Enable your repository to feed the world

I’ve been thinking and talking about RSS feeds (or Atom feeds if you’d prefer) from repositories recently with Les Carr to see what could be done with them when aggregated with feeds from all of the open access repositories across the globe. Les wrote a script to aggregate the feeds, so I provided him with a list of computed RSS feed addresses of all of the UK DSpace repositories. Les had problems with the majority of the URLs because they didn’t provide RSS feeds as expected. I assumed the little script that I’d written to concoct the feed URLs from the repository URLs held in ROAR wasn’t working correctly, so I spent half an hour last night going through the list by hand. This corroborated what Les had found. The URLs should┬áhave been right, but:

Of the 26 UK DSpace repositories listed in ROAR, only 8 had working RSS feeds!

Yes, that’s a measly 30% which have this facility enabled. So if you are running DSpace 1.4 or later, please please please edit dspace.cfg and change ‘webui.feed.enable = false‘ to ‘webui.feed.enable = true‘. Ditto for the equivalent configuration if you run an alternative repository platform.

There has started to be a lot of talk about what services feeds could enable us to build, and I predict that we’ll start seeing some novel and exciting uses of these feeds over the coming year. Enable your feeds, expose yourself, and be part of it! :)

2 thoughts on “Enable your repository to feed the world

  1. Colin Smith

    One of the things I would like to be able to do with feeds is enable individual users to tailor them to suit their needs. For example, rather than have results appear in the order in which they were added to the repository, choose instead to have them ordered by publication date or item type. For users interested in embedding a publication list in their personal website that dynamically updates this would be invaluable. When you click on the RSS or Atom logo to set up your feed, it would be really nice if you could be presented with a set of preferences for your feed.

    We have worked hard recently to make sure our repository ‘looks nice’ for linking to, e.g. changing code in EPrints to reflect Harvard style referencing and making sure ‘browse by author’ views are in chronological order (as you would expect for a publicatons list on your website or a CV). This is great, but I would like the options for outputting from the repository (by RSS) to be as good as those for linking to. Is this a theoretical possibility, or am I dreaming? My limited understanding of RSS is that it is a global standard that has little scope for customisation, but being a non-techie I could be completely wrong!

  2. Les Carr

    Colin said: “rather than have results appear in the order in which they were added to the repository, choose instead to have them ordered by publication date or item type”

    I’d take the view that a feed can be “fed” from anything. A feed from a website would list the recent “pages”, a feed from a repository lists the recent “items” and a feed from an individual’s career might list their recent “publications”. You apply the semantics you want.

    Having thought about it for a few weeks, I think that a centralised repository RSS service might be better off synthesising its own RSS feeds directly from repository data (OAI-PMH and OAI-ORE). There’s a big variation in what different platforms (and different versions of different platforms) will put in an RSS feed, and it would be nice to present all repositories on an even footing – preview images and all.

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