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Preview: RSS in Government

RSS in Government

News about how RSS is being used by international, federal, state, and local governments

Published: 2005-05-25T11:01:04-07:00


Create Voice-enabled RSS News Feeds


With the proliferation of RSS feeds in state and local governments, a unique opportunity is developing to expand the delivery of the critical information contained in these feeds by leveraging the most ubiquitous personal communications device in the world -– the telephone. Governments that use RSS to deliver information to citizens using RSS feeds can also leverage VoiceXML, an open standard for developing telephony applications, to expose RSS content via cellular and traditional telephones. VoiceXML is a web technology that can turn any telephone, even a rotary phone, into an Internet device. VoiceXML is a non-proprietary, web-based markup language for creating vocal dialogues between humans and computers. VoiceXML is similar to another common markup language -- HTML, the basic language of visual web pages. Just as a web browser renders HTML documents visually, a VoiceXML interpreter renders VoiceXML documents audibly. In this respect, one can think of the VoiceXML interpreter as a telephone-based, voice browser. As with HTML documents, VoiceXML documents have web URIs and can be located on any web server. However, instead of pointing a client-side web browser at a specific URI, citizens can access a VoiceXML application by calling a toll free telephone number from any ordinary telephone - cellular or traditional, touch-tone or rotary. It’s not hard to think of a scenario where a local government or a university could publish an RSS feed with topical news, and have a phone number for students or citizens to call for more information. Depending on how the VoiceXML is structured, the caller could have the option of being transferred directly to the number associated with the information. The trick would be, in my opinion, finding the right place within the RSS feed to put the phone number (if the publisher wanted to provide the option of an automatic transfer). Ideally, the phone number would be contained within its own RSS element. Glancing quickly at the RSS 2.0 spec, this could be something like the guid element. So, if a publisher was using a software package to author and publish RSS feeds, they would probably need to do a little experimenting to find the right place to place the phone number. Because RSS and VoiceXML are both XML vocabularies, there are a number of standards-based methods for converting RSS to VoiceXML and using RSS feeds from within VoiceXML applications. The first method involves the use of eXstensible Style Sheet Language Transformations (XSLT). I have created a tutorial covering this technique and some of the issues relating to it. This technique is generally agnostic to the underlying technology used; XSLT transformations are supported in technologies like JSP, PHP, Perl, .NET and others. To see it in action there is a demo application available at (800) 289-5570. Enter the following PIN when prompted: 9991422919. This example uses the latest headlines news feed from CNET ( and the XSLT file covered in my tutorial. This is only running on a demo platform, so I can’t guarantee anything on performance. Still, it gives you a sense of how an RSS feed sounds. This technology could allow travelers only equipped with cell phones to get the latest NOAA RSS weather reports, lobbyists to dial-in for legislative floor calendars, and rescue teams to phone for the latest operational instructions. The other method for using RSS from within VoiceXML applications is to leverage the new data tag, an addition to the VoiceXML specification that is part of the developing VoiceXML 2.1 standard. Some excellent examples of this technique can be found on the VoiceXML Forum website at VoiceXML also allows for the playback of recorded audio. If one had an audio file that they want to include in a feed, a VoiceXML application could actually invoke the audio file and play it to the caller. There is a VoiceXML service at (800) 555-TELL that plays audio files. Give it a call and try listening to t[...]

Fresh Patents Served Weekly


You can search for newly published patent applications at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, but if you want the latest patent applications served to you by RSS syndication and email alerts, you'll need to visit Industry list RSS feeds filtered by USPTO class number are particularly valuable. The content is crawled and indexed by Google as well. Browse for new patents by industry category or do a keyword search. For example, if you browse USPTO Class 715, Data processing: presentation processing of document patents you'll notice that it has an RSS feed that you can subscribe to for updates. That makes it easy to find new applications such as application #20040221226 "Method and mechanism for processing queries for xml documents using an index" applied for on November 4, 2004 by inventors Wesley Lin, Yasuhiro Matsuda, and Garrett Kaminaga. Sign-up for free email patent application monitoring service which will send you a weekly email with new applications that match the keywords you select. This site is one of those rare examples in which even if you subscribe to the feed, you'll want to routinely visit the website. The site provides searches by keyword and provides lists of patent applications by location (state and city), agent and law firm name, city of the agent, and inventor name.

