Open Scholarship with RSS

Jeremy Keith wrote some time ago about “Streaming my life away — where he talks about the possibility of integrating RSS streams from all the various tools he uses. He calls this new mix a “life stream” and provides an overview of what he does with his time. It integrates feeds from Twitter, Flickr,,, and the various blogs to which he posts. The aggregate of his online activity is impressive when rendered in chronological format, as it is.
Steve, one of five bloggers who writes “Circulatable: A Librarian’s Group,” wrote about Jeremy’s application in a post titled “PaperRSS Trails” and wondered about the possible application of this technology to library life. Steve noted that he and a librarian colleague wrote an article using Writeboard, which offers an RSS feed to help you keep track of other’s activities in the collaboration space. He suggested combining this information with a feed from Refworks, and wondered what sort of profile would result from aggregating feeds used by someone in their research activities.
I have thought a great deal about the ways librarians might use RSS to push relevant information to researchers. I had not considered the flip side of that proposition: that the aggregate of a researcher’s RSS feeds might serve as a powerful profile of that researcher’s interests. If librarians could keep track of a researcher’s interests by reviewing, in real time, that person’s RSS feeds, the library could offer better — more precise and timely — reference services.
Having access to a scholar’s feeds — even if only the research oriented ones — also opens some interesting questions of academic freedom and privacy. Having come from a corporate background, where the presumption of individual privacy on the office network was nil, I have found the academic concept of privacy refreshing. (To be honest, I’ve also found it a bit frustrating at times as it limits the scope of data mining within the academic environment by shielding users — myself included, of course — in a level of anonymity that makes it more difficult to provide individually tailored alert services, RSS or otherwise.)
I also wonder how this concept of privacy will change in academic settings as services like, flickr, and the rest become more common. What degree of privacy will people give up over the long term to take part in these virtual communities? What will it look like when that fuzzy space at the intersection of individual privacy and group interaction becomes clear?

2 thoughts on “Open Scholarship with RSS”

  1. Ken- Hi, just a note… I’m a relatively new blogger, but have dived in head first with WordPress. I have a good feel for RSS and such, but I was wondering… where is your RSS feed to your blog!? I looked over the page (did not do a search) and tried to find a simple RSS link to your feed… Um…. if your blog is about RSS, don’t you want viewers to find the feed easily?! It’s probably me… my eyes get glazed over eventually… I like your site/content and the technology of RSS, applications, etc. 🙂

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