Adopting open standards & the Principles in a peacebuilding org

My name is Andy Carl, I’m based in London, and I’m interested in your work and I am looking at how to engage.

I have been working in the field of peacebuilding for many years, and I recently stepped down as a founder director of Amongst other things I have been cooperating with on an aggregated news feed on peace processes around the world called Peace Talks (also available on Twitter @PeaceNewstream)

I am also doing a lot of work around efforts to promote synergies in a sector that is challenged to realise its collective potentials. I have also recently written on some of these issues: (

I have two questions I wonder if you could help me with:

  1. The first is around the principle of Using Open Standards: I was not ICT trained and in our Peace Talks project we need to be able to access website (RSS) feeds to pick up and share information (especially from non governmental sources). It seems that many many organisations do not make their content RSS accessible or in the public commons. Is that right? Is there are reason for this? Are there other simple ways for an aggregator to access their content?
  2. My second question is more about tactics than technology - do you have any advice on how to convince the leading peacebuilding orgs to make this change? I read the digital principles doc - but it did not seem to get specific on this point. I have spent some time and energy on this and I would be willing to spend more, but I need advice on what approaches might work. (is the focus on RSS access simply too specific?)

Many thanks for considering this.

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Hi @acarl! Welcome to the forum, it’s good to have you here.

That’s probably right. RSS as a tool to share content does not enjoy the popularity and awareness it did several years ago when it was more “mainstream”. The unfortunate reality is that these days most people have their news and information mediated by corporations like Twitter and Facebook and their algorithms rather than affirmatively “opting in” to RSS feeds like folks had to do 5-10 years ago.

However, some of the web sites you’re interested in may have RSS/Atom feeds enabled but not advertised. I’d encourage you to use your web browser’s features to “View Source” on the page and try to find .rss or .atom URL’s mentioned in the code. This may get you what you need to automatically grab their content. Also, it’s possible to get RSS feeds from organizations’ social media links which might be a workaround.

Otherwise, you’ll probably have to manually curate the information, which brings us to your next question:

While some technical web site platforms (such as WordPress, for example) have RSS feed generation built in, many do not. And it’s not always easy for groups without in-house IT experience to create such tools. That said, there are some third-party tools that can create RSS feeds when web sites don’t have that functionality built in. Some (I have only limited experience with all of them and can’t necessarily recommend any yet for that reason) of those tools include:

Perhaps this is a start for people that do want to provide such services but can’t easily set it up.

Change is hard. :slight_smile:

If you can build a public resource that already has aggregated a lot of relevant information sources, perhaps the “hold out” organizations will be motivated to be included and will work to get a feed for you to poll. Another option is to look at deploying some time of “peacebuilding community forum” (not unlike this forum for the Principles!). Such forum tools like Discourse here, automatically can generate feeds based on categories and tags. So even if people don’t have a web site for you to watch, perhaps they can “donate” content that way.

It’s a good tangible thing to get peoples’ minds focused, but you may want to think more broadly as not everyone will easily have the technical expertise to create these kind of RSS feeds. A simpler action (at least technically speaking!) would be to encourage more people and organizations to adopt Creative Commons or similar licenses for their content. This would allow other people and organizations to copy, share, re-mix, and improve upon their work.

Not only do such licenses allow the most people to consume and use such important work, it’s also “the right thing to do” when public/government/donated funds are involved, to ensure that the work of benefactors has the greatest impact in the world.

Thanks for joining us and do keep asking questions about implementing various Principles here … I think you’ll find lots of people eager to share their experiences & ideas!