Some Specifics on Using RSS for Campaigns

Brian Fitzgerald of Greenpeace has written up a couple of ways his organization is using RSS and has allowed me to reprint his description here for e.politics groupies. Besides straightforward applications such as content distribution across a constellation of sites, Greenpeace is also combining RSS, Technorati, Flickr and to show the buzz built up around a campaign — neat trick.

I’m more of a fan of what RSS can do in the background, without the user actually having to download an aggregator or work out Firefox bookmarking: that’s fine for the technorati, but a bridge too far for most of our site’s demographic.

I think our most successful implementation of RSS here at Greenpeace has been in a pull function rather than push. We have RSS feeds of our action asks, news and press releases, and display those around in different subsites using feed2js.

For example, the content in “Things you can do now” in the upper right of our home page is pulled from the same feed that the “Things you can do for the planet” on is pulled from, and via a Conduit toolbar (see banner bottom of our page for more on that). That currently provides us a handful of traffic relative to other sources, but highly active and aligned. It’s a nice efficiency move though: we change one XML file to change the content on four different sites.

More interesting to me from an activism point of view has been what we were able to do with RSS in reflecting back the buzz on a campaign:

This page takes an RSS feed from Technorati that monitors mentions of “Greenpeace and Apple” and displays back links and teasers from blogs mentioning the campaign. A second feed monitors flickr and displays a random set of images from a “Greenmyapple” group. A third pulls bookmarks tagged “greenmyapple”. That in particular has given us the ability to flag content that we want to make “sticky” or which hasn’t been tagged properly: you see something you think the community should know about, you tag it “greenmyapple” with, and it shows up in the feed, regardless of whether the author tagged it or not.

I blogged a bit about how we made this page here. Hope this helps.

[P.S. Green my Apple is a finalist in the SXSW awards. If you like what you see, give us a vote!]

Thanks man — good stuff.


Written by
Colin Delany
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  • Those are some great uses of RSS. Republishing action items throughout the site is so important to convert website visitors to devoted activists.

    To a lesser extent, I’ve done the same thing over at American Rights at Work. Our morning news clips person tags articles in following a matrix we created, and they get published on the home page and press center, as well as issue-specific articles on legislation and opposition. We use delicious’s own javascript roller, though, and burn the feeds through feedburner. (We’re also toying around with Yahoo Pipes to see if we can do anything useful…)

    So yeah, I love the way RSS can help make our website more dynamic – with an audience that’s not too web savvy and who definitely don’t use reader, it’s really helped us a lot within the site itself.

  • Check out Although we aren’t using RSS in a way that is transparent to the end user, we are using RSS internally to manage Profile and Content approvals.

    One of the great things about RSS is that it is built with the idea of constantly looking for updates. We use RSS Aggregators built into our Instant Messaging Clients and RSS tools on our Smart Phones.

    So, add “Site Administration” to your list of RSS uses.