This is the website of Abulsme Noibatno Itramne (also known as Sam Minter). Comments here or emails to me at are encouraged... or follow me on Twitter as @abulsme.



June 2005

Workflow and RSS

An interesting idea:

Workflow Feeds with RSS and Atom
(Clint Combs)

Most people use RSS feeds for reading weblogs or downloading podcasts, but I’m experimenting with other uses. I’ve started integrating RSS feeds into a Java-based workflow application and the results look promising.

Since I rolled this out it’s had a big impact on how I use the system. Every morning I fire up RSSOwl and leave it running throughout the day. I’ve configured RSSOwl to poll the feed once an hour. Whenever it finds a new job note in the feed it alerts me and displays the new notes with bold headers. While it’s not an immediate sort of prompt (the system can also e-mail and page people) it does provide a great way to organize the ad-hoc data contained in the notes.

The reader shows every note and keeps track of the notes I have and haven’t read. If the note requires more attention I simply click on the link to the job and RSSOwl displays the OSCAR job in a browser window. This sort of interaction draws my immediate attention to notes and lets me forget about them as soon as I’m finished dealing with them. This is exactly the kind of user experience that a workflow solution should provide.

This little personal experiment has been a great success and I’m looking to roll it out to other users and see how they like it. The biggest task remaining is to get RSS readers into the hands of end users. While RSSOwl has worked fine for me, the developer, it’s probably not the best solution for enterprise office workers and print machine operators. I’m looking for a simpler solution.

(via CMS Watch)

Having worked on designing a couple systems that had workflow as a feature (and being in the middle of some workflow feature documentation right now) I can definately see where having workflow task listings distributed by RSS could be cool. Definately rpeferable to email. But as was mentioned in the article, the problem is most people don’t have RSS readers, and would be confused by them if they did.

Email notification is almost a non-starter. It is usally offered because people getting workflow systems insist that it has to be there. But almost always the requests to please turn that notification off start coming in almost immediately. So far the prefered solution has been a web based “to do list” that a user would check in on periodically. Even with that solution, RSS might be a good method of communicating the task lists on the back end from the system that generates them to the systems that shows the to do list.

But providing the task list as an RSS opens up a number of possibilities. Not just your standard reader, but also tickers and the like. Definately interesting possibilities.

The difficulty is just in productizing it without introducing the complexity of additional software to learn or install to non-tech users. Greg is considering a similar problem relating to get a potentially good Wiki based solution for sharing notes in an academic setting. As with a lot of these sorts of things, the technical aspects of the problem often end up being dwarfed by the cultural and social parts of the problem.

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