Where has the RSS gone?

Author: Lee Aplin

I have recently been working on a project which relies heavily on news feeds from other websites to provide much of its content. I set about visiting each of the sites on an extensive resource list to gather the required RSS feeds and was surprised at the vast amount of websites which have no trace of a feed at all. This may be forgiven if the website was a small personal project or very light on frequently updated content, but many of these sites were official government funded websites, very frequently updated.

It would appear that instead of producing usable tidy websites, a different approach is taken towards the government website. Huge amounts of content are put online just because “they should be online”. No thought is put into how the content is written or displayed upon the page, it is just dumped online and left. As far as the government are concerned the content is on the web and they have kept up their end of the freedom of information act. The content is there, but I dare you to try and find it.

Yesterday an article was posted on the cabinet office website (It has an RSS feed!) stating that The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, has pledged to axe hundreds of the unnecessary expensive government websites and tighten up the way the remaining websites are run and managed. This is definately a step in the right direction but lets hope they use the money they will save to repair some of the broken websites that so desperately need some attention.

A report published today by the Central Office for Information (COI) found that across government £94 million has been spent on the construction and set up and running costs of just 46 websites and £32 million on staff costs for those sites in 2009-10.

It seems odd that many of these websites are promoting social networking features, linking to Facebook and Twitter accounts to try and keep things fresh, but falling short when it comes to allowing people to actually consume this content in any way. It is frustrating that the user experience on most of these sites does not seem to have been considered at all during the design stages. Please, give us an RSS feed! Let us read the content we want to read, quickly and easily without having to navigate the labyrinth of a government website.

While we wait for this, why not subscribe to our RSS feed!