Metadata Resources



How can you display a RSS news feed on a site page?

On the RDN pages, we run a regular background Perl script (from cron) that pulls in the remote RSS channel (XML) and converts it to HTML. Then we use SSIs in our pages to embed the HTML into the page at the appropriate point. An alternative approach is to generate the whole page using a CGI script, part of which gathers the remote XML file dynamically and transforms it into HTML at the time the page is generated. One could do similar things with PHP, SSIs or ASP I guess.

A simpler approach is to make use of an external service to transform the RSS channel into HTML for you. As part of RSS-xpress, we experimentally offer something called RSS-xpress Lite, which does just this. See

for details. You can try it by embedding the following HTML somewhere in one of your pages


and you should see a view of the UKOLN RSS channel. Replace the channel URL with one of your choice.

How does RSS work?

RSS is a simple XML metadata application. An RSS channel is just an XML file that is made available from somewhere on your Web site. The XML file consists of a list of 'items', each of which essentially consists of a title, a description and a URL of a 'news story'. The full story itself is typically a Web page that is made available separately.

To use your channel, people simply gather in the RSS XML file (using HTTP) and transform it into HTML, or WML, or whatever they want. The channel is updated by you updating the XML file, and by them re-gathering it on a regular basis, say hourly or nightly.

How can you set up your own news service which others can use?

Create an RSS XML file and store it on your Web site somewhere. You can use RSS-xpress to do this if you want. The RDN maintain our central RDN news channel and our Behind the Headlines channel in this way. Alternatively, if your content is stored in a database, it might be more appropriate to generate your RSS XML file directly out of the database as well.

What browsers do our punters need to view the news feed?

You need some software (or access to some software) that can convert the XML into HTML (see above). Punters, as in real end-users, don't need anything special - they are just viewing normal HTML.

Where can we see examples of RSS in action? (the news channels on the RHS) (the main news section is created from an RSS channel)

Are there any online tutorials and readable reference docs?

There are a number of pointers at

What is a "blogspace scraping service" when it's at home?

A scraping service is a service that converts (scrapes) relatively unstructured HTML into a more structure format such as XML.

In the master list of RSS providers on the syndic8 site, what's the difference between "XML" and "Scraped"?

I presume XML channels are maintained directly as XML. Scraped channels will be based on services that take HTML news offerings (e.g. the BBC pages) and convert them (sometimes illegally) into XML.

Maintained by: Andy Powell
Last updated: 15-Nov-2001

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