One of my favorite functions on my Private Sharepoint Portal is the Info Board. Much as everybody else I have different areas of interest. Professional (Technology, Net Politics, IT Business News, Customer News), Friends and Family, Music, Politics etc. Normally it’s a tedious task to surf thru a large number of websites which typically provide little bits of useful information but lots of nasty advertising. However, I would like to get an overview on my favorite topics in less than five minutes e.. when I switch on my PC or my mobile phone in the morning. Using a RSS Reader to scan useful sources of information may help. There are RSS Readers available for Thunderbird (Bamboo Reader), Firefox (Simple RSS Reader) or any other browser and RSS Reader APPs for smartphones e.g. I am using Free RSS Reader for a couple of popular news feeds. However, this approach gets unmanageable when you need to monitor more than 20 news feeds. In a company BYOD environment employees will probably miss important information and spend a lot of time to subscribe and unsubscribe to useful feeds as their requirements change.
Sharepoint offers a rather elegant solution to this problem. Administrators and users can build personalized Info Board pages from external RSS feeds, internal Sharepoint Lists or even show information from web sites which do not provide RSS feeds using the Page Viewer Webpart. The display area of the Page Viewer Webpart can be tailored to cut off unwanted advertizing (watch out for T&Cs – some web sites do not allow to cut off ads!).
Unfortunately Sharepoint does not come with a built-in RSS Feed Reader Webpart. However, you can build your own RSS Feed Reader using the XML Viewer Webpart.
You just add the URL of a RSS feed in the XML Link field e.g. for the technology feed of NY Times http://rss.nytimes.com/services/xml/rss/nyt/Technology.xml and add a simple style sheet for the selection and formatting of the items to be shown.
Simple Style Sheet to display RSS Headings
<!– Simple RSS stylesheet link BOLD –><xsl:stylesheet version=“1.0″ xmlns:xsl=“http://www.w3.org/1999/XSL/Transform“>
<xsl:output method=“html“ indent=“yes“/>
Just copy this content and store it in a file with file type xsl in a Sharepoint library and set a link in XML Viewer webpart.
For testing you may use the link to a Portaleco style sheet http://portaleco.mysp.ch/public/P_Site/RSS-transf-bold-smpl.xsl
Typically I use this simple style sheet and another one which also displays the pictures and an excerpt of news feeds.
Sharepoint has a function to present Sharepoint lists in RSS format. This is a very powerful tool to provide easy access to Sharepoint lists from info boards especially to users which are not familiar with Sharepoint.
The Personalized Info Board is a very useful element to attract new users to Sharepoint or to make the Sharepoint installation in a company more attractive. Private users like info pages, which are personalized for their groups as home page for their browsers. iGoogle used to offer a function for homepage customization. However, Google has withdrawn this offering in 2013. Google management wants all users to move to Google+. This is certainly a bad idea if you have any concerns about privacy and adequate complexity for you and your users. Google is also well-known for starting new services which are later disrupted. I really don’t like to be a victim of the Google strategists. They got me twice, but not again!
It is not recommended to use gadgets or widgets to display RSS feeds from Sharepoint. Very often they use Java script or other services which are not available on Smartphones. In addition it adds complexity because you are relying on additional external servers. Sharepoint is also an additional server. However, you are the administrator of the system. You may switch service providers for the platform or even run your own Sharepoint on your own server. The Sharepoint XML viewer produces pure HTML which works on all mobile devices and operating systems.