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published: March 2004
analytic scripts updated:  October 28, 2010

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Museums and the Web 2003 Papers

The 24 Hour Museum RSS Newsfeed

Jonathan Pratty, 24 Hour Museum, United Kingdom



In a paper delivered to Museums and the Web  2003, Professor Jonathan Bowen of London South Bank University called for a museum sector news feed to be developed. At the 24 Hour Museum (Britain's National Virtual Museum) we had been developing an RSS 2.0 news feed since 2002 of our exhibition reviews, museum news stories and heritage trails. On the face of it, arranging an XML news feed should be relatively simple. Not the case, in fact. What format - RSS 1.0 or 2.0? How much content do you need? When you've got your feed working, will anyone use it? How can you tell? Copyright issues and ways to market the feed are also issues that are explored in this paper. The 24 HM RSS feed is, as far as we are aware, the UK's first museum and gallery news feed, and it has already boosted our reader figures by approx. 20%. The mini-workshop that accompanies this paper will explore the issues we've encountered, and hopefully ease the path for others to follow.

Keywords: RSS, News feed, RDF, XML, Museum Web site, Virtual Museum, Web logs 

24 hour Museum National Virtual Museum

 Figure 1:  The homepage of the 24 Hour Museum at http://www.24hourmuseum.org.uk


In his paper (Bowen, Houghton and Bernier, 2003) delivered to Museums and the Web 2003, Professor Jonathan Bowen of London South Bank University called for a museum sector xml news feed to be developed. Jonathan didn't know this, but at 24 Hour Museum,  (http://www.24hourmuseum.org.uk) Britain's National Virtual Museum, we had already been developing since summer 2002 an RSS 2.00 format news feed, http://www.24hourmuseum.org.uk/home.rss, of our exhibition reviews, museum news stories and heritage trails. Jonathan Bowen wrote:

Overall there are not yet many news feeds directly relevant to museum personnel and available online.

There are also not many museums using this technology to provide news feeds on developments at their museum. This is a technology that larger museums should be considering now if they are not already doing so, both in terms of gathering relevant news and providing topical information. It is certainly an excellent way to help increase the dynamic aspects of a Web  site, and important to increase repeat visits by users.

So what exactly is a news feed, and what's all the fuss about? To find some of the answers to these questions, and to relate this issue to the museum sector, I think it's a good idea for those of us here at the workshop to look at our own institutions, and ask ourselves some questions.

How many people work in your museum? If you're a mid-sized institution or something smaller, you probably don't have many people to spare to work on a Web site for the museum or gallery. In the UK, just like most other places, lots of smaller museums are entirely run by volunteers. This means that where Web sites exist in the UK museum sector, for smaller institutions they very often consist of not much more than one or two pages of old fashioned html with contact details and collection info. I think it's realistic to say that in the next few years at least, not much is going to change in this scenario. Funding restrictions being what they are, what there is now is what we will have for some time to come.

Picture this then: having a slot on your current museum Web site homepage that presents live links to up-to-the-minute news from the cultural world, listings from museums in your area as well as local info about your own museum. Imagine that! And even better than that, bearing in mind what we just said about our collective lack of resources, imagine if this content were completely free, and wouldn't it be great if it looked after itself?

Imagine if this super content attracted droves and droves of new readers to your site, via the major search engines. Picture the scene as readers find more and more to look at each visitor session. Gaze in wonder as your average user session length doubles.

Interested In Broadcasting A Feed?

Maybe you're a museum with a really interesting, really topical and high quality, unique collection. Let's say it is about Native American arts. Maybe you are spending time on making some online resources, but your Web site just isn't showing on Google. You get just a few thousand visitors to your site, probably the same ones for the last few years. Wouldn't it be great to get your resources out in front of a completely different audience?

Would you like to bring home those new IP addresses to your server and maybe even, perish the thought, grab some new visitors to the museum, in real life? What if you could publish to these new audiences just by adding some funny code to your Web site?

You can't be serious! Such things don't exist, do they? Well, in fact, yes they do. I'm talking about a wondrous thing called an RSS news feed. They do exist, there are some in our sector, and they offer free content, and they are reasonably cheap to set up as feeds for others to use. These are some minor costs, but nothing to worry the trustees too much about.

