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A scenario in which OPML could have avoided “Page Not Found” errors for TOC RSS feeds

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One of the most frustrating problems in navigating websites is to be presented with a “Page Not Found” webpage.

Page Not Found

This is precisely the scenario that aggregators and discovery systems are facing with the 1,600 journal TOC RSS feeds of Taylor & Francis.

Since Monday 27th June, when Taylor & Francis moved its journals platform from Informaworld to Tandfonline, the previous URLs for all the Taylor & Francis journal TOC RSS feeds are returning the infamous “Page Not Found” webpage. Although we were informed by Taylor & Francis that they have redirects in place for those TOC RSS feeds, the fact is that as today, those TOC RSS URLs are still unable to be redirected to their new web addresses.

This “Page Not Found” problem could have been easily avoided if Taylor & Francis had had an up-to-date OPML file listing the RSS feeds for all their journals. Aggregators, service discovery and individual RSS users would have been able to automatically and immediately update the URLs for the TOC RSS feeds by just consulting the OPML file.

In general OPML allows RSS feed aggregators and indexers to more easily find the TOC RSS feeds exposed from a particular publisher website. OPML is a standard XML file that is used to describe a simple list of RSS feeds that includes the title of the feed, a link to the home page of the feed (e.g. the journal homepage), and a link to the RSS feed itself.

Annual Reviews, Biomed Central Ltd., BMJ Publishing Group, Elsevier, Inderscience Publishers, Institute of Physics (IOP), Nature Publishing Group, Oxford University Press (OUP) and √Črudit are the pioneering publishers that are using OPML files to enable aggregators to dynamically detect any change in the list of journals they publish. When their OPML would get updated, so would the aggregators.

Publishers are therefore recommended to publish OPML documents that list all of the feeds from their websites and in particular for their current issues. Unfortunately publishers that don’t have OPML files listing their current journals are not able to prevent information on their journals from growing stale at the aggregators’ databases.

Unlike RSS feeds, there is no standard way to link to an OPML file from the publisher website. However publishers are advised to put a link to their OPML files on a suitable and freely available webpage. For example Inderscience provides a link to its OPML file here.

As today, JournalTOCs has been able to update the URLs for the TOC RSS feeds of 80% of the journals published by Taylor & Francis.

Written by Santiago Chumbe

July 19th, 2011 at 9:06 pm