Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

Content Syndication

Wow, wasn’t yesterday a blast?! By 10:30pm est, I was up to almost 500 unique visits and almost 800 page hits. Like we need further proof of the popularity enjoyed by the InstaPundit or blogging in general. But even more than the hits, I had the pleasure and honor of meeting so many of you via e-mail. Thank you for all your kind words of encouragement. And for those asking to be critiqued, hand in there – we’ll get to you.

One email I received …

… just before the InstaPundit inspired onslaught, was a message from Joshua Sargent who was kind enought to take time and e-mail me personally about a useful web service he found named “BlogTrack.” One of the things Josh asks in his message to me is:

“You being the computer whiz, you are, I’d like to know how that works.”

Well Josh, on a personal note, flattery will get you everywhere. On a public note, thanks for the set-up. No lie, I had just stumbled onto a programmer-geek-type-site that entitled Content Syndication with XML and RSS. It is actually the working notebook of an author writing a book on the same topic. I like that approach.

One thing I don’t see on too many church websites, including my own, is content syndication. Now what does that mean? If you look to right sidebar of THIS site, and scroll down a bit, you will see a link inviting you to Syndicate this site (XML). When you click on this link, those of you using Microsoft Internet Explorer see what appears to be a tree-like outline of my headlines and the first sentence of content, date/time stamped. What you are looking at is data that is designed to talk to another computer, using an interface (HTTP) designed for us humans.

And that’s the beauty of XML syndication. With my little RDF and/or RSS hanging out there, programs such as BlogTrack or Radio’s Aggregator can come along and read, compile and dispense information even though neither of these programs are running the same software I running – nor do they care how I’ve formatted it for human consumption on my .shtml pages. I would suspect that the girth of both BlogTrack and Aggregator would require these applications to go deamoning about as servers, instead of a wimpy little cron job that I might do for my church web site.

Syndication also cust the other way as well. You may notice some sites out there have news feeds along their left and right menu columns. How do they do this? There are services out there providing content, such as Moreover.com – only theirs comes from major news services, papers and wires. That said, I hate it when I see boxes with the weather or local news on the home page of a church. People aren’t going to your site for that, there are better places to get that information.

Rather, where I would like to see churches use XML syndication is for sermons, schedules and announcements. Similarly, I would love to see a service like the BibleGateway provide an API simliar to Google’s, or the American Bible Society offer a verse of the day using XML Syndication – the later of which I could snarf down and punch onto my site.

If you want to read up more on the topic, might I suggest DMOZ.org’s category/collection on the topic.

Of course, my problem is getting my problem is getting the church staff to quit using an old version of MS Publisher for everything. Then we might have a fighting chance at playing with XML.

One Comment

  1. Thanks for the time to explain! Keep it up! I’m linking to the post!