What is an RSS news feed?

According to the current Microsoft Technet notes, a news feed is  'the flow of items from one USENET site to another.' Sounds obscure and very out of date to me, and it's a gross oversimplification.

Is it one of those old-style JavaScript tickertape things running across the monitor? You know, the sort of thing that you glimpse annoyingly and then wonder if it really said 'Elvis found alive on Mars' or something less exciting? No - it's not that either!

In fact, an RSS news feed is an output of simple code, called XML (eXtensible Markup Language:  http://www.w3.org/XML/) broadcast by news feed syndicating Web sites. If you are seeking content on your Web site, the output sends small packets of XML text files which appear on your Web site as hyperlinks to new content on the broadcasters' Web site. To 'pick up' the broadcast of RSS news feed, your technical team (if you have one) just copies a little bit of html look-alike code and paste it into your homepage html. This bit of code appears on your screen as a newsfeed.

If the feed publisher puts up a new story, then a link to the new content appears instantly on your site. Readers are linked to the parent Web site to read the story. Worried about readers leaving your site? Experts think this is not a significant flaw, compared to the benefits to readers of more content. An abstract from the story, perhaps twenty words or so, can appear under the link, giving readers the chance to browse the content. These feeds often appear on Web sites within a box, or graphic enclosure. The content originator's logo usually appears inside the box, so you know you are looking at published output from another site.

Megalithic news feed

Figure 2:  News feed from the Megalithic Portal as seen on 24 Hour Museum test page. http://www.megalithic.co.uk

The content may well have an RSS logo, denoting that it is available for others to link to as a free feed as well. What does the acronym mean? Well, just to confuse you, there are subtle differences to the acronym depending on which version of RSS (0.9, 1.0 or 2.0 and more) you are enquiring about. There's Really Simple Syndication, Rich Site Summary or RDF Site Summary. Take your pick.

How Do News Feeds Really Work?

If the explanation in broad terms above satisfies your curiosity, fine. I won't have to tell you about "the RSS wars!" But sadly in the digital world things are never as simple and well defined as my earlier explanation. In the case of the 24 Hour Museum, the Index + content management system from London company System Simulation Limited (http://www.ssl.co.uk) that powers the Web site has been modified to include an output of RSS 2.0 xml. 

As well as powering news feed boxes on Web sites, RSS output allows individual users to download simple feed-reading programs such as Feedreader, Amphetadesk and Newsgator to pick up the headlines from the Web site. So – RSS feeds appearing on third party Web sites can be downloaded to feed readers, and they are also easily found by Google and can be incorporated into Web logs.

News feed example

 Figure 3:  How the 24 Hour Museum feed appears on a client site, the Wessex Archaeology Web site. http://www.wessexarch.co.uk/

Here's what the 24 Hour Museum feed looks like [above] on the Web site of Wessex Archaeology. The site was one of the first external publishers to take the 24 HM feed. This is a good example of how RSS output can be represented on your own Web site in a graphic box, complete with logo to advertise the origin of the feed.

News Now

Figure 4:  Showing how the 24 HM feed appears on News Now, a feed agglomeration Web  site. http://www.newsnow.co.uk

Here's what happens if your content is picked up as a newsfeed by aggregators such as www.newsnow.com. Sites like this [above] collect together vast numbers of feeds on every subject you can imagine. They display the content on portal sites like this, but also sell customized feeds to client Web sites. The screen grab shows how a 24 HM story is represented on the main NewsNow site, and then is fed out to customer feeds.

story in a feed reader

Figure 5: 24 Hour Museum story seen within a desktop feed reader.

If you download a feedreading program, this is what the 24 Hour Museum news feed looks like running locally on your machine. Here's a view [above] of Feedreader, and Newsgator looks much the same, though it works through Outlook, as a folder within your email client. If you see an orange RSS symbol on a Web site, it means there's a news feed available. This means we can say the site is 'syndicated'.

