But there are two critical features of email which are missing from any website: how do you know when new stuff is added to the website, and how do you know what have or haven’t read? We use newsfeeds to fill this gap. A newsfeed is a special file containing the last 20 or so new things to be posted on the site. A newsfeed aggregator can monitor the content of the newsfeed, alerting staff when new items appear. The newsfeed aggregator can also keep track of what they’ve already seen, or flag something they need to look at again.

Newsgator - managing RSS newsfeedsWe bought a newsfeed aggregator called Newsgator Enterprise Server (NGES). The great advantage of Newsgator is that users can login and read their feeds from any machine. A variety of clients is available to use with Newsgator – web, desktop (PC or Mac), PDA or mobile phone – but they are all synchronised to the user’s account on the central server. (It’s similar to the way you can access your NHS.net email from Outlook or the http://www.nhs.net website, but the contents of your inbox are the same whichever method you use.) Our staff use Newsgator to subscribe to feeds from Traction. There are feeds for all the different tags, so users can be as specific as they like about what they want to subscribe to. In this way, incoming information gets filtered and differentiated before they see it, making at-a-glance prioritisation possible.

Newsgator isn’t just for use with internal newsfeeds. Most websites on the internet now make newsfeeds available, including many related to the NHS (e.g. SHOW, NICE, NeLM, BMJ, BDJ, E-Health Insider, National Library for Health). It’s a great way to keep up to date without the time-consuming effort of regularly visiting a lot of websites.