HubMed is PubMed on Steroids


At the Internet Librarian's Conference, Steven M. Cohen demonstrated many real cool RSS applications including HubMed. Not being a health sciences librarian, I wasn't yet familiar with this relatively new alternative search of the familiar PubMed medical literature database. If you're one who monitors the latest news about a drug or treatment, or if you're doing serious medical research, you'll absolutely love the assortment of alerts and exporting features HubMed provides. You won't appreciate any of this until you do a search. So go ahead, look for something of interest. I have a niece just diagosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma so I'll do a search of that. HubMed allows users to perform a search, click on the orange "feeds" button in the right corner of the search results, and save it as an RSS feed. When new articles have been added to PubMed, HubMed will send you this information notification as an RSS feed. So from the page of the search results I click on the orange button and now I see a page with the urls for query based feeds in both RSS and Atom formats. You can simply drag this button into a RSS news reader like NetNewsWire Pro (Mac) or NewzCrawler (PC) . Myself, I click on my Bloglines brower bookmarklet, and bingo, I'm into Bloglines where with one more click I'm subscribed to this feed for Hodgkins's Lymphoma. Now, Hubmed will keep checking the literature and deliver to me everything new it finds. Three clicks, literally. This is better than a dog that brings the morning paper. If you are subscribed to a HubMed RSS feed, you can also post directly from your aggregator using the Blogger API at Biologging, is a community weblog for biomedical researchers. It allows you to create your own annotated store of abstracts, and to browse the logs of other users. You can create an account and submit posts to your personal weblog within biologging by using the 'Blog This' or 'Make A List' buttons in HubMed. But wait, there's more. So much more, in fact that Matt Eberle at Library Techlog calls Hubmed "The Swiss Army knife of PubMed interfaces." If you go back to your search results, you'll see for each result a number of links to things like Abstract, Fulltext, SFX, Clip, Citation, Related, TouchGraph, and References. A click on the SFX link (a library link server) connects you to a look up of the resource in the holdings in your local library's catalog. It supports Innovatic Innopac, BIBSYS, Dynix Horizon, Endeavor VOYAGER, SIRSI Unicorn catalogs. You can also ook up holdings in other catalogs (such as MELVYL and Library of Contress, and OCLC WorldCat), request the document be sent to you using your library's document delivery service or another (such as ILLiad and Infotrieve), download the bibliographic record for importation into your software (Refworks, Endnote, Procite, Reference Manager), save the citation, capture it using the wonderful award winning Windows utility NetSnippets, and more. My compliments to Alf Eaton and the creators of HubMed. "I have used HubMed for a while now," writes Steven, "and have been absolutely thrilled with the results. This is one of those tools that awes the crowds at some of my presentations, and rightfully so." I agree and only wish that HubMed had more in the way of tutorials to help novices like myself get the most out of this wonderful service. Have fun exploring it! Speaking of the health sciences, look for the syndication of more and more publications from federal agencies. I saw recently, for example, that the National Network of Libraries of Medicine South Central Region (NN/LM SCR) is publishing Network News, their bimonthly Newsletter from the South Central Region, as a RSS feed. Thank you, Greg Bodin, for offering this.

