Present And Future Uses Of Feeds & Syndication On Mobile Phones

Recently Wireless Ink has been building out various feed services on Winksite. I suppose it’s time to start breaking down what we have now and where we are headed in the future. This is not intended as a complete “everything you need to know” guide to feeds but rather what you need know in order to understand the where and why of feed usage on Winksite. First the basics:

What Are Feeds And What Do They Have To Do With Content Syndication?
“RSS and Atom are two flavours of what is more or less the same thing: a “feed” which is a wrapper for pieces of content.XML is the base technology both are built on.” – from mezzoblue.com. Syndication is the process of using RSS and Atom feeds to share, distribute and access the content contained within them.

By using feeds, Web content providers, services and individuals can easily distribute data that can include, for example, weblog posts, photos, news, headlines, weather, events, custom eBay searches, real estate listings, classifieds, even feeds for tracking your UPS or Fedex package.

Thanks to widespread support of standards, feeds have evolved into a popular means of sharing content between sites (including Google, Yahoo, BBC, Reuters, CNET, Slashdot, ZDNet, and more) and is now going mainstream as more and more people become aware of its benefits.

How Are Feeds Used On The Tethered Internet?
Typical web based applications and services used for creating and consuming feeds include:

  • News Aggregators
    Using programs known as news aggregators (also called news readers or feed readers) to collect, update and display feeds for you. This is useful for collecting news and weblog posts in one place so you can scan headlines and read items without having to visit multiple sites.

Basically it works like this. Say you’re reading a weblog in your browser, and you want to subscribe to its feed. You click on the XML button, or the Syndicate this Site link, or whatever it is. You are then provided with a URL to insert into your news aggregator. Once entered you can then access that site’s content from the reader along with your other feeds.

  • Other Feed Based Services
  • Using feeds to incorporate content into a web site or weblog. Weblogs or “blogs” are web pages usually comprised of short, frequently updated items and web links. Blogging as a publishing tool is used for many purposes: traditional journalism, personal journals, group discussions around a topic, and many combinations in between.
  • Using feeds to share event lists with friends, family and colleagues.
  • Using feed search tools such as Feedster and Technorati that index feed content to discover and follow news as it breaks. For example, once a search has been created you could then add the “search results” feed to a feed reader so you can “check” your search query every day to see if the results have changed.

How Are Feeds Used To Publish And Access Content On Mobile Devices?
Feed syndication is a powerful way to publish existing web content to a mobile site or distribute news to a community. The following are channels where feeds can be used in various ways to publish and share content on the mobile site you have built at Winksite:

  • The Winksite Feed Directory
    Fire up your phone’s mobile browser and point it to winksite.com. Here you can access the Winksite community anytime, anyplace. You will notice on our mobile portal main menu a link to our “Feed Directory.” Contained within are more than a thousand of the world’s most popular feeds with additional categories being created each week. Within the Feed Directory you may read the individual post and news items, send the items to you or to a friend’s email, or subscribe to a feed you like for access within your own personalized mobile feed reader (You must register with Winksite to take advantage of this free service. More on this below.) Just think how convenient this would be while on your train or bus ride to work or school.
  • Blog Channel
    Activate a mobile blog of your own at Winksite. Each blog includes feeds for syndication (all flavors). You have full control over these feeds and the geo/meta data contained within it.

If you already have a blog with a service such as Radio Userland, Movable Type, Blogger, or Live Journal, you can mobilize your existing feed, instantly creating a mobile edition of your blog.

  • Syndicated Feeds Channel (Mobile Feed Reader)
    We call it the Syndicated Feeds channel. You can call it whatever you wish. Each mobile site you create at Winksite includes a “Syndicated Feeds” channel. Using this channel as a mobile feed reader allows you to connect to your favorite Weblogs and news feeds while on the go.

Now For The Twist. Content + People + Mobile Device = Mobile Community
The “Syndicated Feeds” channel can also be used for publishing feeds to a community. Unlike other mobile feed readers, the feeds you subscribe to at Winksite can be shared with the visitors to your mobile site. This single difference changes the potential of how feed syndication can be utilized in a mobile environment.

Accessing various categories of feeds from your mobile device while “on the go” seem to make so much more sense then from your desktop. For example, combinations of content, weather and event feeds can be combined to support the development of city guides and directories.

Furthermore, you can choose to activate ancillary mobile channels (i.e. mobile chat, forum, community blog and polls) that transforms this mobile content space into a communication, collaboration and coordination space.