RSS Express Lite

Figure 6: Using RSS Express Lite to copy and paste a feed into 24 HM Web site. http://rssxpress.ukoln.ac.uk/lite/ 

RSS Express Lite is a centre of interest for all feed fiends, situated within the UK Online (http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/) Web site. Within the pages you'll find an easy-to-use tool [above] to incorporate RSS news feed within your own Web site. I tried it using my own CMS, Index +, and it worked right away.


While on the face of it, arranging the broadcast of an RSS news feed should be relatively simple, when you go further into it, there are distinct complications. In the research and planning phase, decisions need to be taken about the RSS format to be used. Should you adopt RSS 1.0 or 2.00 - or whatever variation is next?

In theory it should not matter if your organisation chose 1.0 or 2.0. At 24 Hour Museum we chose to use RSS 2.0, because a search of mass publishing organisations showed this was numerically the most popular version. Look at the Syndic8.com Web site for further info about version popularity: http://www.syndic8.com/stats.php?Section=rss

I say numerically, because I do not want to imply this version is technologically superior. It may be, but the jury is out on whether technical superiority is more important than ubiquity - which after all is one of the key factors in the chain reaction that gives Web objects, ideas or sites a viral quality. RSS 1.0 was born out of the W3C's Resource Description Framework for metadata. It's thought by some to be generally more flexible in operation than 2.0, but it is possibly more complex (verbose, say the programmers) technically. In this case RSS stands for RDF Site Summary. You can find out more about the W3C vision for 1.0 by visiting this site (http://www.w3.org/TR/2004/REC-rdf-primer-20040210/

RSS 2.0 is derived in part from RSS 0.9x and was popularised by David Winer, now a fellow at Harvard Law School. You can find out more about 2.0 at ( http://backend.userland.com/rss ) and just to confuse you, in this case, with 2.0, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. Amazingly, not long back, the various developers and programmers behind each version of RSS got very, very hotly engaged in debate about the relative merits of each version. Just type 'RSS Wars' into Google and some very unpleasant accusations and counter-accusations can be found.  I guess it was the impersonality of the Web, e-mail and Web logs that encouraged the factions in the RSS Wars to get at each other's throats. The discourse became personal, the jibes actionable.

So I'm not going to repeat any of the points made in the slanging. There's an article on CNET tech news about the situation that summarises some of went on. Find it here (http://news.com.com/2009-1032_3-5059006.html) Needless to say, this version of "the wars" is also disputed by some of the parties, so read it with caution. We chose RSS 2.00 because we are publishers first, and museum curators, librarians, archivists second. The wisdom of this decision will be questioned if problems arise, but it is clear that our strategic direction as an organisation is to move closely towards any public sector ICT standards as they develop.

What Are The Implications Of The Wrong Choice?

If our funders, the UK government and its agency the Museums Libraries and Archives Council (http://www.mla.gov.uk) develop RSS and XML standards, then we will follow these. We are looking closely at the example of JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee at: http://www.jisc.ac.uk) and UK Online (http://www.ukonline.gov.uk) who follow the RSS 1.0 route. 

What factors should influence your choice of format? Based on our experience, I'd advocate working out who your users are. If you're running a Web site this is second nature. If you're running an academic site or involved in the higher or further education sector, then RSS 1.0 may be the best choice. It should not be forgotten that RSS1.0 is the preferred standard advanced by the W3C. As briefly mentioned earlier, I believe JISC has chosen RSS 1.0, and this will be likely to influence most of the University sector in the UK. Paul Miller of UK Online has put together some guidelines for best practice is public sector use of feeds. Miller commends RSS 1.0 for its flexibility. Read about his guidelines here: (http://www.eevl.ac.uk/rss_primer/#eight)

If you are a museum sector organisation, the choice is more complicated. Are you aiming at publishing your collection details to the wider general public, or to the academic sector? Governmental policy in Great Britain is to increase access for all to the UK's culture and collections. I would argue this means using a wider, more Web popular format such as RSS 2.0. Worldwide, 2.0 and its precursors seem to be most popular now, as we saw earlier on the Syndic8 Web site. Also interesting in the Syndic8 figures is the growth in popularity of newsfeeds and RSS - the last quarter of 2003, first quarter 2004, saw a steep rise in interest in feeds presumably driven by the rising popularity of Weblogs.

