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Attensa Heats Up Its RSS Appliance

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RSS technology continues to move forward in the enterprise world, and if Attensa has its way their Feed Server technology will provide the guiding hand toward greater RSS utility and usage.

I tend to prefer to sit back and listen to what people have to say during interviews. They are the ones who bring something interesting to the conversation. All I try to do is make it accessible to our readers.

Sometimes there is a question begging to be asked right at the start, and my recent chat with Attensa’s Matt Bookspan and Scott Niesen about their RSS appliance, Feed Server, brought one to mind.

“If I’ve already got a feed reader, and everyone else in the organization has one as well, why do we need a Feed Server?”

Why a Feed Server?

Bookspan gave me three reasons. First, the Feed Server aggregates the feeds being served to readers in the organization. This way, instead of a thousand people all hitting a bunch of feeds across the firm’s Internet connection, they go across Ethernet to reach the feeds at the appliance instead.

The next two reasons go together. Through use of the Feed Server, the organization can designate and enable certain feeds as mandatory for employees to read.

Activity is measurable when using Feed Server. This way a particularly garrulous CEO can see who is and who isn’t reading the feed from his executive blog. Then he can arrange for a chat with the reluctant staffer to discuss the situation.

On the road

Feeds would not be limited to the enterprise. Feed Server can use MAPI to link with Microsoft Exchange; if ActiveSync is in use, feeds can be pushed to mobile devices. Feed Server can also connect with GoodLink or a BlackBerry Server for pushing feeds.

On the PC in the office, Attensa provides a web-based client with a rich Ajax-driven interface for users to read their feeds. A simple stylesheet can be applied to a feed’s content to remove undesired content.

Users can perform a number of actions through the client to tailor what they receive from the Feed Server to their needs. They can edit feed descriptions, designate logins for secure feeds, synchronize between office and mobile devices, and even arrange to receive a feed’s items as email instead.

When Feed Server arrives at the doorstep, the appliance will have some 2,000 feeds enabled on it already. Attensa has selected from a variety of popular and heavily subscribed feeds.

Administering the feeds

Some feeds may be of more use to particular users and groups than others. In an Exchange environment, group defaults can be set at the server level for feed reading. Feed Server can import from Active Directory, and tracks when users leave a group and join another.

Administrators can manage the available feeds, and add and delete categories of feeds as needed. For example, a marketing group may want to have continual access to information on blogging. Appropriate feeds can be assigned to a marketing group, and when anyone joins that group they will have the pre-selected feeds available.

A lot of feeds deliver a high volume of information, and after a certain number become difficult to keep up with and manage. Through the use of Attensa for Outlook, people can benefit from what Bookspan described as a “river of news.”

The River of News

In the River of News View provided in Attensa for Outlook, presently at beta version 1.5, the Attention Stream technology behind Attensa’s products really comes into play.

The technology can determine a number of details about a user’s feed reading habits: what is being read or shared and when that is taking place.

After learning a bit from the user, the Attention Stream technology begins organizing information by priority depending on what and when feeds are being read. This way the user should see relevant content at the times when he normally would look for it in a feed reader.

Attensa for Outlook includes tagging support. It can also sync with the tags a user already has on Delicious, the bookmarking service owned by Yahoo.

What’s next

Reporting features still need to be fleshed out for enterprise use. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in the Fortune 500 knows that businesses seem to run on reports. A measurable product should have data available that an Excel or Crystal Reports user can haul into their software.

Today, a lot of information exists on RSS feeds. That market should expand as more companies like financial and health care firms embrace secure RSS options for making private information available through RSS.

A savvy company that steps up today for the Feed Server will be running ahead of the curve in the business world. Used effectively, the beneficial information a quality site can provide rapidly over a feed can help competitiveness in the marketplace.

Discuss this article with your fellow WebPros at WebProWorld.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

Attensa Heats Up Its RSS Appliance
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