Laura Cohen at Library 2.0 – an academic’s perspective caught my attention a few weeks ago with her post entitled RSS: Research Still Stalled, in which she talked about some of the problems in generating feeds from services by vendors of licensed materials:
What’s the problem? These RSS feeds are linked from restricted sites. This means that only on-campus users can access them. Off-campus users are stopped by the fact that feed readers cannot validate them to gain access to these restricted URLs. This severely limits the usefulness of RSS feeds as an alerting technology for academia. It may be that the idea behind RSS is free and open access, yet this is not always the reality.
This is a significant barrier to the use of RSS feeds in the context of scholarly journal alerts. Will there be a better solution? Who knows. So far, the only idea I’ve come up with is to ask vendors to maintain their RSS feeds on domains that are not restricted. Unfortunately, this is a significant barrier for vendors.
The problem was, as others (like Michelle Kraft) have noted before, that off-site users suffered from this authetication issue.
I only today noticed a follow-up post, An RSS Journal Alerting Solution, in which Laura describes a solution using a tool created by David Walker, Web Development Librarian at California State University, San Marcos, called RSS Creator:
Using data in SFX, the software establishes RSS feeds that create an OpenURL for each article title available to the campus. All the links point to the library’s SFX menu. Off-campus users are presented with proxied links to any article they want to read; this is the part that solves the authentication issue.
Essentially, RSS Creator bypasses the RSS feeds created by vendors and generates its own. This reinforces my point that RSS feeds, as currently maintained by vendors, are inadequate to meet the needs of researchers. David also makes the useful point that simply locating all the RSS feeds available to a library is tedious.