Mark Nottingham, in his useful notes about RSS, says this about the version wars:

People tend to get into heated discussions about the better format. Ultimately, it's a choice you shouldn't worry too much over; good RSS tools and aggregators will understand both formats.

Find out more about Mark's work at: (http://www.mnot.net/rss/tutorial/). There's a vintage Web page  (circa 1998 – with digital cobWeb s!) about the beginnings of RSS here: (http://my.netscape.com/publish/formats/rss-spec-0.91.html. If you don't want to get caught between standards and your budget will stretch to both formats, then consider using both - this is what we are working towards at 24 Hour Museum.

How Often Should The Feed Be Updated?

As a publisher of a feed, how much content should you present and how often? This clearly will be different from case to case, because publishers may be producing different types of output –listings, text, database information etc. Our experience as editorial publishers has shown the feed of stories going out of the site needs to be as frequently updated as possible. When the current editorial team took over the running of the site (in March 2001) site updates happened every fortnight. Five or six short, generally un-illustrated stories were uploaded, with only the top two or three features given photo illustrations.

Clearly this sort of content was not going to create too much competition for the BBC or CNN. The team became more competent and a funding uplift came from Resource, the Council for Museums Libraries and Archives in the UK. Extra staff were taken on, enabling the frequency of updates to be increased weekly, first, then every other day.

This level of updating made it possible to consider the creation of a news feed, and in late 2002 plans were set in motion to get editorial resources in place to update every day. A key part of the plan was the development of a national student arts writer network. These great people write for us, get their stories published, and get sent to press views and days out to view new exhibitions. This expanded editorial capability was our cue to set up the news feed. The site now feeds out two new stories, sometimes more, each day.

In terms of developing more frequent updates than that, just look at the sort of publishers who do more updating and what they publish. You"ll often find frequently updated stories about the cultural sector on the BBC Web site, but just like any other mass publisher, the updates are often just refreshed stories that originated earlier in the day with a different title. It is our intention not to go down that route, but to broaden subject matter, geographical coverage, and theming of our feed.

Plan To Develop Content Ready To Feed

It"s important to look at the publishing environment around you as you plan your content. If you"re putting out stories about your museum education officer and her or his latest classroom project, don"t bother doing a story for the news feed if it"s already been on local radio, newspapers and the sector press.

It"s important to consider if the content is new enough for the feed. So if you plan some new projects, put news about these on your feed first – make it a news source, a first point of contact for the media. Plan to publish stories about your activities, but also consider outputting listings. Some museums put out lots of press releases – why not consider feeding the releases out via RSS?

When You've Got Your Feed Working - Who Will Use It?

If you are planning to broadcast a feed, consider who it's aimed at. We undertook basic research in four ways to establish the likely attraction of a feed to users of the site and other Web masters.

First, we researched similar feeds on the Web . Secondly, we researched likely demand within our sector at conferences. Third, we looked at the quality and accuracy of other content out there on the Web. Lastly, we analyzed user behavior from our statistics package, Summary (http://www.summary.net) and from our own pop-up survey of user wants and demands, from a sample of 1000 site users in 2003. 

On the Web, my initial suspicion was that aggregators such as NewsNow, Syndic8.com or Moreover.com would be the principal places our project would find an outlet. I came across NewsNow when working for the Daily Telegraph in London. My editor had a pop-up window on his desktop and every now and then a story appeared on the screen as a link. What intrigued me was the links were for a variety of sites - he was picking up a series of selected feeds from disparate sources. This was an early version of NewsNow.

Journalists in the Internet age use the Web constantly, for background research and for story finding. I knew from my own journalistic experience if we could get 24 Hour Museum content into a news feed then we'd be extending the reach of our content, and doing even more marketing for the museums in our database.  To prove my point about the lack of UK museum content being fed out to readers, type the word "museum" into the search window on http://www.newsnow.co.uk. It brings up few dedicated museum news sources, especially in the UK. Most sources of museum stories for the national and specialist press were found to be local newspaper Web sites, often written from a general point of view, and often wrong or inaccurate.

