West Midland RSS rotters named and shamed
I've often wondered why so many organisations seem reluctant to embrace ways that the Internet makes it easier to get their messages out.
This is particularly the case when poor websites belonging to West Midland organisations make my job more complicated and time-consuming.
This has been the case recently and, after much frustration, I have decided it is time to name and shame.
Take RSS, for instance. If you are reading a blog, you're likely to be aware of RSS. This is either because you've used it or because you've seen the little orange button around the place.
RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a fantastic way to avoid having to visit every website in order to see if there are any updates. By subscribing to an RSS feed using an RSS reader, any new information added to a site comes directly to you.
The Birmingham Post offers a whole collection of RSS Feeds that people can subscribe to. If you like the News Blog, you can subscribe to a feed for it. Or, if you just want to hear from one of the authors, you can just subscribe to their feed.
RSS can also be used by developers to create entirely new ways to display that information. The Post uses RSS to publish alerts of news stories on Twitter.
Now, when it comes to other organisations, surely they would be using RSS to make it easy for people to read about their news and events?
Not so. Not here in the West Midlands at least.
I've been trying to collect RSS feeds from regional bodies so that we better monitor West Midland information out on the web.
However, if we had to rely on West Midlands organisations to publish their own RSS feeds we'd be completely stuck.
Work is still in progress, but so far only
ten 12 out of the 38 regional bodies I have reviewed are using RSS.
As a result I'm spending far more time than I would like trying to create makeshift feeds using a rather handy tool called Dapper. But some websites are too poorly designed for even this to work properly.
So here are the lists of forward-thinking stars that use RSS feeds and then also the rotters that do not:
1. Warwick University
2. Birmingham City University
4. Aston Villa Football Club
5. West Midlands Learning & Skills Council
6. Birmingham Voluntary Service Council
7. Walsall Voluntary Action
8. Sandwell Council of Voluntary Organisations
9. West Midlands Police
10. Advantage West Midlands
11. University of Birmingham
12. Warwickshire Police
RSS Rotters (with a few terribly-designed websites thrown in):
1. Birmingham City Council
2. Sandwell Council
3. Dudley Council
4. Coventry Council
5. Solihull Council
6. Walsall Council
7. Aston University
8. Business Link West Midlands
9. Birmingham Chamber of Commerce
10. Birmingham Forward
11. The Lunar Society
12. National Express West Midlands (formerly Travel West Midlands)
13. Birmingham City Football Club
14. Walsall Football Club
15. West Bromwich Albion Football Club
16. Wolverhampton Football Club
17. Coventry Football Club
18. Warwickshire Cricket Club
19. Worcestershire Cricket Club
20. NHS West Midlands Strategic Health Authority
21. Staffordshire Police
22. West Mercia Police
23. West Midlands Ambulance Service
24. Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service
25. Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service
26. West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service
Now I don't know how this list compares to other UK regions (and I'd be interested to find out), but that seems pretty poor to me. Even more so because it comes from a region that hopes to include one of Europe's leading digital cities by 2010.
Does anyone have any better examples?
****After publishing this post, some readers have submitted good examples of RSS use. I am happy to update this as and when people submit examples - it might make a useful resource for people.
At the moment the list suggests borough councils might be outdoing their larger county and metropolitan counterparts in the RSS stakes.
- North Warwickshire Borough Council.
- Warwick District Council
- Rugby Borough Council
- Voluntary Action Stoke on Trent (although not much content on there!)
- University Hospitals Birmingham (although there is no button to indicate it is there!)
- West Midlands Regional Observatory