As 2004 came to a close every business and technology
magazine, Web site, and blog made their predictions
about what will be the next big technology or tool for
2005. So it is only fitting that I put my $.02 into
the mix on what I predict will be BIG in 2005. We start
our predictions with Really Simple Syndication or also
known as RSS.
RSS - Really Simple Syndication
RSS, Atom, or just plain old syndication. It doesn't
matter what technical term you put on it, but RSS began
to grow in 2004 and it is going to be BIG in 2005. Starting
to gain speed at the tail end of this year, online publishers
such as The New York
Washington Post, and a variety of other online publishers
are all accepting the medium, it will only be a matter
of time before the little
orange icon is everywhere. RSS aggregators such
Feed Demon, and
even MyYahoo! are
bringing the medium into wide spread use.
If you don't know what RSS is, and this means beyond
the acronym, here is a quick lesson.
RSS History. RSS is the brain child
of Dave Winer and was developed to syndicate content
to the masses over the Internet back in 1997. The development
was picked up by Netscape and now three versions exist,
all working very similar in style. The "really
simple" part comes from the fact that the text
is not heavily formatted. RSS is not "new"
technology; it has just become more popular in the last
year and a half. Now you will see little orange "XML"
icons on many Web sites.
Technically Speaking. RSS and Atom
feeds are XML (Extensible Mark-up Language) files and
when initially clicked on you are presented with a bunch
of code. The code is not what you are worried about,
it is the URL of that code that you want to copy and
paste into a news aggregator to "subscribe"
to it. Your news aggregator interprets that XML code
and displays the content in a simple to read format.
How it works. When a Web site is updated
with new content an XML file is updated with either
an excerpt or full content of the new information. That
XML file sits on the Internet in a single location.
A news aggregator that you either download locally to
your computer or have an account with online with a
Web based aggregator pings that XML file on a time interval.
Sometimes the interval is every 15 minutes, other times
it is once a day. When the XML file is read by your
news aggregator the new content is syndicated and you
are able to read either the excerpt or full content
of the new information posted to your favorite Web site
or online publication.
Why it works for me. RSS has changed
not only the way I gather information, but how I read
information. I don't "surf" anymore. I rely
on other bloggers and Web sites to direct me through
links to similar information sources, most of which
have RSS feeds of their own. I now have roughly 200
feeds in about a dozen categories in my news aggregator.
I handily download my feeds, most of which are full
text feeds, in the morning on my laptop and read them
on my hour long train ride to the office. Bottom line,
it works. I get the information I desire to stay on
top of key topics in the legal industry and I don't
waste hours going through bookmarks, sifting through
online ads, or wondering if I missed an e-newsletter
by an over zealous spam filter. The best way I can describe
RSS is this: Information you want, delivered to your
desktop in real-time, spam free.
It only seems natural that the concept of search move
from the Internet to your desktop. Not only for you
to search the Internet from your desktop and not via
a Web browser, but also to search your own files. Microsoft
has done a pretty good job of providing a difficult
and slow search tool in Windows and Outlook.
Desktop search again started to pick up at the tail
end of 2004 with the release of Google Desktop. Companies
and products like X1,
and Blinkx are taking
the desktop search category by storm. Microsoft has
a lot of catch-up to do with Longhorn, their next OS
that will have a new search functionality built into
it. I use X1 on my laptop and Copernic on my desktop.
So far I'm impressed with both and have to say that
this will be big when you find that Outlook search is
too slow to find that one e-mail in your over-cluttered
inbox. Both are time savers when searching e-mail, files
and documents, as well as attachments.
Technically speaking. Similar to Internet
search engines, a desktop search engine indexes your
hard drive. Since the first index will always take the
longest time it is wise to build an initial base index.
The index grows as you add more files and e-mail messages
arrive. Then when you need to search for a specific
file or word the index is searched and results are given
to you much like an Internet search engine. You can
preview the file or find the directory that it is located
Why it works for me. It never fails
that there will be a time when you need to search for
that one piece of crucial information for your job.
How many times have you said "It's somewhere here
in my e-mail?" You begin to sort and search yet
it is taking too long to find the information you need.
That is because each time you do a search in Explorer
or Outlook it is actually searching your directories
at that time. The indexing is the key for the speed
of a desktop search. Outlook it notorious for being
slow when searching for keywords in your inbox and sub-folders.
Desktop search is fast and efficient. I can find files
as I type with X1 and almost just as easy with Copernic.
Last on my list of predictions are collaboration tools.
These include blogs,
and forums, also known as bulletin boards. I start by
asking a question: how many e-mail messages are in your
inbox right now that are either a) conversations about
a specific project you are working on, b) a version
of a document you are working on with others, or c)
messages of ideas from a group project? It seems to
me that half of my disaster of an inbox is a combination
of all of those. I work with three to five other staff
members to publish e-newsletters, e-mail promotions,
and Web site development. Most of those e-mail messages
are versions of the same message with everyone's corrections
on it before I can format it to send to our member base.
It can be very daunting to keep track of it all.
Collaboration tools such as a Wiki can save my inbox
and yours too! A Wiki is basically an online whiteboard.
It is a Web page that is instantly editable by anyone
with little to no HTML knowledge required. When working
on a single document or project a Wiki can keep all
of your information in one spot and many contributors
can correct, add, or delete information. Blogs are good
for collaboration to an extent as they initially are
more of a one way conversation with the functionality
for others to comment back. The ability to instantly
update that a Wiki provides seems to outbid any feature
a blog has in my opinion. Companies such as Basecamp,
Jot Spot are providing
these services now and seem to be doing a good job.
Expect to see more companies to move into this space.
Blogs and forums are good for knowledge bases from
what I have experienced with using products and services.
Forums are great as an online community tool. Forums
are a combination of a blog and a Wiki. Anyone who has
an account can post a message, and anyone with an account
can reply. Some good examples of forums can be found
It should be no surprise when you see some of these
tools becoming more prominent this year. I can guarantee
you will see the XML icon on more Web sites in 2005.
If you are looking for an aggregator you can find a
good list by doing a Google search on "RSS Aggregator."
I hope you can find these tools helpful in your online
life and work. We'll check back this time next year
to do an evaluation of these predictions.
This article was adapted from Fred Faulkner's blog
post Big in 2005 at http://www.frederickfaulkner.com.
Frederick L. Faulkner IV (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is the Technology Coordinator for the ABA Law Practice
Management Section. He is the Production Manager for
Law Practice Today. He has spoken about Webzines
and their member benefits at Holiday Showcase 2005.
His Web site, www.frederickfaulkner.com,
explores marketing, technology, and how they compliment
and interact with each other on the Internet.