So our research told us there was a place on-line for a news source that wrote accurately and with authority and validation from the museum sector about stories from our institutions. 24 Hour Museum user surveys clearly show our readers find our stories have these qualities in abundance. The media agree too - even before the 24 HM news feed went live, we were already regarded as a primary source of news ideas for journalists. 5% of our 140,000 monthly visitor sessions before the feed went live in early 2003 were journalists looking for stories.

Apart from aggregators, who else was the feed aimed at? Web site managers in the leisure, heritage or museum sector were key targets. We identified a sector of Web sites that wanted extra content but had neither the funds nor the personnel to write stories: typically, a local museum Web site, or a larger organisation such as one of our new Museum Library and Archive Councils.

A recent inquiry came from the South West Museum Libraries and Archives Council. The ICT officer asked for guidance on how to put the feed on his homepage. I directed him to the RSS Express Web site (http://rssxpress.ukoln.ac.uk/lite/include/) where you can type in the feed url, generate some code by pressing a button, and then cut and paste the text code into your own site. This then pops up the feed with a logo to suit. The ICT officer and I discussed previously who the audience would be for this. My point was site visitors to a museum profession Web site also want to know about cultural news, so why not give them a helping of it on the site? Some museum staff asked me if it was appropriate for general news to be on a specialist site. My researches say yes, it is appropriate.

In fact, using Summary software, we've identified a whole new sector of consumers and publishing clients for our news feed. Our next challenge is how to deploy the feed further to mass broadcasters.

Benchmarking And Measuring The Feed

As soon as you have incorporated a feed in your output, or a feed on your pages, you need to start benchmarking and measuring the effect it has on your visitor figures.  At 24 Hour Museum there was an immediate increase on visitors as soon as the feed went live in June 2003.

This table, below, shows the effect on visitor sessions, page impressions and IP addresses. At this stage, little or no promotion of the feed was carried out. The point of this was to see if one single vendor of the feed could be tracked, and to track the gradual increase in users as promotion of the feed began.

page views increasing over the year

Figure 7: Table from Summary statistical analysis of 2003 visitor figures to 24 HM 

Further research into our visitor figures showed a strong increase in referrers after the introduction of the news feed. This feed, in addition to a proactive linking policy, means that we are being picked up by a vastly increased number of places - 1,080 referring domains in Oct '03 compared to 695 in Jan '03. 

Further statistical evidence of the spread of the feed can be seen below. In this illustration, from our Summary stats interface, it can be seen that the RSS news feed url has become the third most popular entry point to the site, after the homepage and the news section. Although the value for the feed is relatively low compared to the figures above it, the RSS entries are considerably higher than the next most frequent entry point.

statistical summary

  Figure 8:  Image of Summary statistical interface showing RSS as third most popular entry point to site

Specific news feed successes in 2003 included one item that was picked up by the Archeologica news feed  (http://www.archaeologica.org/NewsPage.htm) As a result, 1.52% of all visitors in October 2003 came from that link. This was the highest referrer after the top search engines and equates to over 2,300 people. Our Stonehenge axe carvings story, from 16/10/2003, received 3,173 visits in total during October 2003. 1,366 visitors entered the site at this page suggesting it was found via news feed. The story also got 507 visits on one day (October 17) from www.slashdot.org

There are numerous examples of the news feed being picked up by 'bloggers.' An interesting example is from the Web log of the Senior Lecturer in the School of Computing Science at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. There were 147 visits to the "Stonehenge Sensation - Scanning Reveals Axe Carvings" story from a link in her log. Thanks!

Another good example of a blogger linking to the feed can be found here - the Archaeology in Europe Blog owned by David Beard. (http://www.archaeology.eu.com/Web log/)

Title Is Everything

It"s become clear to us at 24 HM that titles of feed stories need to incorporate keywords such as venue, era and theme. Neglecting these formulae means that Google users and automatically sorted agglomerated feeds, such as NewsNow, simply don"t spot the key words.

