Sunday, January 17, 2010

How PDF and RSS Can Solve Information Retention Challenges

What I am about to suggest as a solution to some of the records retention challenges municipalities are facing with web 2.0 tools may, or may not, be mine.  I'm not sure if this idea has reached my brain through osmosis during my many readings (I have only seen one article speak to some of the specifics I am writing about here), or if it began as a homegrown spark in one of my synapses.  Either way here it is for you.

Municipalities are having to find ways of keeping track of the information being published online when they use social media.  Unfortunately, since the information is not hosted by the municipality, they have less control than they typically need, or would like.  The potential risks are very real, with freedom of information requests, and various security threats to the information from hacks.  The end result is that many municipalities give into fear, don't seek solutions, and give up.  Then the message to the world becomes, "No social media for us. We are more of a stone table organization. You know - sturdy, inflexible, not easy to change".

So what is the solution I am proposing? Using the existing tools of email, PDF document storage, and RSS feeds to create a semi-automated records retention system for your organization.  This requires three things:

1.   A dedicated email account maintained by the municipality for this specific purpose;
2.   Installing RSS feeds on the social media site(s) being used by the municipality; and,
3.   A server folder in which to save PDF documents.

The implementation then requires a few short steps. Through a variety of ways (either copying-cutting-pasting-saving as PDF; or printing as a PDF; or exporting as a PDF) the municipal blogmaster regularly saves the contents of the social media site(s) as a PDF document.  This can be done at whatever intervals are determined appropriate my the municipality based on site activity.

In addition to this, or perhaps in some cased instead of, a dedicated email address is set up by the municipality to receive automated RSS feeds from the site(s) in question.  Once the  RSS is set up, the municipality signs themselves up, and then forwards these feed on a regular schedule to the dedicated email address (again using something like PDF files).  This way the municipality is able to archive whenever there is new information on the site. With this done, all posts and comments from the site are forwarded to the email account and stored on the municipality's server.

Now your organization has its records retention problem solved. So get (back) online!

1 comment:

Tom Christoffel said...

Hello Cac & Rob -
Google’s Blog Search sent me to your site because of the keywords "regional community." This should be useful to subscribers of Regional Community Development News, so I will include a link to it in the January 25 issue. The newsletter will be found at Please visit, check the tools and consider a link. Tom