Consider using the “Syndicated Feeds” channel to organize and publish the following types of feeds:

  • New Homes – realtors can provide updated feeds of new home listings on the market
  • Job Openings – placement firms and newspapers can provide a classifieds feed of job vacancies
  • Auction Items – auction vendors can provide feeds containing items that have been recently added to eBay or other auction sites
  • Forum Headlines – support forums can provide a listing of new forum threads
  • Product Sales or Specials – one look at Amazon opens the mind to the endless product sale potential using RSS. Currently Amazon delivering a headline-view of the top 10 bestsellers in that category or set of search results
  • Airlines – report flight delays
  • Schools – schools can relay homework assignments and quickly announce school cancellations
  • Entertainment – listings of the latest tv programs or movies at local theatres
  • Press Distribution – feed for press with new releases
  • News & Announcements – headlines, notices and any list of announcements
  • Calendars – listings of past or upcoming events, deadlines or holidays
  • Search results – to let people track changing or new results to their searches

Note: List courtesy of RSS Specifications.

  • Syndicated Events Channel
    Event feeds are now available on various sites such as upcoming.org, rsscalendar.com, Meet-Up and Tribes. We thought mobilizing event feeds was such a great idea that we now provide a channel exclusively dedicated to your favorite event feeds, providing handy updates to your mobile phone or PDA. Create categories such a concerts, conferences, schedule (i.e. your kids soccer games), there are even feeds available for TV listings. (Yes, for some of us catching new episodes of Farscape on the Sci Fi Channel – It’s back Oct. 17th. – are events worth tracking – anytime,anywhere … but I digress.)
  • Feedster™ Channel
    Feedster is a search engine for weblogs and other Internet information syndicated as RSS or ATOM providing fresh news and opinions. Feedster™ has teamed up with Winksite to provide the mobile community with the same innovative features they experience on their desktop. With Winksite you can mobilize Feedster searches and feed papers.

How Are Feeds Going To Be Used Within Winksite Mobile Channels In The Future?
Tapping into the metadata capabilities of feeds, Winksite is able to go beyond the limits of basic content publishing to deliver a more relevant, more precise means of information distribution and device independent delivery. We are now working on integrating various types of feeds in useful ways. The following are snap shots from our development roadmap:

  • Generate feeds for all channels of a mobile site including events, forum, etc.
  • Provide feeds for business cards so contact info can be centrally updated and distributed.
  • Provide wizards to import custom XML feeds (and spreadsheets) into your mobile site so that content published in other content management applications can “feed” everything from your events calendar, to a restaurant directory or retail locator. Then, based on zip code automatically link in relevant direction and weather feeds.
  • OPML support for the importing and exporting of feed lists.
  • Provide alerts when feeds change, contain new content, or a specific keyword occurs within it. Say you are traveling out of state to attend an event, you just might want to be alerted when a weather feed for that area contains the words “flooding” or “hurricane.”
  • Feed splicing – Services like Feedburner are doing some cool things like working with Flickr to splice together photo and blog feeds. Well, we think there is a great future in that type of thing. Have a large audience? Perhaps, you will want to splice an advertisement feed into your blog feed and try developing a revenue stream from sponsors. More on the uses of combining feeds in a future post.
  • Enable access to XML webservices for directions, maps and stock quotes.
  • And generally, provide tools to more easily discover and generate feeds of interest or usefulness to those who enjoy a mobile lifestyle.

We’ve spent close to three years developing our platform that lets individuals publish, share, broadcast and interact with mobile content in ways not previously available. We made Winksite so simple that if you know how to make a phone call or use voice mail you will understand how to use it after a single glance. Now that the core Winksite platform is complete and a significant amount of data usage is streaming through the system, Winksite is growing to include Photoblogging, Downloads, Group Messaging & Coordination, Location-Based Services, Microcontent Payment Systems, Personalized Content Feeds, SMS/MMS Feed Notification Services, Personalized Interfaces/Skins, Automated Enterprise Content Syndication, Form Builders, Rich Media Delivery, Social Network Mapping (FOAF), Paid Search & Content Listings, XHTML, BREW and Flash Lite UI, Direct Integration with Weblogs and other valuable features.

As an intrinsically XML-based system, Winksite will grow into the role of a clearinghouse mobilizing content both local and global in nature, becoming embedded into other companies’ web sites in ways not possible for other content publishing or blogging systems. The features that we add to the system will have APIs accessible that third parties can use to tap into our services at the data level, creating innovative services enabled by the WINKsite platform.

Found This Post Interesting?
Read more about Winksite and mobile access to content at the following links:

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