Archive for Azeem Ahmad

Project Report – Azeem Ahmad

My project will be live and online from tomorrow (11/01) at http://www.fleetbuzz.com (it will be at the bottom) – I chose this website as I did my work experience there, and I am on personal terms with the admins there, so they kindly agreed to host my project for me at short notice.

My final project is not what I originally intended as I had planned to host it myself on my own website, but other circumstances have led to having me change my project and its location in order to meet the deadline on time. I have still managed to amalgamate the four websites RSS codes into one through manipulation of them, one by one. The unique source code that I made is still available however, and will be part of this project.

User Testing, and Accessibility

I managed to get the product tested by the administrator of the website, who found the concept good, and said that it was easy to use. He did say however, that once he was re-directed to the ‘holding’ website, HitRSS, that it became a bit difficult to use. I overcame this by making the link to the news websites more prominent on the RSS Blog, therefore making it easier for the user(s) to access the news they were originally after.

Ideally, as mentioned earlier,I would have liked for the product to be hosted on my own website. I do feel however, that it is easy to access on the FleetBuzz website, as it is placed with all of the other external links. If I had more time to do this project, or to do it again, I would invest more time in advertising and promotion of my product, in an attempt to compete with its bigger competitors.

Skills and Development

When I started this project, I had a very basic knowledge of RSS. I knew what RSS did, but I never understood how it worked. During the course of this project I now feel that I have an excellent knowledge of RSS and its capabilities, and how RSS itself works. I am now able to de-construct an RSS reader, explain what part of the reader has what function. I also understand RSS as a language, and I have demonstrated during this project that I have achieved skills which will make me more employable in the new media industry, but also as an online journalist too. I have skills which enable me to become an online journalist, or to work in the new media industry.

Ideas for development

This project could easily be developed into something much more bigger given more time. It could easily be developed into a website of its own, even created using Flash or JavaScript language, making it more contemporary.

It could also offer users the chance to subscribe to the site, and offer their own websites and links for RSS amalgamation.

The site could also become ‘wiki’ style, giving users the chance to log on and edit parts of the website themselves, making each user a personalised home page. Each of these technologies embrace the web 2.o ethos, and have scope for potential future development.

Advertisements

What Do New Media Professionals Look For? – Azeem Ahmad

New Media Professionals, when advertising jobs, look for a number of basic, or ‘stock’ skills from people, as well as more technical, and contemporary skills.

I believe that such skills can include:

  • Web Design(ing), or an understanding of it, and the practices involved
  • An understanding of complicated coding languages, such as HTML, CSS, XML, XHTML, etc
  • An understanding of programmes and technologies such as PHP, MySQL, Dreamweaver, ColdFusion, etc
  • Ability to use software such as Adobe Photoshop package, etc
  • Ability to use video and audio editing software, etc
  • As well as other basic skills such as team/individual work, time management, flexibility, etc

These skills are relevant to the industry as they separate the more skilled professionals from those who are not – in turn creating higher quality media.

 Speaking in ‘ The Journalist’ magazine – Jeremy Paxman, a BBC Broadcaster, said:

“We have a dynamic in news now that is less about uncovering things than it is about covering them. Young people entering television now are more technically able, more vfisually creative than at any time in the short history of the medium so I plead for them to be given the time and space to do a better job.”

Azeem Ahmad – Final Project Proposal (Detailed)

Project Outline –

Many internet users travel to various news websites to digest daily occurrences around the world. Most often have e-mail subscriptions (no matter how dated the service may be), and it is often tedious having to trawl through several websites to find the news the user is looking for.

A lot of people are now taking advantage of RSS, or Really Simple Syndication – a method of linking through a ‘feed’ that can provide up to 15 or more links (in this case, news stories) at once. This is a good new media technology, but it has room to be developed more. Subscribing to an RSS feed is anonymous, hence eliminating the need for e-mail news subscriptions, but placing several feed boxes on a browsers toolbar can seriously overload the screen with unnecessary information.

For my project I aim to manipulate four popular news websites, BBC News, Sky News, The Guardian, and The Mirror, and converging them into one feed so that online news users only need to subscribe to one feed.

I plan to do this by creating a one big feed, essentially a mash-up of the four feeds mentioned above. I will also attempt to categorise the links inside of the feed by genre so that browsing through the single feed is easier. Also, by categorising, I am also able to promote this product as an RSS 2.0 feed, rather than simply an RSS feed, thus enhancing potential attention from interested parties.

Market Research –

One very successful website that does this is http://imooty.eu, a news aggregator for the whole of Europe. Imooty allows users to pick and choose which particular publications they want to see an RSS breakdown (of top headlines) on the users ‘my imooty’ page – a clever individualisation for the website. Such personalisation of the site will keep viewers and readers coming back to the site for more, and more regularly, as all of the news they wish to digest is on one page. Imooty also has options to view the news for the rest of Europe, and is a very successful website.

