Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

The First RSS Newsmastering Engine For Search Professionals: MySyndicaat

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As I have anticipated yesterday, the first, fully-featured RSS newsmastering engine is just debuting online.

Photo credit: Mike Mattinson

This new web-based hosted service which is fully available for anyone to use right now (nothing to pay), allows to aggregate, splice, filter multiple RSS feeds, automatically remove duplicates, scrape HTML into RSS, archive news, search RSS-enabled search engines and news sources and output RSS-based content into multiple formats.


Targeted at "professionals" researchers, information librarians, competitive intelligence analysts, information scouts and specialized news editors, the new technology makes it finally rather straightforward to create topic-specific newsradars (news feeds) on just about any selected theme.

Not only.

The hosted service integrates all components and facilities needed to carry out this emerging new type of niche publishing into one place.

A simple and unthreatening user interface makes this new tool immediately usable by anyone having the appropriate research skills.

Though still in Beta, this technology shows already what I, and many other have been looking forward to see for last 1.5 years. All the other tools that had emerged until now in this space, offered either only some parts of this equation or were too geeky to be used by those who could leverage them best: humanists, researchers, information librarians, analysts, competitive intelligence experts, investigators, newsmasters.

This is why I have gone out to invite the chief engineer, brain and pilot behind this new service, Giovanni Guardalben, to give me 30 minutes of his time, to ask and find out directly from him, what is so special about this tool, how much it will really cost to us, what features and limitations are there, and when can we start using it.

Listen to the streaming audio interview with Giovanni Guardalben, just by clicking the Play button here below

Robin Good: Hello everyone, here is Robin Good, live from Rome in Italy, and today my guest, he is not across the ocean but indeed not too far away from me. Hello, Giovanni, are you there?

Giovanni Guardalben: Hi there, this is Giovanni Guardalben, nice to talk to you Robin.

RG: Nice for me to talk to you Giovanni. And where are you connecting from?

Giovanni Guardalben: I'm actually connecting from Affi which is just beside the lake, Garda Lake in the northern part of Italy. And I'm talking to you from my office at Hit Software.

RG: Great, so you are in northern Italy in the Veneto region near Verona if I'm not wrong. Please correct me.

Giovanni Guardalben: Yes indeed, we are located about twenty miles on the northwest side of the Verona area here, and it's a very scenic area. We like to work from here because we are close to mountains, close to the lake, and besides working fifteen hours a day we can also do some hiking walking and cycling.

RG: Great, that's good to know that you're in such a wonderful location and the company Giovanni was mentioning is Hit Software, H-I-T Software, which is based in Italy, but is I think an international company with offices somewhere else. Is that correct Giovanni?

Giovanni Guardalben: Well, yes, indeed. You know, we started, I'm not that young anymore, but anyway, we started many years ago as a consulting company here, doing software projects for companies for practical applications, custom software and so on. Back in 1994 we decided it was just about time to become international, and so we started our subsidiary in San Jose in California. This company is called Hit Software and this particular company is just very focused on a specific field, which is database access. And, this is what I've been doing until a couple years ago, database access.

RG: Great information, but probably everybody who has been reading the introduction to this podcast, radio, audio, good conversation, whatever you want to call it, doesn't really know why Giovanni Guardalben today is my guest.

Giovanni is the man, the brain, the executive arm of a new very interesting service called "MySyndicaat."

MySyndicaat is the first truly professional incarnation of what I would call a full-fledged newsmastering engine.

Well, I know that for many of you that is not going to trigger many bells. So, Giovanni, would you in your own words give us a summary, a synthesis, an intro to what a newsmastering engine really is?

Giovanni Guardalben: Well, you know, this is a fairly new field, that you know very well, I believe, because many of the ideas that have been tried to be developed and producing to a piece of software came from discussing with you, or people who have been talking about newsmastering in the past.

What we really think is that the basic idea behind all this, later on we'll go into more details and more refined descriptions, but I find it... personally I'm using MySyndicaat for myself, and the reason for using it is because I find often there is so much information out there.

