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Here’s a good article about the decline of RSS. I think it is quite accurate albeit very disappointing. I think the author is quite correct that Google Reader has effectively killed RSS basically by being very good at it and thereby pushing out all the other players. It’s a huge problem for me because I encourage people to use newsfeeds to monitor stuff on our internal network, and of course Google Reader doesn’t work when the source is behind a corporate firewall. So we have to fall back on email once again, which is truly soul-destroying. Sooner or later surely the penny will drop in corporate culture and RSS (or something very similar) will be resurrected to help destroy email. At least, I hope so.

It’s also very distressing to see that my favourite newsfeed aggregator Newsgator has chosen to focus pretty much exclusively on customising Sharepoint, which is of no use to me whatsoever. But I guess they have no choice with Google Reader so predominant.

And yes, I too was very annoyed when Twitter and Facebook killed their RSS feeds! There are some Twitter users that you just want to read at leisure rather than it be part of your timeline – newsfeed subscription is a much better way to do that than Lists or extra accounts or whatever. RSS is a silo-busting technology, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that so many companies are happy to block it.

 

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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.

@davidrendall on Twitter

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