Upon viewing the page source code for imooty, it is clear to see that the technical side of the website is heavily reliant on javascript coding, and embedding CSS into RSS coding, both of which are advanced coding procedures. For my project I simply intend to create a single feed which is a mash-up of four feeds, rather than creating a whole website.

I intend to create my product by obtaining and re-writing the RSS feed codes from the four sites mentioned, including date, category and GUID (Globally Unique Identifier) tags – so that any copyright issues are avoided. A simple breakdown of how one link in one section of the whole feed will look something like this:

<xml type="text/xsl">
 
<rss xml: version="2.0">
  <channel>
        <item>
      <title>Saudi king chides UK on terrorism</title>  
      <description>Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah accuses Britain of doing too little to fight international terrorism.</description>  
      <link>http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/-/1/hi/uk/7066867.stm</link>  
      <guid isPermaLink="false">http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7066867.stm</guid>  
      <pubDate>Mon, 29 Oct 2007 11:21:57 GMT</pubDate>  
      <category>UK</category>  
      
    </item>  

As seen from the box above, the link is the first story from the BBC News front page, taken at 1237 on Monday 29th October 2007. The date is relevant as the feed constantly is self-updating.

Included in the sample feed is the formatting of the code, in this case, XSL (Extensible Stylesheet Language) – this method eliminates the need to include CSS into the code. As with every RSS feed, the ‘version’ and ‘channel’ tags remain present, so too do the ‘item’ and ‘description’ tags.

However, the features that make this an RSS 2.0 feed, are the other tags. In this case, because the BBC is the original creator of the page (containing the story), there is no need for a GUID, hence the ‘false’ answer to the tag – the link simply points to the page that it is describing.

 

Also included is the publication date, and the category. These two categories are often overlooked when people create RSS feeds, but are now becoming increasingly relevant as the latest versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox now include standard options into their browsers that tell users when RSS feeds are present on a page, and also allow users to browse directly through a feed by category.

 

Conclusion –

 

To sum up, my product will be a single RSS feed that is an amalgamation of four mini RSS feeds from BBC News, The Guardian, The Mirror, and Sky News. I will also be including features that will make this a Web 2.0 technology, such as:

·         The publication dates of the feeds, so that they are self updating

·         A GUID – so that the feed that I have created is unique

·         Category tags, so browsing through the feed is easy

·         XSL encoding, so that the need for CSS is eliminated.

Brief Project Outline – Azeem Ahmad

People who use the internet to access news often find themselves visiting several different news websites to access the information they need. Some people have RSS feeds built into their toolbars in their web browsers – i.e Firefox, but even so, their browser will be cluttered with different subscriptions.

The aim of my project for this module is to create a ‘mash-up’ or a ‘mix’ of several popular, and regularly accessed RSS feeds, and combine them all into one single feed, thus eliminating the need for (amongst others):

  • Several different feed subscriptions
  • Over-subscribed feeds cramped into browsers
  • E-mail subscriptions (with RSS there is anonymity)

If I am able to complete this project successfully and to the high quality that I expect from it, then I may consider pitching my product to companies like Mozilla, or the BBC.

My aim is to take a minimum of four popular news feeds and combine them into one mixed RSS 2.0 feed, that is self updating – meaning the feed will update when the website it is linking to updates.

How to create an RSS 2.0 feed – Azeem Ahmad

This week I’ve spent looking around on the internet, researching how to create an RSS feed.

This time yesterday, I had no idea how to understand the code, it all looked like a foreign language!

Now i’m fully aware of what RSS actually is and how to make a feed.

I have attached the file as a presentation to this post, its  a step by step guide on how to create a feed:

Creating an RSS 2.0 Feed

By clicking the link above, you will download the presentation.

Azeem Ahmad – Week 2 – What is RSS?

This week I have spent researching RSS for my final project. I decided, with some help from the lecturer, that doing something with RSS will make me more employable as a potential journalist. So without further ado, here is my understanding of what RSS is, how to use and understand it, and other topics which interested me whilst I researched it.

What is RSS?

  • Really Simple Syndication
  • Rich Site Summary

RSS solves a problem for people who regularly use the web. It allows people to easily stay informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites they are interested in, rather than users having to trawl through various sites and signing up to newsletters.

RSS also solves a multitude of problems that webmasters commonly face, such as increasing traffic, and gathering and distributing news. It can also be the basis for additional content distribution services.

The number of sites offering RSS feeds is growing rapidly and includes big names like Yahoo News, BBC, Sky Sports, Mirror.

Syndic8 offers a directory of the most popular RSS feeds of the internet.

How to use and understand RSSRSS defines an XML grammar (a set of HTML-like tags) for sharing news. Each RSS text file contains both static information about the site, plus dynamic information about the new stories, all surrounded by matching start and end tags.Each story is defined by an <item> tag, which contains a headline TITLE, URL, and DESCRIPTION. Here’s an example:

...
<item>
  <title>RSS Resources</title>
  <link>http://www.webreference.com/authoring/languages/xml/rss/</link>
  <description>Defined in XML, the Rich Site Summary (RSS) format has
  quietly become a dominant format for distributing headlines on the Web.
  Our list of links gives you the tools, tips and tutorials you need to get
  started using RSS. 0323</description>
</item>
...

