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Monday, April 21, 2003
By Paul Ford
Regarding RSS feeds. Submitted via email 21 April, 2003.
Dear GPOAccess User Support Team,
Thank you for your hard work and development on the Supreme Court of the United States' web site. I find it to be an excellent resource for learning more about this institution.
I have a suggestion to make regarding the site. I think you should make the docket available in RSS format. And not just the docket, but opinions, orders - everything the court releases.
RSS is an XML format for web site syndication. It lists the most recent files added to a web site, and is updated whenever a site is updated.
RSS files or "feeds" are then downloaded on a recurring basis by two groups of people: those who read the items in an RSS file inside of "news aggregators," and web sites that display items in an RSS file as headlines. A web site that both displays such headlines and makes them available to other sites is Slashdot.org.
(You may know all about this already. If you don't, a good place to start in learning about this topic is this web site....)
I suggest this course of action because, by adding RSS files, you would allow thousands of individuals (and, in the next few years, millions) to have regular, daily access to the latest information about the actions of the Supreme Court, and you would allow personal web site publishers to include Supreme Court headlines on their own web sites.
I believe this would be a marvelous use of the Internet to encourage a participatory public and open flow of information regarding the actions of the court. I publish a web site, Ftrain.com, which has a regular audience of civic-minded individuals. Many of my readers, I know, would welcome an opportunity to skim through recent Supreme Court opinions or to review the docket when they visit my web site. An RSS feed would make it easy for me to include Supreme Court activity on the front page of my site. It is a small thing, but I believe it would be a low-cost effort that would increase the ability of American citizens to engage more fully in understanding the actions of the judicial branch.
In researching the issue, I have found that I am not alone in this desire. The supreme court of appeals of West Virginia, for instance, makes their RSS feeds available with recent opinions, and civil, criminal, and family topics.
These feeds are prepared by Rory Perry, an individual who seems to have given some thought to the issues involved in syndicating law content. I do not know Mr. Perry personally, but have read some of his writing at his weblog. Perhaps he would be interested in helping the Supreme Court as well.
I am by no means an expert in all aspects of both Supreme Court process and the dynamics of XML syndication, but I understand enough to help you plan your RSS feeds. If you would like me to act as an informal advisor for this effort, or explain my ideas further, I would be glad to volunteer time over the phone. Please send me an email if I can be of any assistance.
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