Blog Revolution in China


While the government may not be enthusiastic over offering RSS news feeds, the Chinese people themselves are embracing Internet communications with gusto and particularly RSS news syndication in the form of blogging. According to China's biggest blogging service provider, the number of subscribers has soared from 10,000 in June last year, to more than 500,000 now. A couple of years ago technology writer Fang Xingdong at his site coined the Chinese term bo ke to mean blogger. He encouraged his readers to try blogging by registering on “Blogging is a true revolution,” he wrote. “One needs zero technology training, zero institution and zero cost to become a blogger.” The number of Chinese online has quintupled over the past four years. Duncan Clark, managing director of BDA China, a telecommunications and technology consulting firm based in Beijing, said in an email message to the to Tom Zeller, Jr. of the New York Times, "China's rulers are bent on putting communications, mobile phones, Internet access and the new growth area, broadband, into as many hands as possible." "China is already the largest mobile communications subscriber market in the world," reports the Internet Herald Tribune, "with more than 320 million subscribers." Internet users, who numbered fewer than 17 million in 2000, are now estimated to be somewhere near 90 million, according to the China Internet Network Information Centre, the government's clearinghouse for Internet statistics. China is second only to the United States in the number of people online." Beijing has an uneven record of late in allowing citizens access to Google English News headlines giving Chinese searchers access to uncensored news from all over the world. According to Reporters Without Borders, China is censoring Google News to force Internet users to use the Chinese version of the site which has been purged of the most critical news reports. Similarly, the government is also ambivalent about how allowing its citizens to freely blog. Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at the University of California at Berkeley runs the China Digital News blog and is monitoring the pulse of blogging in China. Qiang reports that by January 2003, China had about 2000 bloggers when, without warning, the Chinese government blocked all access to, the server that hosts all blogs registered on According to Qiang: [The] crackdown in 2003 closed websites and internet cafes and saw the arrest of dozens of online commentators. Yet this is not proving enough to stifle the pluck and ingenuity of China’s bloggers. The rise of the blog phenomenon was made possible by blog-hosting services. Just as companies like Yahoo host email accounts, sites like, based in the United States, host blogs..... Blog services are now sprouting all over China. By the end of October 2004, China had more than 45 large blog-hosting services. A Google search for bo ke will return more than two million results, from blogs for football fans to blogs for Christians. Sources: Zeller, T. Jr. Beijing embraces the Internet while it clamps down on online dissent, International Herald Tribune, December 6, 2004. China View. "Blog" the word of the year, December 5, 2004. Special report: The "blog" revolution sweeps across China, November 24, 2004. Interfax-China. China censors Google News, (November 30 2004, updated December 1).

California a Dollar Short, a Day Late?


State CIO J. Clark Kelso wants to make government more accessible to the citizens of California. In an interview with Information Week's Eric Chabrow, (Nov 22, 2004), Kelso announced, "We need to start changing the inefficeinent way we provide services." The state spends between $2 billion and $4 billion annually on IT. Kelso is the author of the "California State Information Technology Strategic Plan" (PDF), a 5-year plan presented this month to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Plan follows a more lengthy report issued in August by the California Performance Review Commission. The Commision was charged by Gov. Schwarzenegger with figuring out how to make state government work better and cheaper. Among the ideas in the panel's $32 billion cost-cutting recommendations: favoring open-source software over proprietary alternatives for new IT purchases. The report, titled Government for the People for a Change, is a 4-volume study with recommendations including recommendations to "Explore Open Source Alternatives." "The state should more extensively consider use of open source software," it recommends, "which can in many cases provide the same functionality as closed source software at a much lower total cost of ownership." The CIO's most recent plan to bring efficiency to California Information Technology promotes six strategic goals including three that could be facilitated by open source RSS syndication: Make Government services more accessible to citizens and State clients. Implement common business applications and systems to improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Lower costs and improve the security, reliability and performance of the State's IT infrastructure. The report also identifies needs and priorities important to most or all California agencies including "the ability to easily access information and services while ensuring that such access is allowed only to those intended," "efficient and cost saving means to deliver services," and the "need to respond and transact quickly" [p.8]. Unfortunately, there is no mention of RSS news feeds or xml syndication anywhere in the plan. California prides itself as the world's fifth largest economy, but in the world of providing syndicated news and services, it lags behind Rhode Island and Delaware. Social Commentator Jamais Cascio writing in WorldChanging wryly observes, "Some states that you'd think would be technologially on the ball (California, for example) have few if any feeds, while other locations are swimming in them."

Blog -- Dictionary Word of the Year


Dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster's reports that "Blog" tops their list of the 10 words of the year. Merriam-Webster Inc. said on Tuesday that blog, defined as "a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments and often hyperlinks," was the most looked-up word on its Internet sites this year. The list is compiled each year by taking the most researched words on its Web sites and then excluding perennials such as affect/effect and profanity. The company said most online dictionary queries were for uncommon terms, but people also turned to its Web sites for words in news headlines. Source: Reuters

Are you Chief Blogging Officer Material?


