It’s not often that I talk about work. Frankly, I talk enough about work… at work. Besides, I know that most of you don’t want to hear the geeky details of my daily work life anyways.
Today, however, I launched something that’s as close to cutting edge as we get at Praxair – an RSS feed for Praxair.com.
Many of you I’m sure don’t know what RSS is, or how it’s useful. I know this because many people in IT don’t know what RSS is, or how it’s useful. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. It’s a different way for websites to distribute their content, and more importantly a different way for you to consume it.
Bloggers and blog readers will love this as soon as they start using it. Almost all blogging software automatically creates an RSS feed for a blog’s content. Most bloggers not only write, but read a large number of blogs. Having a huge list of bookmarks to click through and check to see if there’s anything new isn’t a very efficient way to keep track of your favorite sites. This is where RSS helps out. When you subscribe, or add a feed to your RSS reader, it keeps track of what articles you’ve read and which ones you haven’t. Depending on your reader, you can click a button or even schedule it to automatically go and check all of the feeds you’re subscribed to for new content. This makes it very easy and very quick to see if any of your favorite bloggers have posted anything new.
I use the Sage RSS Reader plugin for Firefox. This enables me to never have to leave my browser. Firefox’s built-in Live Bookmarks feature is also a way of viewing RSS feeds. Internet Explorer 7 provides the capability to subscribe and manage feeds in the browser as well. Alternatively, there are several websites that will let you keep track of feeds, such as Bloglines or even the My Yahoo portal. Using Sage, I easily track about 75 different websites. If you use multiple computers, you can easily export and import your feed list, or choose to use one of the web hosted services.
For the Lotus geeks out there, for Praxair.com I implemented an agent to dynamically create the feed. For now, we’re only supporting one feed, but the way the agent is constructed I can dynamically pass in the name of a view and a feed will automatically be rendered for the documents in that view. The feed title is also passed in, but the number of documents in the feed (at this point) is set in the agent. For now, we’re only providing excerpts of articles since the content is stored in Rich Text and rendered dynamically by Domino. We’re looking to provide the full HTML of the articles in the future, which makes for better usability for mobile devices and low-bandwidth connections.
It’s pretty exciting for me to be able to 1. work on something fairly close to the cutting edge, and 2. actually have something that I can show people outside of Praxair. So I did. 🙂