I’m doing a bit of homework in advance of some professional development sessions I’ll be sharing next month down south in Texas, and noticed today the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is providing several different web feeds of content on their main site.
This is a GOOD step in the right direction, and hopefully we’ll see ALL state agencies (including our respective state departments of education) following this best practice. Unfortunately, however, TEA is just using “partial text RSS feeds.” As you can see below, TEA web feeds ONLY include an introductory sentence or two, and then users must link to their actual site to view the entire article. (This is a view of a web feed in the Safari web browser.)
Partial web feeds suck. (I tried to find a different word to use here, but synonyms like “disappointing” don’t adequately convey the negativity and disapproval I want to communicate.) The debate over full and partial web feeds isn’t new. Rob Cottingham’s cartoon below suggests partial RSS feed websites may die a rather ugly and premature death, but unfortunately in the commercial realm that certainly isn’t universal.
While the New York Times may insist on using only partial web feeds, government agencies and non-profits should NOT. A good case can be made that commercial organizations should not use partial web feeds either, but I’m not going to try and fully make that case here – I’ll settle for a focus on governmental sites. The recently released Flipboard application for the iPad provides a good case study for why people accessing digital content EXPECT and should be provided with full text RSS feeds. (Video link)
Who is paying the bills for state departments of education to exist? We are, the taxpayers. Information on the web is most useful and powerful when it can be freely embedded and re-channeled. By providing content in full text RSS feeds, applications like Flipboard, Reeder, Google Reader, and many others can bring full text content (hopefully with accompanying multimedia) to users. Because (as taxpayers) we’re the ones already paying for content to be published and shared, we should be able to get/access our content the way we want it: As full-text RSS feeds.
With partial RSS / web feeds, our abilities to efficiently consume and process content will remain crippled.
Is your state department of education providing full text RSS / web feeds yet? If so, please share the links! I’d love to check out their sites AND subscribe to their content. 🙂
H/T to Robert Scoble for alerting me about Flipboard. Today it appears their servers are overwhelmed with new users. Hopefully that will be remedied soon. Applications like this are EXACTLY what I want to use on my iPad!
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