Graham King

Solvitas perambulum

Why your company needs a feed reader on every desktop

A web feed is, to quote Wikipedia:

… a document (often XML-based) which contains content items, often summaries of stories or weblog posts with web links to longer versions. Weblogs and news websites are common sources for web feeds, but feeds are also used to deliver structured information ranging from weather data to “top ten” lists of hit tunes. The two main web feed formats are RSS (which is older and far more widely used) and Atom (a newer format that has just completed the IETF standardization process.) Feeds are subscribed to directly by users with aggregators or feed readers, which combine the contents of multiple web feeds for display on a single screen or series of screens

Aggregators and feed readers are widely used, but mainly by tech-savvy individuals. It’s time your company rolled out a feed reader on every desktop PC it owns. Here’s why:

It saves time

Most of your employees visit a certain set of sites regularly. Usually the sites of newspapers, their sports team, their friends site, and probably business specific sites such as financial information pages, industry insider sites, etc. All these sites will provide an feed – imagine the time your staff will save if the information comes to them, without them having to visit all these web sites every day. And feed readers are really easy to use – they make e-mail look complicated.

New business uses

Once your tech guys know everyone has a reader, they can start using it in internal applications. Feeds can include:

  • Audit trails – what data is being entered where and by whom.
  • CVs of job applicants.
  • Human Resources announcements: List of staff changes (hired, resigned, promotions, etc).
  • Management information – deal progress (bid, close, etc).
  • Internal blogs.

Technology team uses

The technology / IT team can make great use of feeds:

  • Version control check-ins.
  • Bug tracking system activity.
  • Changes to the internal Wiki.
  • Logging / Monitoring of machines and applications.
  • Reduce support – instead of an alert appearing on the support desk system, and someone being telephoned, the person responsible simply monitors the feed. No-one likes doing support – now they don’t have to !
  • New clients – Konfabulator, Google desktop sidebar, probably the Mac dashboard, and most of the worlds programming languages, can consume feeds (RSS or Atom). You can easily develop new widgets or applications to act on your feeds. By having your internal apps expose their data in feeds, you are enabling your IT team to build a whole new generation of applications.

Reduce e-mail clutter

All of the above could also be sent as regular e-mails to internal mailing lists. And they often are. I bet you have a range of filters in your e-mail client to move all that e-mail clutter (internal spam) to various folders. By replacing e-mail with feeds you:

  • Empower the users: Individuals monitor the feeds they want and don’t subscribe to the others.
  • Reclaim e-mail: All machine generated e-mail becomes feeds; the only e-mail you get is from real people, and as you don’t have to deal with the clutter, you’ll have time to read it !

Much better communication

That’s what it’s all about, By putting a feed everywhere you can, you are opening up your organisation to its employees. Internal staff can go probe any particular part of a business or IT system, and monitor it, learn about it, watch it live. Result: A better informed more pro-active team !

So, what are you waiting for. Evaluate a few from this list of feed readers, pick your favorite, and deploy it !