KnowNow gives RSS a business-savvy shine
ESS 3.1.7 combines simplicity of RSS with solid management, data connections, desktop delivery
This data-monitoring capability turns syndication into an enterprise alerting tool. For example, suppose you want to be notified when an invoice goes more than 30 days past due. Tie ESS into your financial package with LiveAdapter and you can have an immediate custom RSS feed of this data. KnowNow also includes eLert, a tool-tray (Windows) or browser toolbar (IE and Firefox) extension that watches for changes in RSS feeds and notifies you instantly about the updates.
Data flows in both directions in LiveAdapter. The solution may also be used to update the contents of a database from the data inside an RSS feed, although I didn’t test this.
On the content creation side, ESS’s SpeedWriter component performs the function of a blogging tool without the blog. A SpeedWriter channel has a browser-based editor that allows users to create items in a custom RSS feed; anything you write will be published to the RSS feed for that channel.
This is a great way for a company to create RSS-based announcements and other special purpose lists. One feature absent in SpeedWriter, which many will probably miss, is the ability to include enclosures, such as MP3 or WMV files, to create podcasts and vcasts.
Speeds and Reads
On the other side of the process, ESS provides a browser-based aggregator called SpeedReader. SpeedReader has the traditional three-pane look of an RSS feed reader, with the left-hand pane showing feeds, the top-right pane showing item titles, and the bottom-right pane showing the content of the currently selected item. The primary difference is that the feeds in the left-hand pane are selected from those that ESS provides.
SpeedReader is a handy way for an enterprise to provide a zero-footprint feed reader to its employees. It also functions as a general purpose RSS reader; users can subscribe to any other RSS feed in addition to ESS-managed feeds.
Although ESS’s Web-based administration is easy to use and intuitive, I have some complaints. For example, when you’re adding a new channel, there’s a sequence of buttons along the bottom of the wizard that offer a lot of competing choices: Should I save? Validate? Click Next? It wasn’t clear.
In another instance, when configuring the database link, the system presents a pane inside another pane. Both panes have Next buttons. You have to push the Next button on the inner pane for things to work, and often you have to scroll down to see it.
I don’t want to give the impression that KnowNow ESS’s administration is horribly complicated. Anyone who has used server-based configuration wizards will find ESS an easy system to use, and its ability to link to back-office data sources and make them part of an alerting system could provide all the ROI you need to justify its role in your infrastructure.