In February, I wrote about how I’d added more than 5,000 ticTOCs RSS feeds to the A-to-Z, so that researchers can easily find and subscribe to Table-of-Contents (ToC) updates from journals in their field. I think this is an indispensable current awareness service, and I’m pleased it’s being promoted at the ‘Working Smarter With the Web‘ workshops.
(An aside: that ticTOCs data is overdue to be re-generated and reloaded onto the A-to-Z. This is next on the long list of e-journal packages for the “e team” to review.)
That’s all well and good, but there’s a clear need for a current awareness service ‘one level above’ the individual ToCs. That is, we could (and should) be providing an RSS feed of new e-journal titles.
At the moment, the EBSCO A-to-Z platform doesn’t provide this feature (I really do hope it’s something that EBSCO are considering developing themselves), and so in the past we’ve had to resort to emails, spreadsheets, etc.—all with varying degrees of success—just to keep people up to date with what new e-journals have become available.
So, I’ve created a rough-and-ready working demo of a ‘New e-journals at Lincoln‘ RSS feed for the A-to-Z. It’s not supported by EBSCO, so it’ll require a bit of manual intervention to keep it running (it’ll be a nice five-minute daily task for the “e team” to take on!), but has the potential to be a really important enhancement to the e-journals service.
Next time you go to the A-to-Z site, you’ll see a new tab – next to the existing ‘Titles’ tab – which I’ve labelled ‘New Titles (RSS)‘. This new tab links to a page containing information about the RSS feed, with a prominent link to the feed itself, plus a display of the 10 most-recently-added titles in the feed.
The links in the ‘ten most recent…’ list should go directly to the A-to-Z record for that title. The feed link itself you can paste into your favourite feed reader (I use Google Reader). I’m working on enabling email subscription to the feed. We should also be able to take this feed and filter/manipulate it to create (for example) subject-specific lists in Blackboard.
I’ve also made the feed autodiscoverable (c.f. my earlier post), so it should display in the browser toolbar (this will vary between browsers).
I still need to do some work on creating better documentation for users of the feed, and for the process of adding new titles within L&LR.
I’ll also need to do a bit of testing to make sure everything’s working as it should be, and iron out my feed-validation bugs.
When the time is right, I’ll launch the service more publicly.
P.S. Here’s how I did it:
- The first stage is the most clunky – it involves getting information about the newly-added titles out of the closed box that is the Electronic Journals A-to-Z. EBSCO provide a daily report (available only to administrators) of “Titles added to Packages in my Collection“. This data can be exported on a daily basis in tab-delimited format.
- Next, I created a spreadsheet using Google Docs and published it to the Web. The tabbed data from the A-to-Z admin report is pasted in to the spreadsheet, so it becomes openly accessible. Using Google Docs also means that I can invite other people to act as editors of the spreadsheet, and create public web forms to add titles that don’t appear in EBSCO’s daily report (not all of our e-journal packages are managed by EBSCO, so the data will need supplementing when we add custom titles).
- The data output of the Google spreadsheet is then fed into Yahoo! Pipes, an excellent application for ‘mashing up’ and processing data. You can inspect the Yahoo! pipe for yourself, at: http://pipes.yahoo.com/lincoln/newejournals. If you create an account on Yahoo!, you can clone this (or any) pipe and modify it to create your own data mashup.
- The Yahoo! pipe takes the raw Google spreadsheet data, filters it according to various rules, and exports a valid * RSS feed of new items, in reverse order by date.
- * Well, it’s nearly valid. I need to do a bit of cleaning up of the pipe (I did say this was a working demo), mainly so I can pass the feed through Feedburner, which will allow email subscriptions. But it works well enough!
- Finally, I created the new tab on the A-to-Z public site, and added the details to the page (the ‘ten most recent’ list was created using feed2js). The code for the autodiscoverable feed was pasted into the top of our customised A-to-Z template.