Corporate feed aggregator revisited

I should clarify something I said in a previous post about the ideal corporate aggregator. I said it could not be browser-based and when I said that I had in mind a very specific architecture that would not work in a corporate environment.

Thinking about this some more there are of course ways of implementing a personal aggregator with a browser interface. My objection was to feed caches that simply subscribe on behalf of their users to a set of feeds then serve them using HTML. This cannot work in a corporate environment because the server is either subscribing only to public (non-secured) feeds or supplying a general set of credentials on behalf of the entire user population.

You could implement a corporate aggregator with a browser interface if you designed it so that it was in effect a virtual personal aggregator application sitting on a server. Each user would have his or her own credentials held on the server, and for secured feeds they would need their own personal storage of that content. Public content could be shared among all the users and this might cut down on the overall storage requirement across the corporation. How many times do you need to store the same Boing Boing posts?

So, I will reiterate my seven requirements for an ideal corporate aggregator:

1. It must be able to supply to a secured feed the personal credentials of an individual user.

2. It must support all the authentication mechanisms used in the corporate environment: digital certificate, Kerberos, NTLM. Any more?

3. It must be able to be managed centrally by the support department. This means managing a user’s portfolio of feeds for him. There are three reasons for this: (a) there are users who will not want to manage their own feeds at the outset as the technology is new to them, (b) there will likely be a standard set of feeds that all users must consume (corporate bulletins and the like) and (c) when the aggregator is upgraded or replaced we will need to preserve each user’s feed collection during the process. These actions need to be scriptable in some way.

4. The Read/Not Read status of any post in any channel must follow the user around. Corporate users change locations frequently, they work from home, they make VPN connections from internet cafes. Whatever the situation they need to see the same feed collection and the same unread posts.

5. The user interface must be sufficiently rich to make consuming a large number of feeds efficient. This is another challenge to browser-based aggregators which currently do not support single-key reading. However carefully you select your channels there will always be a certain amount of noise in amongst the signal. You need to be able to move rapidly through irrelevant posts to give you more time to read the relevant ones.

6. On the same subject of signal-to-noise ratio, there are channels that frequently have useful content so you need to subscribe to them but it is mixed in with the personal bugbears of the author. Some feed publishers will provide a feed of certain categories of post so you can filter out the noise this way, but this means you miss any interesting new categories the author introduces. What I need is a way of subscribing to all posts except those which mention Unicorns for instance. The aggregator must support filtering.

7. We need to get away from the arrangement of feeds into a folder hierarchy. I want to tag my feeds with arbitrary categories. I want to be able to Mark All As Read in any given category if I am pushed for time. Der. I can’t believe nobody has done this yet. Tags not hierarchy!

Somebody tell me they are working on this, please.


2 Responses to “Corporate feed aggregator revisited”

  1. 2 Daniel Larson June 22, 2006 at 15:55

    Dude, we are SO working on this… :)

    Also, why should you be constrained to posts through an aggregator? Why shouldn’t corporate post read state be syncrhonized across the intranet?

    Example: When I’m viewing corporate feed content from the intranet home page, why should I not be able to mark it read and not have to see it through the aggregator? This is one of the features we’ve added to NewsGator Enterprise through our NewsGator Enterprise SharePoint Components. (Similar implementations on non-SharePoint intranet servers are possible through our Enterprise API.) For a summary, see my post @!D3543C5837291E93!164.entry?_c11_blogpart_blogpart=blogview&_c=blogpart#permalink

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