Government is already rife with chiefs, why not one more? HighBeam Research, Inc. has set the pace by announcing today the appointment of Christopher Locke as Chief Blogging Officer (CBO). Looks like the role of CBO is a pace setter who creates a buzz about the company products and enlists others to blog the cause. Ironically, the announcement came in the form of a (oh, so 20th century) press release. HighBeam is looking for bloggers interested in exclusive use of its new "blog this document" tools and free access to the company's premium archives of over 3,000 print publications for adding depth and historical background to virtually any subject. HighBeam, under the direction of Chairman and CEO Patrick Spain, is the recent amalgamation two paid content sites (eLibrary and and a meta-search site, Locke says, "The HighBeam database of 33 million articles going back almost 25 years is the best resource I've found for adding historical depth of focus to the sort of stuff I write about. Any blogger who wants to get at the trends and issues underlying today's headlines will immediately see the same benefit I did. And their readers will too. I'm turned on at the prospect of making the HighBeam Research content and tools more accessible to the blogging world." I don't think Highbeam will need to look too far for volunteers. Chris' own Chief Blogging Officer blog, offers a preview of how you can turn your own ordinary blog musings into a Blogipedia. According to ClickZ News, HighBeam plans to begin offering its new blog content tool in late January or early February for $19.95 a month or $99 a year.

Feeding the Utah Legal Community


A crack cocaine smoking judge who allegedly presided over his court while high? An attorney disbarred for abandoning his law practice and clients in the pursuit of the unlawful use of methamphetamine? These are only some of today's tintillating stories from official Utah judiciary sources that my news aggregator served me. The Utah Administrative Office of the Courts and the Utah State Bar have been experimenting with the syndication of news and publications for quite some time. They've now published links to their first public syndicated feeds on their homepages. Utah Courts offers an RSS feed for "Recent Court Opinions" that links to recently released and archived opinions of the Utah Supreme Court, Utah Court of Appeals, and Per Curiam decisions. If you'd rather get the same information by email, Steve Brown, Courts Webmaster, offers a notification subcription service. The editors of the Utah Bar Journal with the assistance of Utah State Bar IT Director Lincoln Mead have imported the Journal into Movable Type. Recent past issues are also archived in PDF format. This is a good trend because RSS syndicated legal information makes its delivery more timely and its content more findable and accessible.

Friends, There is Good News


We interrupt this irregularly scheduled broadcast.... to share a message more momentous than we've reported on before. We bring a message of hope, of goodness, of peace, of universal brotherhood. Here's how we can join our voices in a global conversation that can forever change the world. "In one's own way," my mother told me long ago, "every person can change the world." That advice was at the time more prophetic than a truism. Hyperbole aside, I do believe that individuals are now empowered as never before in history. Individuals are no longer bound by the confines of time, place, language, and political regime in their quest to do good in the world. We now have the capacity to find each other, to gather, and to converse without ever meeting in the flesh. It's all made possible through virtual communities and virtual networking. Why does that phrase in the United States Constitution "we the people" so resonate in the hearts of people throughout the world? I think it has something to do with our nature as social beings. In the past, institutions such as governments and churches were needed to organize and rally people. The problem is that all institutions by their nature become corrupt. Leaders succumb to power and greed, and institutions stray from their altruistic beginnings as they amass fortunes and property, gain political power, and build monuments unto themselves. To Jesus, the church was the community of believers. It wasn't a building, it wasn't an organization, it wasn't a corporation. The church was not a place nor did it own any property. It's unfortunate, but institutions calling themselves churches have embellished to the point of distraction those simple teachings of Jesus to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. The true church remains the community of believers. To do good in the world, you don't need institutional wealth, buildings, and treasuries. To self-organize, you don't need creeds, dictums, laws, governments, and rulers. People just need to do be free to do two things: talk and act. You just need to be able to communicate with others of like mind and then to collaborate with them in resolving needs. All conversation inevitably leads to understanding. Understanding leads to acceptance and concern, which in turn naturally leads to the desire to act. So why can we be so optimistic? Think for moment about peer-to-peer networks, instant messagers, collaboration workspaces (wikis, collaborative blogs), online communities (Meetups, AOL, Craigslist,, eWomenNetwork, Yahoo Groups, Ecademy, Idealist), alumni communities (SelectMinds, Classmates, TheSquare), syndication technologies (blogs, moblogs, RSS news feeds), and social and business networks (LinkedIn, Ryze, Orkut, Spoke Software, VisiblePath, ZeroDegrees, Knowmentum, Company of Friends). These social networking inventions are now in place and changing the way we interact and converse. But they only portend the future; more powerful social networking is on the horizon. Social networking facilitates real-world and online conversations. Each of these technologies helps us bridge the six degrees of separation in finding others with similar goals and interests. We just need to apply this knowledge to loftier purposes. It's high time we used what we know for a higher purpose than dating, deal making, and job hunting. How about world peace? Maybe that generation of Miss America contestants had it right after all. I'll call this repurposing of social networking the "Good News Network." The Good News Network needs no place, no domain, no trademark, no sponsors. It needs only open access and to be built on standards -- standards to converse one language with another and standards to programmatically exchange information. It consists of you and I, our friends, friends of friends, and [...]

