RSS in UK government (by proxy)

Since we in government didn’t get our fingers out to do it, someone else did. Cheers to Sam Smith for giving us – a website which brings together news content from many (but not all) parts of government, and feeds them out again as email or RSS. It may have been there for ages, but I only just discovered it.
At the start of the year, I found myself in an email exchange with someone from GNN – the government website which, really, should have been doing precisely this in the first place. I spotted a reference to RSS in their left-hand margin, and queried why it seemed to be registration-only. They responded that it was ‘still in test mode’, and its appearance on the site was ‘a technical oversight’.
Six months on, and if RSS is now available, it’s an unpublicised service hidden behind the site’s registration barrier. I’m afraid I stand by what I said to them at the time:

I would urge you to think carefully about how (and where) it is presented. Part of the attraction of RSS is the lack of subscription hassle. GNN is in a unique position here, with a unique opportunity to make things happen across the Whitehall press effort. A flexible approach to RSS would be an excellent contribution. Feeds for each department; even feeds for all items containing a given keyword, whatever their provenance. A completely customisable RSS experience would be truly groundbreaking.

In the meantime, departments – including us at DfES – pursue disjointed RSS efforts; or frankly, in most cases, they don’t. I can’t think of any government website which doesn’t have some kind of CMS running its press releases. Yet I can’t think of more than a couple who have had the foresight to apply an RSS front-end on top. We’re leading the way at DfES – and if anybody wants to talk to me about it, I’m more than happy to do so.

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