A Question of Feeds

I have not seen anyone write about this yet and my library has created quite an interesting conundrum that I am positive is not unique unto us.

MPOW has some very nice subject blogs maintained by subject librarians. We put all kinds of useful and interesting things on them. Users can subscribe to their content using RSS. Everything is lovely and the birds are twittering.

Some of our library departments also have internal blogs. These blogs live on our intranet and thus are not accessible to the public. If we need to read them from outside our offices, we have to enter the password for the intranet before gaining access. This sounds fine until one tries to subscribe to the RSS feed of the blog.

It can not be done. The intranet is password protected and thus so is the feed. I have set up feeds for other password protected projects with RSS, Basecamp for example. It worked fine, but as far as I, and my other frustrated colleagues have found, there is no work around. This has resulted in many of us not reading the blogs at all. The only one I see regularly is the blog maintained by the reference staff because it is the active desktop on our reference desk computers. When I sat regularly, what I really mean is “ever.”

I know why the blogs are not viewable to the public. If they were we could not write posts like, “Professor Q has yet again sent his students to find Item X which we do not own. Please inform the students that they really should be looking for B.” I get this. I do.

However, if many of us are not reading the blogs because they are hidden away and we can not get RSS feeds in our readers, is there a point to maintaining them? I think they still have value; it is just diminished from its potential.

If your library uses blogs for internal communication, have you solved this problem? Ignored it? Used it as a way to humiliate frequent offenders into behaving?

–Jane, needs the feeds

4 thoughts on “A Question of Feeds

  • September 26, 2006 at 12:41 pm

    MPOW, a public library, has a staff blog where we share information, trying to cut down on mass emails and paper memos. The blog is hosted on our internal server, so patrons can’t see it. But like the blogs you’re talking about, hosting on the internal server also means we can’t subscribe to the blog’s feeds. Now, at this point only a small percentage of my coworkers really get RSS and use aggregators. But when coworkers complain, “The blog is just one more thing I have to look at to get information while at work,” and ask, “Isn’t there an easier way to keep on top of things?”, it’s frustrating to me, because I can’t set them up with RSS aggregation of our blog.

    I don’t really have an answer, but I share your concerns and frustrations.

  • September 27, 2006 at 2:57 am

    I’ve subscribed to authenticated feeds. Hmmm. It sounds as if you need a techy who can help you across that void–to ensure your authentication method is compatible with your aggregator. Who there can help you get there?

  • September 29, 2006 at 4:23 pm

    There are several standalone RSS readers that can deal with HTTP Basic authentication (e.g., the kind where your browser’s little login box pops up), but none of them support what I expect you have — some sort of cookie-based authentication like most single-signon solutions (think CoSign or GMail).

    Running an aggregator within the intranet is a viable solution, but it only reduces the problem from “many things to read instead of one” to “two things to read instead of one”, unless you move all your RSS subscriptions inside the intranet.

    It’s a vexing, and oh-so-annoying problem we have at MPOW, too, and as near as I can tell there’s no good solution.

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