and save time in doing so. As information and knowledge managers, Librarians can dramatically increase their effectiveness in serving web-abled clients by providing RSS options on their institutional websites. In order to maximize the value of those feeds, however, Librarians must also provide clear instruction like The Common Craft Show’s “RSS in Plain English” and attractive, easy-to-comprehend displays for the less computer-literate on how to access and use the technology. Finally, it is imperative that Librarians and their institutions never assume that any one form of communication will be so effective as to obviate the need any other. Various means of disseminating information should continue to be used in reaching one’s user base; adding the RSS into that array may benefit many.

Xian Liu, Qingyi Su, Jeremie LeBlanc, Shannon McAlorum

Meet Internet Billionaire Kevin Ham

What could be more lucrative and rewarding for an individual than a career in medicine? Kevin Ham found the answer. He switched from being a general practitioner to purchasing old domain names on auction and is now “the man who owns the internet“, according to Paul Sloan, Business Magazine editor-at-large. Some of the URLs that comprise his electronic empire are those ending “.cm”, a common mis-entry for “.com” that is also Cameroon’s top level domain.

This brings to mind the cases of logo copyright infringement multi-national corporations faced decades ago when expanding into new territories. A single investor had beat them into certain geographic markets, registering their own established logos before they had thought to invest there. Dastardly! – but insightful, I thought at the time. And immediately afterwards: I wish I’d thought of that. Yet when the World Wide Web came along and investors started exhibiting these same behaviours, domain squatting or cybersquatting was condemned by the World Intellectual Property Organization and shot down in the courts. One could no longer benefit from purchasing that which someone else already had legal claim to.

Like Access Copyright, which protects the rights of the producer or owner of a work, the “intellectual property (IP) system” is claimed to “reward creativity, stimulate innovation and contribute to economic development while safeguarding the public interest” (see WIPO). I can appreciate that economic gain from one’s work is a motivation for many of us. Yet creative commons can increase productivity and innovation – and what is it they mean by “safeguarding the public interest”, anyway?

I’m torn. I want to say something witty and decisive that will strike a move forward for the open source movement; collaborative visionaries are creating amazing programs that proprietary organizations can’t keep up with. Yet I remember Jerome K. Jerome‘s claims about “Three Men in a Boat: To say Nothing of the Dog“. He gained financial security from its early sales, yet did not have the means prior to copyright legislation to keep its republication solely his own. But that same fact must have helped to drive its success. As I say, I’m torn on this issue.

No time exists like the present for doing some reading. Here’s Jerome’s opus, 1909 illustrated edition online.

Multi-author blogging: guidelines

An institution is an individual in corporate law.  As such, each member of the institution are representatives of the single “body”.  For Librarians, this idea of the many representing the one can be keenly felt in multi-author blogs for their own particular Library.

In order to maintain a uniform voice, Libraries with more than one Librarian blogger would be well-advised to develop blogging guidelines for their online presence.  Here are my suggestions:

  1. Establish a blog mission statement.  Ensure that potential posts honour it.
  2. Cite all sources and provide links.  If a source can not be found, then the information is not trustworthy enough to post.
  3. Be accurate.  Consider Karen Schneider’s analogy of a blog entry to a reference question response; make the same commitment to fact checking here.
  4. Be the first to correct yourselves.  If an error has been published, creat a post with the correct information and an apology immediately.  In the offending article, add the newly-discovered truth without deleting the old.
  5. Never edit old posts “seamlessly”.  If a change must be made due to the posting of erroneous content, make corrections apparent.  Consider using a strikeout on the obsolete portions.
  6. Recognize your Librarian bloggers are professionals:  give them the guidelines, then get out of their way and let them blog.  If they are new, a probationary period of sumitting posts for editing pre-publication is valid.  Once a person has proven themselves, however, stop interfering with their timeliness!
  7. Post guidelines for users on comments: what are welcomed, what will not be allowed.  Enforce these.  Be fair.
  8. Be interesting, topical, relevant.  Post on a regular basis, on topics of the sort that will appeal to your users.
  9. Make your blog user-friendly: provide links to FAQ’s, RSS feeds, and other valauble features.
  10. Know your users.  Remember that the blog is for them.