I'm collecting so many RSS or syndication feeds anyway, and it's getting to a point where I had to spend a fair amount of time in the morning to keep up. So I decided that something had to be done, and something would be nice to be done in the area of collecting information in such a way that it is all together.

It comes from a specific source rather than going everywhere on the web. And also, you know, deciding on my own what I want to see rather than getting everything all the time.

RG: So what My Syndicaat spelled M-Y-S-Y-N-D-I-C-A-A-T, MySyndicaat, with a double-a, at And you can go and explore it right now, is really a service that allows you to aggregate, combine, and splice together into one master newsfeed all of the different feeds that you normally tap into, but also to divide this into different master feeds so that you can have one about online collaboration rather than content distribution or RSS.

And MySyndicaat allows you, and Giovanni correct me if I'm wrong, an advanced level of professional control, where by you can filter, exclude, eliminate news items, posts, articles and any content that doesn't feed exactly what you are looking for. Am I correct on this Giovanni?

Giovanni Guardalben: Yes indeed. What we've been trying to do there with MySyndicaat, is to be able to take, as I said before, many many RSS feeds, any flavor of RSS by the way, retrieve them individually at pretty fine intervals, which is more or less what standard aggregators do. But, other than just getting them and storing them locally, we do that otherwise as a service, we also introduce what we call restrictions.

Basically we say keep or save, store this particular item from this source only if it meets a number of conditions, which are basically strains. You know, it's a simplified way of adding some Boolean logic to figure out unwanted information.

Everything then is combined into a new feed so that you are not only getting it all in the same place, but you can re-feed it, re-syndicate it to a different aggregator of yours if you decide to use your own aggregator.

RG: So, indeed, I must confirm, and I've been testing quite a bit this MySyndicaat now in Beta version, as a hosted service, that not only all of the news you're collecting gets stored in a database but you can decide for how long a time these are kept there. For a search you can combine and filter out any items and produce output in one or more formats. Giovanni now will tell us more actually about this, so you can actually republish!

Much of the ideal process of newsmastering is generated out of the intellectual capabilities of the researcher, the digital information librarian skills one must have beyond the tools used. You must have really good cultural skills that must be quite broad or very specific (in another situation) to enable you to select properly the sources and the queries around which to build a search feed to then input into MySyndicaat (or similar tools).

But MySyndicaat this is really the first full-fledged solution that I can see working reliably, having a clear workable, usable, interface, and that which gets the job done.

So, Giovanni, what about the outputs? What are you offering right now and what is coming up in the near future on that front?

Giovanni Guardalben: Well, clearly as you mentioned, the basic aim is for publishing.

This tool can, you know is a web-based tool, so it's for everybody.

However, we really focused on capabilities and performance, so we really like this tool to be used by "professionals", someone who really knows his particular domain and they want to be doing something, let's say "web intelligence", "competitive intelligence", but in a very professional way.

So in terms of what you can get, the output of this service is, as I said, an RSS feed. We decided to standardize on RSS 2.0 for all the feeds and we use also UTF-8 encoding so that it is very usable for any languages.

You are also provided with a viewer which is, you know, fairly simple, very simplified, but very effective for you to get a summary of your results and the link to the final item, where it is stored.

You are also able to see the individual contribution/source of each subscription. So, let's say that your "feedbot" (a master RSS feed aggregating multiple other ones) combines five different sources, you can see the contribution of each one of those individually if you don't want to see them spliced together, although the count is all together.

In terms of what is coming up in the future, you know, without going into too many details, what our aim is: providing a way for the user to be able to add his own contribution so that you know that on occasions all of the typical things that are popular these days, or eliminating individual items in such a way that basically you can create your own individual content out of an automatic engine that we accomplished mathematically. So that is what we get so far.


RG: What would be nice if there was a way for the users who want to share their syndication feeds on specific topics to be able to do that and leverage that as an extra opportunity for marketing and visibility and maybe even as a parallel business model for MySyndicaat itself, on the same line as Squidoo, the latest idea from Seth Godin, it would appear that there would probably be some grassroots users that would benefit not only in creating newsmaster feeds for internal use, but also maybe for openly sharing and then MySyndicaat could become a clearinghouse for that and provide both the means as well as the marketing and distribution for that online content for others to use further.

