Blogs > 37th Frame

Photography, notes, commentary and much more from former Reporter Online Editor Chris Stanley.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fun with RSS and Google

RSS (which stands for Real Simple Syndication, though that sounds just too goofy to be true) is a great way to pull headline feeds from just about any blog and many web pages. Here is a great example of a way to use RSS to pull information from one web site, in this case the Montgomery County WebCAD.

WebCAD is a site hosted by our home county (Montgomery) which has a live listing of fire, EMS and traffic situation calls. It is a great resource for local journalists who can't listen to the police scanner constantly, especially since many of the new frequencies are hard to locate or are encrypted.

The problem with this site is that the listings expire quickly on a rolling basis, so you might only see calls from the past hour or two. Useful during the day, but what I needed was a way to archive those calls at night or over a weekend, for example, so our reporters could review calls the next morning.

The solution is to use RSS feeds, which luckily are available on this site. Getting the feeds are as simple as pulling a link from the WebCAD site, which I simply added to a Google RSS reader on a iGoogle page (the customizable landing page you can create with your Google account). This reader remembers well over 1,000 of the previous RSS entries, so now we have a good archive of everything that happened in the county over the past few days.

The RSS feeds don't include much information about the incidents, but at least give reporters a good idea of what happened and lets them know who they need to call for follow-up.


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