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Wednesday
Jan122011

« Why RSS is Essential for Government Transparency  »

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) can save your constituency a ton of time and effort when trying to stay informed of what's happening in their government—the latest meetings, events, policy, or records. Through RSS, content can be delivered directly to subscribers in realtime—as soon as it's published.

Most of you are familiar with RSS on websites and blogs. With Granicus, your audiences can subscribe to RSS feeds to receive automatic updates on your videos, records, and even particular topics. This is a useful transparency tactic for all different types of government agencies, no matter what type of content you are delivering—Supreme Court Briefs, City Council Meetings, Legislative Sessions, School Events, and more.

Why RSS is important for any government transparency plan?

In today's age of government "always being on-the-record," as Mark Drapeau puts it, having the right solution and syndication tools in place to keep audiences informed is critical for transparency. RSS is just one component of a broader content and technology strategy. Here are it's key benefits:

  • Saves time and effort – Citizens do not have to visit multiple websites to receive current information about your agency. Instead, they can simply subscribe the RSS feed of their choice and receive a summary of the content whenever it’s changed or updated.
  • It’s personal – Once your audience receives an RSS alert they can choose to read or watch the content at their own convenience or share it to their own social networks.
  • It’s FREE! - Your visitors simply need to choose an RSS Reader to access your feeds. 
  • RSS is quiet, fast, and professional - This is a powerful tool being used in the professional world to gather content quickly and efficiently, plus there is no need for you to support it. 

How Does RSS Work?

RSS content is published once in a standardized XML file format. This format allows numerous programs to open the RSS content and then hyperlink to the original source. RSS content is delivered through what is called an RSS Feed. Feeds can consist of headlines, complete content, hyperlinks, and attachments—these feeds require an RSS Reader to view the content.

When configuring your Granicus feed, be sure to choose a “citizen-friendly” name that’s descriptive of the content—like “Arkansas Supreme Court Briefs” or “Lake County Board Meeting Agendas.” This helps people understand what they are subscribing to. Also, if they are doing a search for a particular feed it will be located easily. If you have questions, ask us about this feature.

How Do I Use RSS with Granicus?

The first step is choosing an RSS Reader to access different RSS Feeds. Think of it as an inbox where you will receive all of your notifications from the feeds you subscribed to. There are a lot to choose from, but some of the more popular Readers include Google Reader, Microsoft Outlook, and Newsfire. These are web-based Readers that require no software installation and are accessible from any computer with internet access. Once you have your RSS Reader set-up, simply subscribe to any RSS feeds you come across as you are using the internet.

For instance, if I wanted to receive updates whenever the City of Sunny Isle Beach, FL published their latest meeting agenda to the web, I could do that by visiting their Granicus web portal of meeting content and selecting the “Agenda” RSS. Depending on what browser you’re in, you will be prompted to select your RSS reader. Im my case, I selected Google Reader. Voila! Now, everytime new agendas are published by the city, I receive notifications. This certainly beats having to visit their website to check if new content is available.

Subscribe to an RSS Search Feed using the Granicus Search Field

Audiences can also easily subscribe to receive updates when a particular topic of interest is discussed at a meeting or appears somewhere else in their Granicus content. All you have to do is subscribe to an RSS feed of content containing a particular keyword. To achieve this, complete these simple steps:

  • Enter the topic of interest in the search tool bar on your Granicus web portal. For example: "recycling"
  • Confirm the search results open. Note: If the search returned no results, enter a different keyword or phrase
  • Click the Agenda, Video, or Minutes link to subscribe to the corresponding RSS Feed

  • Confirm an RSS Feed page opens
  • Click the Subscribe to this Feed option

  • Click the Subscribe button and you're done! Now you will receive notifications in your RSS Reader inbox every time a new agenda is published containing the word “recycling” in it.

See? Using RSS is really THAT easy and it's the quickest way to improve transparency.

Leave us a comment if you have a good example of how you’re using your RSS tool.

Want to learn more about Granicus RSS feeds? Contact us!

Reader Comments (1)

I worked on this site for my local municipality. I merged RSS feeds from twitter, and the site's Drupal news feed with Simplepie, and subscribed new users to Feedburner which read the combibned rss feed and sent news summaries out at a specified time. In the end, t system was did not provide an 'email the list now' option, so it was swapped out for Phplist.
Jan 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Willson

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