Scott's Workblog

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November 30, 2007

FeedForward project: M1 release imminent

If you've noticed that the volume of posts here has dropped, the main culprit is one of my other projects, FeedForward. That project is due to release its first 'proper' milestone build next week (fingers crossed).

FeedForward is small in terms of funding and resources (its me and Kris Popat, each of us part-time), but still pretty ambitious. Its attempting to build a tool to support a rapid scanning, collecting and publishing workflow - it was originally inspired by a prototype by Stephen Downes called RSSWritr, which captures the concept of wanting to scan your information environment, select things you want to work on, and then publish out your commentary.

It also owes a nod towards Radio, one of the first ever aggregators.

However I think it has a character of its own, and is definitely distinct from the common design of aggregators in terms of design. Instead of individual feeds, you have "inputs" that are themselves composed of feeds, searches and harvesting operations, a bit like a Yahoo Pipe. Instead of being displayed as "inboxes", they appear as a single "river" which we call the "radar". It also hooks straight into publishing services - Atom, Blogger, Del.icio.us, Mag.gnolia, Simpy - with more to come.

One other thing to note - we're building it to support academic sources and outputs. So M1 already has the bare bones of support for SWORD, for depositing items into LO and scholarly repositories. So you can collect a bunch of interesting stuff, and then drag the "context" that contains them onto Del.icio.us to share as bookmarks, and onto a SWORD service (e.g. for IntraLibrary/JORUM) to share as an IMS Package - without really needing to know what either of those things actually does. M2 adds OAI-PMH & SRU as "feeds". M3 adds BibTex export and publishing to citation services. I'm sure we'll figure out more as we collect feedback.

Hopefully when we get to M3 we'll have a tool that spans the gaps between Web 2.0 and academic web services, and supports the online work of students, lecturers, researches and support staff without any special differentiation in the functionality.

Of course, as its a desktop application (a Rich Internet Application according to the latest terminology) a lot of people will go for a web-based solution or browser-based solution. But its already getting pretty handy.

For more info, check out the blog. You can also check out the source code from SVN, and soon we'll have the M1 downloads ready. Be warned, however - this is very much alpha code, and many things you might expect (like decent keyboard shortcuts) won't be present, and some things will be buggy. Play at your own risk!

Screenshot of an interim build of FeedForward

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