Google News Feed Generator


Unlike Yahoo, Google has had a long standing resistance to offering RSS feeds for Google News queries. Hacks have long abounded from Julian Bond's GNews2RSS, Ben Hammersley's Google to RSS using the Google SOAP API, and Steve Rubel's advice in "RSS Hack for Sites That Don't Offer Feeds". In this spirit, Justin Pfister has created gnewsfeed. Filling out the form uses a script that converts a Google news query ( ">example) into an RSS feed (example). "I welcome anyone in the world," he humbly proffers, "to use it in an effort to become a more informed public." Poor Justin. He's looking for a job. Maybe Adam Smith, and the Google Alerts product team will hire Justin to build in the syndication that Google should have offered long ago (hint).

Irish Local Governments Get Nooked


Two Irish County Councils and several other Irish, Northern Ireland, and UK government agencies are publishing press releases using the new Nooked hosted online RSS publishing service. Aimed at enterprise users who want to quickly and easily syndicate their news, the Nooked online Newsroom, a wizard–based user interface, provides several public relations templates for the creation, editing, publishing, and validation of feeds. While the cost of "less than $5 per day" may be steep compared to free services such as Ice Rocket's RSS Builder, Nooked does offer clients measurable user statistics. The company provides real time statistics about who is monitoring the channel, how often they are reading news stories, and if readers click through to the website. For more information about the product see the Nooked Guide. The real oddity in their list of customers is Six Apart France, a subsidiary of the company that develops Movable Type and TypePad. Governmental customers include: Leitrim County Council, Ireland Sligo County Council, Ireland Environmental Protection Agency, Ireland North Western Health Board, Ireland Northern Ireland Office The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister

Virginia Recognized for RSS Services


The State of Virginia was recently recognized by the Center for Digital Government with a third place ranking in the Best of the Web and Digital Government Achievement Awards. The recognition came largely for Virginia's new syndication and alert services. In recognizing the honor Governor Mark Warner said, "Our real-time online live help customer service continues to set the pace for the nation, and the portal's desktop alerts via live RSS feeds ensure that users always have access to the most current information." The VIPNet portal and its RSS feeds are managed by the Virginia Information Providers Network. There are currently at least 34 feeds. Virginia uses RSS feeds not only for alerts, but also for a monitoring service that keeps citizens informed of new resources and services added to the portal. In addition to providing standard fare such as feeds for press releases, emergency notifications, and what's new, creates feeds for lists of topical services and resources. You can subscribe to forms, licenses and permits, information about visiting Virginia, business resources, and many other topics. Any government or agency that creates Yahoo-style directory access to resources could use RSS feeds in the way that Virginia does. A neat side-benefit of streaming links in RSS is that it offers a built-in web--page monitoring service. Citizens using a news aggregator can subscribe to the page and be automatically notified when you've added new resources to the page. Neat! The next step would be to create a search of the directory and have that search create RSS feeds based on keyword queries. In way of example, take a look at the xmlhub Open Directory Search - Custom RSS Feed Generator which searches the DMOZ Open Directory and creates keyword query feeds. Not everyone lives in a state that has ready made feeds of this kind. If you find a resource page of interest thas has not yet been syndicated, converted them to RSS feeds, you can try scraping pages of interest using a tool like xmlhub's RSSgenr8: HTML to RSS Converter. Here's a list of some of the State of Virginia RSS feeds that you can subscribe to: Featured Sites Emergency Notifications Press Releases Contact Virginia Government Citizen Services Online Services Premium Services Family Services Family and Education Resources Education Resources Just for Fun Resources Government Resources Business and Professional Resources Business and Employment Resources Business Services Starting a Business Employment and Career Resources[...]

