Giovanni Guardalben, HiT Syndicaat

Developing Enterprise Syndication Management Systems

Location: Affi, Italy

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Web Content Management & Syndication

With limited effort, WCM systems can be extended (and most of them already are) to return XML feeds linked to dynamically generated web content (see for instance the CMS Matrix at CMS Matrix for a complete roundup of RSS support in CMS). In most instances, when WCMs are in place, many of the functionalities of an RSS Syndication Management Systems (Syndication Management Systems) are provided by the WCM itself.

Typically, this is accomplished by creating an infrastructure for feed management (feed creation and editing) and an infrastructure for feed content generation. Basically, when creating a new node (web page) in the WCM, the same node can be assigned (automatically or manually) both to the web hierarchy and/or to the RSS feed collection of items. This approach is definitely appropriate (and probably the optimal one) whenever there is an almost one-to-one relationship between what is shown on a web page and what is referred to by an RSS item.
However in many situations, this is not the case because, compared to syndication, web content is fairly static over a period of time where syndication content is generally highly dynamic. Not only that, there are other mismatches between the two models:

- Syndication content lives long (see The Long Tail about the Long Tail approach). It should also be searchable for a long time. Typically, we do not have the same requirements for web content. Given the long life of syndication content, a syndication system should be provided with the means for letting external applications to query its content (see for instance the OpenSearch and the means to store its content indefinitely.

- Syndication content has limited graphical requirements. In many instances, syndication content could do without HTML. In other instances, when HTML content is present (typically pointed to by links in RSS items), editing of its graphical content should require only few strokes (possibly, from a set of pre-configured templates). For editors, item creation should be a simple yet powerful action.

- Management of syndication feeds should be highly dynamic. A powerful syndication system should support a dynamic model for the creation, editing and removal of feeds. Power users should be provided with the ability to affect the number of feeds and the choice of who is the potential target for the feed. Compared to typical usage patterns in web development, syndication feeds are closer to weblogs than to portals. Editors (not site administrators) are often empowered to create content and feeds.

- Another major difference in comparing RSS feed management to WCM, is the RSS ability to cater content from heterogeneous data sources compared to data coming from a central repository provided by WCM. RSS Syndication Management Systems (at least according to our view of RSS SyMS) should be totally programmable by means of REST XML APIs. This way, content could come from ERP systems, Office applications, databases, etc. Similarly, RSS content should be searchable and accessible to heterogeneous systems (not only the web browser) such as mobiles, multi-media players, iPods, etc.

Given the differences, we believe that a hybrid management system (i.e., WCM + Syndication Management System - that for simplicity we refer to as Syndication Content Management) should be considered having the following components:

- a light-weight content authoring GUI interface to manually edit content and create syndication HTML templates;
- a syndication management system;
- a set of web content aggregators (to simplify the creation of automatic content to syndicate);
- a query processor (compliant to the OpenSearch architecture) to make the syndication content searchable over the internet.


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