Well, I'm just suggesting what is coming up as you were talking. A couple of points of interest for the listeners, and for the readers as well, is that the term "feedbot" is what in MySyndicaat refers to as a super-feed, which means an aggregated feed that contains several unique sources.


For those of you who have never heard of newsmastering and the benefits of doing all this, it all really boils down to the ability of creating topic specific, very thematic, very narrow thematic news feeds on just about anything you can think of.

Now the ability is half and half distributed between the intelligence of the person who sets this up and of the technology that is made available to him or her to make this possible.

And, what I'm pointing out is that MySyndicaat is the first professional tool that is usable out there right now that can enable anyone who has enough of that information-librarian skills, enough research, knowledge, or specific topic skills to create specific feeds out of searches on major search engines, or on other sources of information, through PR press releases, through directory and databases, and collect all of this information into a master feed, to which many different sources make a contribution. Some may be blogs, some may be again searches which pop up results only what the results come up. So you get a very very high quality hose of topic specific news items that pop up just for you, selected from universal sources that go beyond what you know.

You will discover new sources with this type of tool. So it is extremely useful in a great number of fields from PR to marketing to research, competitive intelligence, training, education and more.

They're all to be explored, and I'm completely fascinated by the possibilities made available by this and I just would like that more people would have the opportunity to test it out and to see how this new technology is coming along while being something finally more usable for everyone and not just an assembly of geeky loose pieces which are quite technical to learn.

The fact that the sources, as you mentioned Giovanni, that the sources can be seen in your master feed when you preview it, is very important because when you act as a newsmaster you always have a problem in testing different sources or query searches that provide an RSS feed and some of them will bring up some "dirt", as I call it, or some irrelevant stuff.

So you need to tweak those query definitions, those key phrases and sometimes drop some of those that are really bad and keep others. The ability to see in your master feed for each news item where it is coming from, which feed is sucking it in, is a really useful one that I have been waiting a long time to have and which I have had to build manually in my own system. This is the first public commercial implementation that is completely free for you to try right now, that does all this by default.

What is also interesting is that MySyndicaat allows you to specify URL of static web pages that MySyndicaat is going to go after and create an RSS feed for you automatically. Am I correct, Giovanni?


Giovanni Guardalben: Yes you are. And that was a fairly important development that we added quite recently out of a number of requests from final users.

So very often although many sites are now RSS-enabled, we know that the large majority of websites, of URL's are still static, and don't have either the manpower or the editorial people to convert that content into RSS. Or, they probably don't even feel the need yet.

RSS is part of the age, it is still a recent phenomenon. So, in that case what we've done, we've basically provided a fairly simple way of creating content basically looking after, looking for those links that are important in the page, but we also added an interesting feature: basically people who have some technical skill, but it's for everyone really, they can in a simplified way identify those parts of the page that they believe are interesting to them, say for instance summaries, or news, or other items that are perhaps changing more often than the rest of the page, and just retrieve those parts by adding this simplified XML expression.

We did not design this feature for the final user, although they can try it, but for anyone who wants to be very specific in what they retrieve out of some static HTML, this can be really really useful.

The other thing that you Robin mentioned is search results. Recently a number of search engines have returned their results as RSS. So we try to make it easier to access them. So rather than replicating or creating your own URL for identifying a specific search, we've combine all the functionality needed to query those engines right away without having to go through complex URLs for you to enter.

This way you can combine content from multiple sources, some of them which are not RSS maybe and some for which RSS is created on the fly. In this way it's very very easy for the user to come up with very heterogeneous searches on very heterogeneous sources.

RG: So let's make this very clear for everyone because this is a mind-blowing opportunity and killer facility. You don't have to go anymore to Delicious, Technorati, A9, Google Blog Search, Alexa, MSN, you name it. Yahoo News. MySyndicaat does it for you.


Within MySyndicaat, a cool and clean AJAX interface, very smooth and rather intuitive to use, you can indeed tap and search-based RSS feeds out of all of those sources directly. And, therefore build all the things you need to become an effective newsmaster in just one place.