RSS News Feeds From


The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs now provides RSS feeds for top stories from the State Department homepage, daily press briefings, press releases, and remarks by Secretary of State Colin Powell. The RSS feeds are found at: You can also subscribe to email mailing lists to receive the full texts of selected U.S. Department of State documents and publications that provide key official information on U.S. foreign policy, notifications of travel warnings, and Foreign Travel Per Diem updates.

RSS Feeds from Delaware


The State of Delaware has two new RSS newsfeeds featured by links right off the state's homepage. As lead of the team that developed the feeds, I'm pleased to report this as a joint effort of our office, the Government Information Center (GIC) and the Register of Regulations. The first feed, - Statewide News is a general collection of news and press releases from across state agencies. The Current Monthly Register is the newsfeed equivalent of the The Delaware Register of Regulations, a monthly publication of all proposed regulatory changes, general notices, and final regulations from our partners in the Legislature. The Government Information Center is the office that manages the state portal, The mission of the GIC is to develop and deliver accurate and complete governmental information online. The office works with state agencies, legislators, the public and others to improve the delivery of government services and information through and other channels.

Utah Elected Officials Invited to Blog


Most states currently do not provide constituent service blogs for their legislators. One reason is the fear that blogs can be misused. Legislative staff make every effort to offer non-partisan services and information and fear that blogs could be used as state sponsored tools for campaigning. Most U.S. Representatives and Senators have both official governmental websites and private sites for operating campaigns. The question is, could state governments promote a similar dual model of separate sites/weblogs for constituent services and campaigning? Elected officials and those running for office have seen how RSS news syndiction can help them spread their message. Howard Dean rose out of obscurity last year using a combination of weblogging and local web meetups to become his party's front runner in the presidential race. Dean and others learned that this technology can even the playing field and allow someone to rapidly organize a grass roots campaign. RSS syndication can help create a dynamic website and produce both email and online newsletters in the same process. With legislative staffs slow to offer the service, there is an inviting market niche for the private sector. Recognizing this golden opportunity, LaVarr Web, Publisher of today issued an "Invitation to Blog" to elected officials and party leaders wishing to communicate directly to citizens. Mr. Webb writes: We would like to invite you to become a blogger. is creating the Utah Policymaker Blog and we hope you will be part of it. It is an opportunity for you, as a Utah policymaker, to publish your opinions, thoughts and ideas to a wide audience of opinion leaders. It is an opportunity to participate in an exciting new high-tech communications medium that is becoming a powerful tool in politics, business and in every walk of life. It's fun and exciting to be a blogger. You are probably aware of how bloggers are credited for toppling the powerful Dan Rather and CBS News. The phenomenon of blogging is growing rapidly and as a leader in Utah you ought to become familiar with this new method of communicating and use it to your advantage. In effect, Utah policymakers will have their own electronic publication in which to communicate with the public. Some reasons offers as to why elected officials ought to consider blogging include: You can communicate directly to citizens and other policymakers and opinion leaders without having your comments and opinions filtered by the news media. You can talk back to the news media. You can comment on news stories published by newspapers, and magazines and aired by television and radio. You can even link to the original articles. You can promote your pet projects, priorities, legislation, causes, and issues. You can respond to others' comments in the blog, creating a dialog. You can learn how to use an entirely new, and very powerful, communications channel. At some point you might want to create your own personal blog, and this will give you experience. You will be joining millions of other bloggers, some of whom have developed large followings. The Utah Policymaker Blog will become a very popular blog if enough policymakers participate. News reporters will read it for story ideas. It will help set the political agenda of the state. It will become a valuable forum for the exchange of opinions and ideas on public policy issues in Utah. Utah policymakers interested in the offer should send an e-mail expressing their interest to While the general public will be able to read the blogs, only invited policymakers (i.e. elected and appointed officials and a few [...]