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Trying to find useful things to do with emerging technologies in open education

Back from Behind Enemy Lines, Without Being Autodiscovered(?!)

Home again after a few very enjoyable days away at IWMW2008 in Aberdeen, and I feel like I need a way of saying thank you to the web managers’ community for allowing an academic in…heh heh ;-)

So I spent half an hour or so (no… really…;-) on the train back from the airport putting together a front end for an HEI feed autodiscovery pipe that I knocked up in one of the presentations yesterday (I was giving the talk that was on at the time my full partial attention, of course ;-) that picks up on some of the conversation that was in the air at the end of the innovation competition session (I didn’t win, of course…;-(

The context is/was a comment from Mike Ellis that HEIs et al. could start opening up their data by offering RSS feeds of news releases, job/recruitment ads and event listings, because there’s no reason not to…. So my, err, gift(?!) back to the IWMW community is a little something where UK HEI web managers can proudly show off how they’ve taken up the challenge and published a whole suite of autodiscoverable RSS feeds from their home pages ;-): UK HEI autodiscoverable feeds.

(Cynics may say that the page actually names and shames sites that don’t offer any autodiscoverable feeds; I couldn’t possibly comment… ;-)

Anyway, the pipework goes like this…

First of all I grab a feed of UK HEI homepages… There isn’t an official one, of course, so as a stopgap I’ve scraped a dodgy secondary source (safe in the expectation that Mike Ellis will have an authoritative, hacked feed available from studentviews.net sometime soon…)

All that’s required then is to pull out the link in each item, that hopefully corresponds to the HEI homepage, and use that as the focus for feed autodiscovery:

Any feed URLs that are autodiscovered are then added as elaborations to the corresponding HEI feed item. Although these elaborations aren’t exposed in the RSS feed output from the pipe, they are available in the pipe’s JSON output, so the half-hour (offline) hack on the train earlier this afternoon consumes the JSON feed and gives a quick and dirty show’n’tell display of which institutions have autodiscoverable feeds on their homepage: UK HEI autodiscoverable feeds.

Looking at a couple of comments to the post Nudge: Improving Decisions About RSS Usage, (in which Brian Kelly tabulated the provision of RSS feeds from Scottish HEIs), it seems that publicly highlighting the lack of support for feed autodiscovery can encourage people to look at their pages and add the feature… So I wonder: when IWMW comes around next year, will the phrase No autodiscoverable feeds… be missing from the UK HEI autodiscoverable feeds page, possibly in part because that page exists?!

(Note that if you use this page to test a homepage you’ve added feed autodiscovery to, there is cacheing going on everywhere so you may not see any change in the display for an hour or so… I’ll try and post a cache-resistant feed autodiscovery page over the next few days; in the meantime, most browsers glow somewhere if they load an HTML page containing autodiscoverable feeds…)

Written by Tony Hirst

July 24, 2008 at 10:04 pm

Posted in Pipework, Tinkering

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10 Responses

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  1. [...] of the innovation competition entries showed autodiscovery is quite rare across UK HEIs. Tony Hirst explains the system on OUseful.info then check out the full name-and-shame [...]

  2. Hi Tony
    It’s good to see the HEIs which have an autodiscovery link – it’s even better if the link goes to a file that doesn’t exist. This is the case of Lancaster University, as the URIs imply:

    RSS: http://www.lancs.ac.uk/RSS/file/goes/here.rss
    Atom: http://www.lancs.ac.uk/Atom/file/goes/here.xml

    Perhaps the next development to this would be to indicate the feeds which actually don’t exist.

  3. [...] About « Back from Behind Enemy Lines, Without Being Autodiscovered(?!) [...]

  4. “Perhaps the next development to this would be to indicate the feeds which actually don’t exist.”

    Note to self – add this in to the mix: “JSON head [ http://json-head.appspot.com/ ]which is what it says on the tin: a HTTP HEAD lookup app that returns a JSON object.” [ http://ajaxian.com/archives/json-head-it-is-not-about-size-it-is-about-usefulness ]

    Tony Hirst

    July 30, 2008 at 9:18 am

  5. Hey Tony – good to see this, and yes, I will be doing some work on the HEI data over at studentviews. I already tweaked the IM bot – now has links to Flickr etc. Just add ukhe@bot.im to your IM buddy list…


    August 4, 2008 at 7:28 pm

  6. [...] 404 “Page Not Found” Error pages for UK Government Departments Published March 23, 2009 Uncategorized Around the time of the IWMW event last year, I put together a couple of quick pages that published the 404/page not found error pages for all the UK HEI homepages I could find (UK HEI “Page Not Found” Error Pages) and all the autodiscoverable RSS feeds that could be found on the HEI web homepages (Back from Behind Enemy Lines, Without Being Autodiscovered(?!)). [...]

  7. [...] 404 “Page Not Found” Error pages and Autodiscoverable Feeds for UK Government Departments and Back from Behind Enemy Lines, Without Being Autodiscovered(?!), I felt morally obliged to put together a page showing how the well the HEI Libraries are doing at [...]

  8. [...] any autodiscoverable feeds when I last checked using the UK HEI autodiscoverable feeds link from Back from Behind Enemy Lines, Without Being Autodiscovered(?!). I’m not sure what the current state of play is with official univrsity Youtube channels [...]

  9. [...] IWMW 2008, Tony Hirst submitted an innovation competition entry to show what autodiscoverable feeds HEIs feature on their homepages. It seems in the two years since Aberdeen the number of sites with discoverable feeds has crept up [...]

  10. [...] the backend of my RSS feed autodiscovery app (founded: 2008) is a Yahoo pipe. Just because, I thought I’d take half an hour out to try and [...]

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