Utah puts bids on RSS

Utah's Purchasing and General Services Division publishes procurement bids through a Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed, one of the first government purchasing agencies in the country to use the growing Extensible Markup Language-based Web format.

People who want to know what new bids have been posted simply subscribe to the division's Web site by inserting the RSS feed's URL in a news aggregator or reader that sits on the user's computer and regularly polls RSS-enabled sites for new items. Those items then appear in the aggregator's window as a headline and short description.

This way users can scan, in a relatively short time, new items of interest from dozens of Web sites at a time.

Bids are e-mailed to people who subscribe to the division's service, said Douglas Stout, administrative services manager of the division, "but we'd definitely like to see more participation from bidders."

The agency started the RSS feed because one of the division's customers asked for it, and because it only took an afternoon's work to put up the RSS capability, there was no other consideration needed, Stout said.

The division is "just playing with [RSS] right now," Stout admitted, but he's hopeful that his group's use of the new technology could get many other people to use aggregators to receive bid information and thereby help to create a standard for this kind of use of the XML-based service.

Although still a niche item, RSS has been attracting more interest as a way of publishing Web-based information easily to a broad audience, particularly in the commercial sector. It's an even smaller niche in government circles, but it's also starting to attract interest there.

Utah is one of the first states to apply a focus to using RSS, with the legislature already publishing a general interest RSS news feed on its activities. The executive branch and Administrative Office of the Courts also publish Web content through RSS feeds.

Brian Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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