Each RSS channel can contain up to 15 items and is easily parsed using Perl or other open source software. Perl is an open source scripting program that is faster than C. Coincidentally, Perl is written in C and both programs occupy a large amount of CPU time.

SyndicationPublishing an RSS feed is just the beginning. RSS, really a mini database containing headlines and descriptions of what’s new on your site, is a natural for layering on additional services. In addition to displaying the news on other sites and headline viewers, RSS data can flow into other products and services like PDA’s, mobile phones, and even voice updates. Email newsletters can easily be automated with RSS. In this Web-like way RSS encourages multiple points of entry to one primary article, rather than multiple copies of the same article (which introduces its own maintenance problems). As Google shows, the sites with the most back-links win, and those with the freshest content also win. RSS, therefore, creates a win-win situation. Once you have data in a standardized format, new forms of content distribution channels are only limited by your imagination, and scripting ability.

RSS Aggregators (from webreference)There are a number of RSS news aggregators out there that automatically suck up RSS files from content providers and present the news in a variety of ways (my.netscape.com, my.userland.com, xmltree.com, moreover.com). Many make it easy to drop an RSS feed into your site. In fact, O’Reilly’s new Meerkat Open News Wire service, is an example of what can be done with RSS and some clever code. Meerkat aggregates the currently available technical RSS feeds, and filters new stories by time, topic, keywords, and even regular expression. Narrowing the new stories down to your interests is a breeze, all entirely automated.O’Reilly Network’s President and CEO Dale Dougherty: “What interests me about RSS is the ability to begin to monitor the flow of new information on the net. We all know what sites exist; what we really want to know is how often sites generate new information. As a writer and editor, I thought Meerkat would be valuable to watch what was happening in different technical communities. What I especially like about RSS and looking at feeds from hundreds of sites is that you can see the Web work at a grassroots level. I thought that Meerkat is the kind of tool I’d want to keep track of what is going on. We realized that this wasn’t just useful to editors but to anyone who wants to be able to respond to new information. I’m not sure where Meerkat will take us, but it feels like it’s opening up a remarkable new view of the Web. We’d really like to see more and more sites become RSS-enabled. RSS can do for them what Yahoo did for them in 1994, which is drive traffic by letting others know what you are doing. The difference is now we can notify others not just of a new site, but of new stories — new activity on our site.”The Future of RSSThanks to the efforts of the likes of Jonathan Eisenzopf (webreference.com), Dave Winer and Netscape, future versions of RSS will incorporate popular additional fields like news category, time stamps, and more. With thousands of sites now RSS-enabled and more on the way, RSS has become perhaps the most visible XML success story to date. RSS improves news distribution by making everyone a potential news provider. It utilises the Web’s most valuable asset – content – and makes displaying high-quality relevant news on a website easy.

What this means for my project

After all of that background knowledge of RSS and the possibilities of it, I think for my project i’m going to ‘mash-up’ around four popular RSS feeds and combine them into one. There is a CMS online that allows people to do this in a very basic way – www.rssmix.com, but it is very basic, and i would prefer to learn how its done rather than letting a machine or software do it for me. It will make me more employable as a journalist and add to my skills base so potential employers will rub their hands with glee when they see me applying for a job!

Sources

My apologies for not listing the sources earlier – my main source of information was from here. I did also browse and read a few other websites about RSS, but not in enough detail to include it into this post, or to reference it.

Azeem Ahmad – Week 1 Idea – Flash

Hi, I’m Azeem Ahmad and i’ma journalism specialist studying Media and Communication, in my final year at Birmingham City University. The purpose of this post is to let the rest of the class, and the world know what i’m planning on doing for my final project.

I am looking into designing a basic flash game, either aimed at adults, or children – not both. I have two very basic ideas for my game, and both will require me to learn a whole lot more of the Flash software as my knowledge of it is very basic.

Ideas

My first idea is a game aimed at adults, where the choices they make during the game can affect the outcome of it. It will be very basic, and takes some of the features that upcoming game TimeShift has as its strongest selling point.

My second idea is a childrens platform game, where they learn as they play. For example, the main character could encounter potential maths, or English problems, and work the answer out from a number of multiple choices.

However:

  • Manipulation of the main object in flash is something I dont know.
  • Learning this, and implementing may not be achievable in the time given.
  • As a journalist/designer, what will this project add to my skills?

Other Ideas

I may also think of an idea around combining key RSS feeds into one, as many internet users face the problem of visiting several news, video, and blog websites to get their daily ‘fix’ of information. I will be spending most of this week looking into flash, and manipulation of objects, and if i dont think that it is achievable in the time given, combining RSS feeds is the way forward for me.