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6:00 am
May 1, 2005
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RSS for Maintenance and Reliability

You have probably heard about blogs (weblogs) by now. For example, MaintenanceTalk.com features nine different maintenance-related blogs by various authors, including a terrific motor blog series by Howard Penrose, Ph.D. More than likely you have heard about other more popular political blogs, like the one that uncovered the recent CBS news debacle.

This column is not about blogs but deals with one of the aspects of a blog that makes the technology unique called real simple syndication (RSS).

According to XML.com, RSS is a format for syndicating news and the content of news-like sites, including major news sites like BBC and Wired, news-oriented community sites like Slashdot, and personal weblogs. But it is not just for news. Almost anything that can be broken down into discrete items can be syndicated via RSS—the recent changes page of a wiki or the revision history of a book. Once information about each item is in RSS format, an RSS-aware program can check the feed for changes and react to the changes in an appropriate way.

A program known as a feed reader or aggregator (see sidebar) can check RSS-enabled Web pages on behalf of a user and display any updated articles that it finds. RSS saves users from having to repeatedly visit Web sites to check for new content or be notified of updates via e-mail. It is common to find RSS feeds on most major Web sites, as well as many smaller ones.

Many weblogs make content available in RSS. A news aggregator can help you keep up with all your favorite weblogs by checking their RSS feeds and displaying new items from each of them. Audio information also is available via RSS and is known as a podcast (as in “iPod + broadcast”) or audioblog.

An orange rectangle with the letters XML ( ) or RSS () is often used as a link to a site’s RSS feed. Click the icon and a page will appear with XML programming code on it. Ignore the page content and simply copy and paste the URL that is displayed in your browser address window. Add the URL to your news reader in order to be “subscribed” to the RSS feed.

I was recently involved with a software project similar to a CMMS implementation and the manager used Basecamp as the project management tool. I could (and may) devote an entire column to online project management software; however, now I will simply point out that I used the Basecamp software RSS feed (added to my MyYahoo! start page—see Internet Tip) to stay current with project communication, milestones, key contacts, and feedback. It was one of the best projects I have worked on and all parties were remote. The project was a raging success.

I also like to track comments and new postings on Maintenance Forums’ threaded discussion boards so I added the site’s RSS feeds to my Tristana news reader (see sidebar) and to my MyYahoo! start page. It saves me from having to check by e-mail or having to visit the Web site. Once I have clicked a link, it changes color to let me know I have already read it.

RSS is not just a way to get news and blogs delivered to your desktop; it is actually a more useful e-mail alternative as all related feeds are organized and archived for easy access when a look back is required.

We are collecting links to all maintenance-related RSS feeds. Please e-mail me if you know any good feeds we can share.

Terrence O’Hanlon, CMRP, is the publisher of Reliabilityweb.com. He is the director of strategic alliances for the Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals (SMRP). He is also the event manager for CMMS-2005, the Computerized Maintenance Management Summit on July 26-29, 2005, in Indianapolis, IN

RSS FEED NEWS READERS

These readers offer free download and deliver directly to your desktop.

Tristana Maintenance News Reader

Pluck

NewsGator

INTERNET TIP: GETTING RSS FEEDS AT MYYAHOO!

If you are one of the millions who have Yahoo e-mail accounts or use Yahoo Instant Messenger, then you probably have a MyYahoo.com start page that you can customize with news, new movie releases, company stock news, and weather reports.

In the old days of the Web (more than 6 months ago) you could add only Yahoo-supplied content to your MyYahoo! page. Now with the wonders of RSS and XML you can add any information that offers an RSS feed.

To add RSS content to MyYahoo!:

1. Log into your MyYahoo.com start page.

2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and look for the blue and white “Add Content” button.

3. A search box will appear with a Find button.

4. Click the “add RSS by URL” link to the right of the find button.

5. Copy and paste your RSS URL into the box and click “Add.” You get the RSS feed you want by clicking the orange RSS/XML icon and copying the resulting URL into your clipboard.

6. You can rearrange the order and where the RSS feed appears on your MyYahoo! page as well.

If you do not have a MyYahoo! account, get one; it is free and includes a free 2 GB e-mail account (that is not owned by your employer) and lots of other awesome tools like adding your own RSS feeds to your customized start page.


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