Emerging Web Technologies: RSS Feeds and All About Retargeting Mental Energy
and Efficiently Transporting Information
RSS reading embedded in Safari and Firefox (from the New York Times)
Web technologies are all around us. These technologies enable us to
access and share information in real time from anywhere in the world.
Moreover, newer web technologies spare us the navigational effort we expend
accessing a journal (JCI) table of contents
Our challenge is how to efficiently track developments
in our field. We must expend considerable effort if we must navigate to each
journal or news site to view a table of contents or headlines.
RSS feeds free us from expending time remembering a URL and
navigating to each site. Web sites that make RSS feeds available
display the RSS symbol:
. With a program
to access an RSS feed, headlines and links are transported to our
server and used to generate content boxes shown below.
Here is a link from
about Nursing that illustrates
NOAA offers RSS feeds
for weather advisories.
Below are events as reported by Reuters and Nature.
are generated dynamically from
Each time you refresh this page, you obtain the latest
information available from these remote sites. With RSS technology,
the cumulative time
you would have spent remembering URLs and navigating to sites becomes available
for retargeting to
thinking, learning, caring for a patient or your research.
(See also the
Reuters RSS newsfeed).
At GMS, RSS feeds are created dynamically by
Web Logs ( see also
Web logs for
and for the history
visit Rebecca Blood's essay)
offer another opportunity for creating a published dialog about
issues of importance here at MUSC.
We will be exploring
all these tools as ways to strengthen interactions between students, faculty
and researchers both here at MUSC and around the world.
What about RSS (Rich Site Summary)
is an small text file that contains information about headlines or
main ideas. A URL that points to an RSS feed is often identified
The URL identifies the source of the
RSS file - in this case, the Reuters world news.
It is an abstraction of a newspaper or a journal etc.
Shown here are RSS driven content boxes from Nature and Reuters
that will display the items in an RSS feed. Try it.
Why is it useful? Because you can place the display driven by the RSS file on
your browser and every time you refresh the display, you see the current
contents or the current composition of the site being abstracted. Take
the the MUSC Bluesheet, the list
of daily seminars and conferences. With the bluesheet, we generate
file which as you see contains the title of each event and a link to
the web page describing that event. As an example,
is a simple display of the RSS feed from the bluesheet. Without much
imagination, you can see how a group of content boxes, driven by RSS
feeds from journals, MUSC resources etc, provide a very efficient way for
you to remain up to day without chasing URLs all over the Internet.
Combining RSS feeds and content boxes that provide search access to frequently
used resources make what many refer to as a
portal (myMUSC). Here, you
can log in as visitor and password visitor and configure your
desktop to display the content boxes that best suit your needs.
Building an RSS Driven Content Box
For an overview of building and rendering RSS resources
IBM's DeveloperWorks. Recently Dave Taylor wrote a simple
outline of accessing and displaying RSS feeds.
In 1999 Brian Dadin saw the future and built
the myMUSC aggregator.
As my professor and a believer in
see one, do one, teach one he wrote a short Perl script
to teach me the ins and outs of displaying
from any Internet resource as a small
Another resource is
Using RSS News Feeds (rss2html.pl script)". Click
here to grab rss2html.pl
The table the web page is placed using the include command. For example
to include the Reuters news and the Nature Signal Gateway RSS feeds
within an HTML page add the following table (which organizes the content
<table width="100% border="1">
Below is reuters_science.rss (which is located in the cgi-bin directory),
the Perl code for the Reuters Science News (