Okay, I guess I'm singing alone here, I guess I should be the one working for MySyndicaat marketing and Giovanni should be the interviewer. But, you know, I'm speaking out of what I know, I've seen, I've long tested and I'm not getting any commission or any money for doing this, so I'm really doing it out of the fact that I think this is an incredible tool.

I think that there are other tools out there that have shown signs of intelligence in this direction, but there aren't many. Giovanni, would you like to mention a few that you think are your most direct competitors?

Giovanni Guardalben: Well, you know the market for newsmastering is coming up pretty quickly I will say, probably thanks to RSS itself.

It seems that as soon as any single piece of news is in one of the popular blogs or is being announced or decried in one of the, you know, technically savvy or prestigious blogs, everybody knows about it.

So, information seems to be, at least in the professional community, information is flying really really fast.

As of today, people talk about newsmastering, for example, when they refer to a feed digest. As the name implies they describe with that, a tool, a service, from which you can generate content from a number of feeds and then you can also decide the format, or the look that you produce and then insert that into your web page for instance to display mixed content.

And then there are a number of other tools which are I would say new. Some of them are really really new and it's a new market so I believe that what is really to be looked at is the exculpability of it all, how easy it is to use it.

So far, Robin, you mentioned the fact that this is AJAX-based, as you all know, at least in the technical community, AJAX is this new way whereby you need not send forms of data back and forth with your web server, but you rely otherwise on these new components, new browser-based components which will take care of sending data and screen information. The big advantage of using AJAX is the fact that your website is really very quick.

You tend to do so much more on a single page.

For instance, with My Syndicaat you can configure multiple feedbots without going back and forth to your web server. And once you are finished with all of your changes and all of your additions, you can just say "update everything", and this will take care of creating the final version of your feedbots. Then, once you've done that particular action, the My Syndicaat engine will automatically take over and will perform all the necessary processing to get the content for you.

So as far as I'm aware, I don't know of any other tool out there that is doing the same kind of functionality within this type of approach. And, it's a very interesting approach and it's very complex, and it takes time to master it and to be effective.

RG: Okay, well, we do know of a few that have come out especially recently; there have been a number that we have showcased in our Sharewood Picnic on Sundays on, but I do recall a very good effort certainly I would believe of somehow a direct competitor of yours, it positions itself somewhat differently now than your tool and that is BlogBridge.

This is the open source, cross-platform solution that is Java-based and which allows the creation of smart feeds. On the other hand, BlogBridge does not yet allow the output into RSS and all the advanced features that we've been mentioning here today. It is not really a tool for the publisher, so you distinguish yourself in this respect.

There's been a tool available already, since a couple of years ago, that's called News2Web from a company called Hexamail if I remember correctly that used to come very close to do some of the basics. We are certainly, in terms of magnitude, less sophisticated than what we see now here.

And there have been other tools that I was thinking of that allow a little bit of this.

Some of them were very geeky ones and many of ones were included inside my RSS NewsMaster Toolkit which is still available online as a mini-guide to do all the work that now MySyndicaat brings together. So, you're basically putting out of market my mini-guide, and I guess I have to take it off the shelves, because it makes no sense for people to pay the money I'm asking for that when there is this tool that is freely available to everyone. Is that correct, Giovanni? Is this freely available for everyone right now?

Giovanni Guardalben: Well, yes it is. It is a service, it's in Beta, it's fairly, at least from our point of view, reliable tool, and it's free in the sense that you can pitch your account right away for free.

Once you get your user name and password you are allowed to create for free up to five feedbots (increased to twenty after Robin Good's later requests in this interview) and each one of them containing up to five different sources or subscriptions.

We realize that for many people, for most people this is quite enough. For others this is not enough, so if anybody's got more or higher requirements please let us know. We have different subscription levels and we can provide higher limitations, or better lower limitations for anybody that will send us an e-mail and we'll be quite available to provide it for them.

