Adding initiative news to the Sharing Engine
By Ed Mitchell 24th January 2011
The ‘Sharing Engine’ (SE) is a tool we have built to help initiatives with their own websites share their news across the web simply by adding news items to their own sites. This is a handy illustrated guide to adding your initiative’s news to the system.
- General outline
- How to add your initiative’s news in under two minutes
- What does it look like?
- How does it work?
News generated on Transition Montpelier for example, will be collected by the Sharing Engine, processed behind the scenes, then re-published on Montpelier’s Initiative Directory page, the Community News page, and coolest of all, on Transition Near me (for registered users only). It will also appear on our mobile application, which is in the pipeline.
All an initiative has to do to add their news to this stream is to have an ‘RSS’ feed from their site, and add their ‘feed URL’ to their initiative directory page.
Since our early experiments in April 2010, there has been much work, and it has now had its tyres and brakes and gears tested, it’s chain oiled and saddle wiped clean and is out in the live environment. It’s purpose is to collect news from around the movement, add a layer of sense to it, re-publish it in different places, and offer the news feed back to the movement.
Following many discussions and iterations, the ‘layer of sense’ that we can confidently add at this point is location and initiative; adding ‘Transition themes’ heuristically added from the initiative profiles produced precarious results so we’ll re-consider that in another phase. We have also done a fair amount of tidying so the design is smoother.
Thank you to Jim Kirkpatrick for the SE, really, who may take some time to recover from this journey down the rabbit hole of digital oddities and metadata strangeness (although he loves it really). Really – it’s top quality work, and really spiffing, so big thanks.
The thing is, it’s so cool, people won’t really notice it… And even cooler is that we can give the code to anyone else, and set it up for other news types in the future (partners, projects etc.).
How to add your initiative’s news in under two minutes
- Be logged in
- Go to your initiative profile page – you will see the edit tab – click it
- Scroll to quite close to the bottom of the page, just under the ‘web address’ bit
- Find the “News Feed” box (see screengrab below)
- Add your News feed URL to that box
- Click Save
- Job done
(news feed input field from the initiative profile editing page)
OR – email Ed with your initiative name and website and he’ll do it for you…
What does it look like then?
We have started with a few feeds from initiatives – so what you see below is not all the news.
1. The Community News page: now presents news feeds from the initiatives.
Links directly to the news item in a new tab, the initiative’s profile in the initiatives directory. Short teaser introduction. Time stamped.
2. Initiative’s profile page: now presents feeds from its own website.
3. On the users’ ‘transition near me’:
latest news items from their area (have a look at yours)
4. RSS feeds from each initiative profile page
On the ‘Sharing Engine’ site (not massively publicised, for admins to try, add feeds, set up views etc.)
5. Community News map
6. Filter for news by country (right hand side, below the map)
A gargantuan step ahead – well done all!
How does it work?
For those who may like this sort of stuff, the SE works in a hierachy of:
- Feed Directory: handles the high level data about all the different feeds and initiatives, made up of…
- Feed meta-nodes: handle individual feeds from initiatives, adds location and other TN.org related meta-data to each incoming…
- News feeds: regularly updated feed items from the source websites
(Diagram to illustrate the flow of community news)
News feeds are presented on the Transition Network website as ‘feed items’. They are not the whole news item from the source website; this would have taken big amounts of processing power and was of unclear value, so at this point we hold only what the source website sends over, and publish only the first few lines (so as not to swamp the readers). If people want to read the full item, they go to the website where that item lives (ie the initiative’s own website).
The user experience is all via the Initiatives Directory:
All initiatives have to do is add their news feed URL into their initiative profile. Not long later, their news feeds will appear as if by magic in the Community News system and other places (see below). Naturally, a site editor/admin can do this too.
Add, edit, delete any feed meta-node and feed directory entry (removing any nonsense instantly).
You can read more about it with diagrams on an earlier blog post.