Also important is to look into when you publish or allow other sites to harvest you. NewsNow visits 24 HM at 3 am (GMT) just after the site makes its nightly update. Next morning, NewsNow readers won"t see the night story at the top of their feed list, because subsequently harvested links appear there. We"re looking into updating the site much later, at about 7.30 am, to see if we can manipulate the feeds and syndicators into putting our stories at the top of the morning list.

That"s a European outlook, however, and it"s key to realize that feeds make your content available internationally. Consider language. Don"t use slang expressions, acronyms, metaphors and obscure terms. You are often feeding content to people whose first language is not your own. Use simple accessible jargon-free language that is easy to translate, especially in story titles.

How To Approach Marketing The Feed To Major Users 

Our next challenge is how to deploy the feed further. There are three ways to do this. First, we mechanically submit the feed to syndicating Web sites, such as Moreover, Google news and Syndic8.com. Secondly, we directly market the feed to our sector partners, and to bigger media organisations. Thirdly, we do our own PR for the project.

Registering the feed with organisations like Syndic8 is easy. Visit the Syndic8 site at (http://www.syndic8.com/) and enter the feed url into the registration window. Verification may be necessary, in which case you need to enter your url and wait for the results. This may not be as clear-cut as it seems. If you're using RSS 2.0 we found some issues to do with which diacritic entities are used in copy. Where there is an apostrophe, for example, you may need to be using Windows entities, not ISO equivalents. Failing verification may not prevent your feed from being syndicated.

That might sound complex, but it's not. Web masters know to use safe coding to avoid diacritic characters displaying wrongly in other browsers or character sets. It's customary to use entities to represent dollar signs, pound signs or speech marks for example. Using XML, it seems critical that you get the correct entity sets. I'm not quite sure where we are with this yet, and we are currently having problems with verifying our feed in some cases. We're exploring this issue.

Once the feed is accepted by organisations like Syndic8, it appears in their global list of feeds, and is propagated even further away from your originating Web site - a fascinating prospect. Moreover and NewsNow list thousands of feeds and the audience grows rapidly.

Getting other media partners interested is a new challenge for 24 Hour Museum. We know other heritage and culture sector Web sites are keen to get the feed, but we have found it important to 'market' the unique nature of our editorial product to get the feed accepted. We need to promote the quality of the writing, which is carefully styled to use plain English, accessible grammar and short paragraphs. The close contact we have with museums and galleries in the UK is key to winning bigger partners for the content. We are working towards partnerships with large tourism organisations, heritage agencies and broadcasters. Many of these organisations, for one reason or another, cannot deploy resources to build up the network of contacts and volunteer writers that 24 HM can muster - all the more reason to take our feed.

Our final means of selling the feed was by a proactive PR campaign, using email lists, press releases on the press section of the site, and news stories and a permanent page on the site dedicated to the feed. Writing stories about the feed on our site was interesting - because naturally the stories then went out on the feed itself - and were then traceable via Google. Searches about the feed produced acres of results, showing that news about the project reached the RSS community very efficiently indeed - via RSS!

Who Will Sue You?

It's possible that museum trustees would blow a fuse if you suggested that on-line resources about the institution's collections should be given away free, with little or no regard for copyright infringement. But development of Tim Berners-Lees' semantic Internet (Berners-Lee, 2000) would probably grind to a halt if organizations and individuals stuck to conventional ideas of copyright protection.

This facet of RSS development is still riddled with contradictions. At 24 Hour Museum we are committed to giving our content away for free: the purpose is to get the message about Britain"s fantastic cultural assets out to a wider audience than ever before.

So it"s in our interests to propagate content to as many people and Web sites and Web logs as possible. Our initial research showed that the feed would possibly have a monetary value – sites may pay to receive a feed. NewsNow sells subscriptions to customized feeds and this is a way forward. But we"d get into all sorts of trouble with this. We really needed to make this free. 