So that's just about it. We are quite confident that the service-life of the product is quite reliable. And the reason for that is that it's based on a previous product of ours, which is called Hit Syndicaat, H-I-T Syndicaat, which is a tool, a server for enterprise RSS syndication. It runs in your intranet. So without going into too many details about it I have to say that Hit Syndicaat has been around for about a year now, a year and a half, and as such has been thoroughly tested by our users and this is what MySyndicaat is using.

So, MySyndicaat is providing this thin veneer of user interface and configuration management, user management and so on, on top of a very powerful server. That is what gives us confidence that we are providing something that is very reliable although it is in Beta.

RG: Great information indeed and well on one hand I would like to suggest to Giovanni and MySyndicaat to provide a little more leeway at least in the initial period for the people who will sign up, to have a few more sources that they can include, more mixing that we want.

So, I don't know if you want to give us special code for just those who are listening or if you just want to do it for everyone, which would be even nicer, but I think to really appreciate the potential of newsmastering with a tool like this, you may want to give a little more leeway.

Five feedbots with five feeds in it I think might be a little limiting. And you can always say, you know, this is the beta period and everything is free and later on you know, provide your barriers to entry or subscription fees for whatever you want.

Actually I would be curious to know if you have established any indicative ideas about what any subscriptions would cost in the future? Because, I think that is what people would be very interested in knowing at this point.

Giovanni Guardalben: Well, you'll be glad to know that at this stage we are not planning for any fees.

So you may wonder what's your model? What's your business model? Our model is to provide this tool in a more scalable format and with a higher number of feedbots and, you know, more complex features to the enterprise market.

We believe that providing this tool free to web users we will be getting visibility and will be providing, will be receiving returns, interest returns, from corporations that either want to utilize the service over the web from us or they may just want to install the software on their own premises.

Since all of the products are, you know, installable very quickly, I've been developing software for ten years now. I've been making shrink-wrap products for many years, so we know that when you develop web products, the quality of your software is pretty good but whether you can install it or move it to another location is another question.

So we started from a different approach. We started in software and then we got into service. So MySyndicaat can very easily and very quickly be installed anywhere in a very short period of time. That's the reason we are providing it for free.

And for the time being, we haven't really decided if we're going to provide any fee-based services.

RG: That is wonderful, let me say that, let me shake your hand Giovanni because that is the way that the web works right now and MySyndicaat, I'm sorry to be so openly flattering towards this company, but you're just doing the right thing.

So, I am so very happy to endorse you and to say "this is the way to go."

You have to let it go free, let the users test it, find it out, refine it, create good uses for it and be your best marketers out there.


I think really you should give them even more leeway, because, you know, one thing is to say it's free but they are a little restricted in what they can do, so, I mean let them break your server first and then we start complaining but I guess you will want them to come in thousands and do as much as they want.

So make your potential shine, don't limit that use so much because I think you have a great tool, and I think the users themselves will go out and tell everyone else that is interested in this type of work that you know, you've got a killer tool for now on the market.

So, fantastic, my compliments to you Giovanni, and great marketing strategy. I look forward to be using and showcasing more of your work in the future.

I thank you for your patience and time, and I wish you the very best with the first full-fledged newsmastering tool out there, hosted service for free.

Thanks again Giovanni.

From Robin Good live in Rome, Italy, this is all for today and I leave it to you Giovanni for the closing remarks and giving any URL or link you may want to refer to our listeners to follow for more information. Ciao!

Giovanni Guardalben: Robin, thank you.

Thank you very much for your opinion, valuable opinion. I really appreciate reading your blog and your commentaries. As you said, our marketing strategy is to be very open. We want people to give it a try, to test out the product and to give it away for free for now.

In order for you to use the product you will have to go to your website and enter the spelled as M-Y-S-Y-N-D-I-C-A-A-T dot com.

Within there you will find the "contact us" link that will create an e-mail address for you to send us any requirement, any information you want to get from us, and, as I mentioned before, for you to get higher, larger numbers of feedbots, to remove any limitations you think is preventing you from doing what you want to do.

So, thank you Robin and keep in touch.

Listen to the streaming audio interview with Giovanni Guardalben, just by clicking the Play button here below

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posted by Robin Good on Wednesday, November 9 2005, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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