This is the second entry of the ever-growing Yukon Blackout Mashup & Feed Saga.
While waiting for my Yukon Energy Blackout Mashup (I sent a note offering to slap something together once provided with the data), I discovered that I'd also want the Yukon Energy site to expose an RSS feed for proposed future multiple power outages.
I was late to board the RSS bandwagon. At first it didn't really seem all that useful. I have a browser after all, so I can just visit the site and read whatever is new. Why add another program or service to the mix? It wasn't until I asked myself the following question that the true value of RSS revealed itself to me: What if I don't want to visit the site?
Yukon Energy's site is a site that I don't want to visit. Why would anyone? It's pretty enough -- thankfully the designer persuaded management not to go with the official pink and blue colour scheme -- and seems well laid out. Thing is, aside from contact telephone numbers and outage announcements (see below), it doesn't contain any information of interest. To anyone. It's chock-a-block with press releases and admissions of munificent corporate governance: many words, little meaning. It all smacks of a government-mandated exercise in "communication."
So if I don't want to visit, why all the fuss? In short, the Planned Power Outages page. Like most, my business depends on an uninterrupted flow of electricity. Unlike most, I have servers running 24/7 and a blackout means that my entire internet presence goes dark: web and e-mail, mostly. That's just something I have to accept, running my servers from the spare bedroom as I do. But it would be ever so helpful to learn of these interruptions in advance. Hence the RSS feed. I'm not likely to remember to visit Yukon Energy's outage page every week, but I do check my RSS reader daily.
And once the outage info is in RSS format, then Alakazam Alakazoo! ...mashup-ready data.
- Geof Harries on 20071029.Monday:
Dave, I was part of the team (2004) that developed the Yukon Energy website as you see it today. My main role was information architecture and of course, the project management end of things. RSS was barely out of the gate at that time, so we didn't consider the technology in our build. If you contact Janet Patterson communications-at-yukonenergy-dot-ca you'll find her very easy to deal with and probably receptive to new website enhancements or changes, like an RSS feed.
- Dave on 20071029.Monday:
Did I forget to mention how beautifully architected was the information? 'Tis true -- each page's single paragraph is exactly where you'd expect to find it. Clearly, I'm having some fun at everyone else's expense. I'm sure someone at YEC is wondering what they did to deserve this.
- Geof Harries on 20071030.Tuesday:
Dave, well, there is a difference between architecture and copywriting, that's for sure. I arguably had the easy task. As for the lack of an RSS feed, if you're on Mac OS X Leopard, Safari allows you to turn any website page into a dynamic feed. If the page gets updated, your tiny version gets refreshed too, but you don't have to check the website. More at http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/safari.html
- Dave on 20071031.Wednesday:
I had thought about writing some screen-scraping code to create an RSS feed out of YEC's outage page, but screen-scraping is always fragile, and in any case, there aren't any planned outages listed at present to test with (to YEC's credit). There are also a number of online services that can create feeds (in much the same way as Safari, I suspect): http://www.mikeyarmish.com/2006/08/26/5-free-services-to-create-rss-feed-for-a-site-which-dont-have-it/
- PR Flack on 20071102.Friday:
Hi Dave. I am just back from a week away and am just now reading this posting. I think an RSS feed is a great idea and I am going to talk to our web designer to try to make it happen. I'll talk to him about the mashup at the same time.
- Dave on 20071102.Friday:
Power to the People! (In both senses.)