That said, there are indeed copyright implications. Our writers often give their time for free. They still own the "moral copyright" in UK law of the copy. If someone took our feed, copied the text, and added a personal name or byline, we"d want to know about it. This practice, if it occurs, de-motivates volunteer writers and make our job harder. In addition to that, pictures for stories from third party sources often come with limited permission for reproduction. We work very hard to ensure compliance with copyright restrictions. This situation is complicated enormously if content appears on a third party site.

Thankfully, one of the joys of RSS is that the copy is viewed on the site of the publisher. This makes it easier for us in legal terms, because publishing is taking place on our site, for example, with full caption and copyright information displayed with the story. In essence, it easier with RSS to keep control of copyright items.    

See this approach from the Science Daily Web site:

If you're a Web master, we encourage you to integrate our news feed into your Web  site, so long as you do not post our full-text articles, and so long as you provide proper attribution to ScienceDaily and a link back to our site (http://www.sciencedaily.com).

Terms and conditions and copyright info like these can be parceled-up with the feed and read at the bottom of the RSS story.  Organizations such as Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org/) are developing flexible tools to add packets of XML info to RSS items, allowing a Creative Commons license to be downloaded along with the copy. This is an interesting approach – in essence the precise copyright permission for any piece of content can be added to it as metadata. 24 Hour Museum will be looking very carefully into this new prospect, as it could be a powerful new tool in arguing for freer copyright attitudes among institutions in the UK museum and gallery sector.  

 Endgame: Where To Now?

The 24 Hour Museum RSS news feed is, as far as we are aware, the UK's first museum and gallery news feed, and it has already boosted our reader figures by approx. 20%. We"d like to further encourage take up of the feed by museum sector organizations, regional portals, subject specialist portals, national broadcasters and ISPs. To encourage take up by those with low resources, we need to develop custom facilities to add feeds to html and database driven pages, like the exemplary RSS Express Lite Web Pages. We need to examine the marketing and design needs of possible customers for the feed. Alternative versions of the graphic feed box need to be coded, and these need to be easy to use. There is also a need to explain to users the editorial context for using the feed. Audience research sensitive to the regional museum context would help to persuade users to add the feature to their Web sites.   

Further plans, based on feedback from users, possibly now include themed feeds on subjects we write about frequently, such as archaeology, art and so on. We already have a powerful listings and events database fed with information by 1000 museums and galleries all over Britain. It would be great to offer regional, city-based and national listings. It is planned that the 24 Hour Museum databases of events and institutions will be "regionalized" so that venue records and story and event records "belong" to a region. This will be the next step towards regionalized feeds.  

In summary, I would like to encourage museum sector ICT staff to find out about RSS technology and the semantic Internet. It has opened up a fascinating new range of opportunities and audiences for the 24 Hour Museum. Get feeding!     


Thanks to Professor Jonathan Bowen of LSBU, Dr. Brian Kelly of UK Web  Focus, UK Online, Andy Powell, UK Online, Sacha Varma SSL Ltd.

In 2003 Jon devised and launched the UK"s first dedicated museum and gallery news feed service via the 24 Hour Museum, and edited Britain"s first Flash MX kids game from a museum Web site – intended to be a fully accessible mini-site for visually impaired Web  users.

Visitor statistics to the site have doubled every year for the last three years - currently reaching 216,000 visitor sessions per month. 24 Hour Museum wins awards regularly, including the BT New Statesman new media award in 2002, and a prestigious Best of the Web  award at Museums and the Web  2003 in North Carolina. 



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Anon, FaganFinder.com. Explanation of RSS, How you can use and finding RSS Feeds. (Fagan Finder.com, pub. 2003)  http://www.faganfinder.com/search/rss.shtml

Cliff, Pete. Systems developer, the Resource Discovery Network. RSS - Sharing Online Content Metadata. (2002) http://www.cultivate-int.org/issue7/rss/

MacLeod, Roddy.  RSS and EEVL: Syndicating industry news and announcements. (Ariadne, pub. 2003) http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue37/eevl/

Nottingham, M. RSS Tutorial For Content Publishers and Web masters. Nottingham, M. (2002) Last updated Feb 16, 2004. http://www.mnot.net/rss/tutorial/

Other Useful Links

O'ReillyRSS Documentation http://www.oreillynet.com/rss/