Rebecca Blood says in her post “Weblog Ethics” in rebecca’s pocket:”Think before you publish and stand behind what you write. If you later decide you were wrong about something, make a note of it and move on.”  That’s a strong statement.  I like it.  Accountability will help to improve the value of blogs.  If blogs can be raised in the public perception from shameless vanity sites  and platforms for extremist splinter groups to rant from, a lot of valuable information can be shared, a lot of powerful communities can grow.

If I forget thee, O Pandora

It’s old news now that Pandora has been disabled by Canadian law in providing the sweet sounds of the Music Genome Project over the net, but my heart still aches for it. For those of you who weren’t subscribed, the service interruption message ran as follows:

Dear Pandora listener,

Today we have some extremely disappointing news to share with you. Due to international licensing constraints, we are deeply, deeply sorry to say that we must begin proactively preventing access to Pandora’s streaming service from Canada. We began blocking access from almost all countries outside the U.S. last week and had originally hoped to maintain access to Canada. However, it has become clear in the last week that we just haven’t been able to make enough progress to continue streaming.

It is difficult to convey just how disappointing this is for us. Our vision remains to eventually make Pandora a truly global service, but for the time being, we can no longer continue as we have been. As a small company, the best chance we have of realizing our dream of Pandora all around the world is to grow as the licensing landscape allows.

We show your IP address is ‘xxx’, which indicates you are listening from Canada. If you believe you are seeing this by mistake, we offer our sincere apologies and ask that you please reply to this email.

Delivery of Pandora is based on proper licensing from the people who created the music – we have always believed in honoring the guidelines as determined by legislators and regulators, artists and songwriters, and the labels and publishers they work with. In the U.S. there is a federal statute that provides this license for all the music streamed on Pandora. Unfortunately, there is no equivalent license outside the U.S. and there is no global licensing organization to enable any webcaster to legitimately offer its service around the world. The volume of listening on Pandora makes it a very expensive service to run. Streaming costs are very high, and since our inception, we have been making publishing and performance royalty payments for every song we play.

Until last week, we have not been able to tell where a listener is based, relying only on zip code information provided upon registration. We are now able to recognize a listener’s country of origin based on the IP address from which they are accessing the service. Consequently, on May 16th, we will begin blocking access to Pandora to listeners from Canada. We are very sad to have to do this, but there is no other alternative.

We will be posting updates on our blog regarding our ongoing effort to launch in other countries, so please stay in touch. We will keep a record of your existing stations and bookmarked artists and songs, so that when we are able to launch in your country, they will be waiting for you. We deeply share your sense of disappointment and greatly appreciate your understanding.

-Tim Westergren
(Pandora founder)

Copyright (US)

Here’s an interesting piece from YouTube – a masterpiece in editing dedicated to teaching everyday users about American copyright laws using clips from Disney films. Watch it all the way to the end to see why he uses Disney’s clips.

I’m posting this because Access Copyright is an issue in my school; getting instructors to log their copying accurately for reporting is always a challenge. For anone else having similar issues, CIPO is a useful resource!

Musings on Marketing

Rebecca’s Pocket led me into the archaic Jesse’s list, and I had to see if there was still anything live in there. Squidfactory is now a salehouse. While it may have evolved into this, I can’t help wondering if a star-up company got wise and picked an old blog title for the free accidental visitors it would bring their site.

Thinking about that led me into ideas of marketing. I ran a survey of my co-op Library’s student users two weeks ago, and we got some really key information out of it. I passed out surveys in the cafeteria and students returned them completed for chances to win groceries. Two students had never even been in the library. But worst of all, students often didn’t know more than half of the services we offer. Yet all of the respondents who used the library would work online there.

Conclusion: we’re not communicating effectively enough – we need to use the online environment, and do it in such a way that we actually provide a service targetted to their specific needs. If our users were customers, we wouldn’t be making very many sales.