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I am an administrator for a large school district (295 schools) and am tired of email for communication. I am sold on the use of RSS and would like to know your opinion regarding using RSS for this endeavor and what obstacles and/or pitfalls I should prepare for.

It really depends on what aspects of email communication you're wanting to replace. For example RSS is no replacement for person-to-person email.

However it's a great way to publish and broadcast information.

For example (and I'm making some huge assumptions here), you might publish administrative bulletins or news via RSS that are picked up by individual schools or individuals within the schools. Schools might publish news, schedules, what-have-you via RSS to be picked up by parents, teachers, and even students.

Heck ... teachers could even publish their class assignments via RSS.

There are two parts to the approach: publication and reception.

To publish an RSS feed, the easiest way is probably to set up some kind of blogging software. I'm a big fan of MovableType, but there are literally hundreds of alternatives that can do the job. The nice side effect of using this as the publication means is that it actually hides the fact that there's an RSS feed involved at all to the authors ... to them it's just on-line publishing.

The good news also is that as needed, access to both the resulting web pages (if you even choose to expose them) and the feeds can be password protected. Most RSS readers do support basic authentication associated with feeds. For example you might want to keep your administrative feeds from being easily readable by students.

And that does bring us to readers. Whomever you're targeting with these feeds will need an RSS reader or aggregator of some sort, and like publishing platforms, there are many. If your district has standardized on Outlook, for example, then newsgator is a great solution. If you need a stand-alone reader, the FeedDemon is nice. There are also web-based aggregators if the feeds are publicly accessible on the internet - portals like Yahoo do a nice job in this arena.

But regardless of the tool, your recipients will need one. And that might just be the biggest hurdle of all ... it's another tool that everyone will have to get comfortable with.

But I think it's fantastic way to streamline much of what I expect your communication needs might be.

Article C2338 - April 22, 2005 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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