Why isn’t there an RSS feed for Windsor City Council web pages?

Imagine that you love a particular podcast that comes out every couple of weeks – although depending on circumstance, sometimes its published a little earlier and sometimes a little later. But in this particular alternative universe, instead of being notified by your phone that it has just downloaded a new episode, it’s up to you to visit the podcast’s website every couple weeks to check if the episode is ready to be downloaded.

As labour goes, regularly visiting a website isn’t the most arduous task in the world but if you are like me, you might subscribe to a couple dozen podcasts with some released weekly, others fortnightly, and others on no particular schedule. Without the ability to subscribe to a podcast it is easy to see how episodes could be missed and entire shows, forgotten about.

The technology that makes subscribing to podcasts possible is called RSS, and as technologies go, it’s a very good one. For one, RSS allows you to download podcasts without identifying who you are to the publishers or to the world at large. While you do need special software to handle podcasts (I use BeyondPod), you don’t need to be on a particular social media platform or worry that you use (or don’t use) an Apple iOS product.

RSS is also the technology that made subscribing to web pages possible. Using Feedly, I have the most recent stories from CBC Windsor, The Windsor Star. The Windsorite and many, many blogs delivered to me as they are published. 

So why does the City of Windsor’s City Council web pages lack RSS feeds? Why do residents have to re-visit a page to see if it has been updated?

I have sent a 311 request that RSS feeds be added to these pages with the next version of the City of Windsor website.

Until that time, if you want to stay up to date with changes on websites that don’t feature RSS feeds, you might want to try one of these five tools that will notify you of website content changes. (For myself, I use Klaxon – my first Heroku App).

One of my favourite TED Talks is from Dave Meslin and I’ve embedded it below. Dave Meslin argues that our governments use design to discourage engagement.  The good news? We can re-design improvement. Or in this case, we can ask for RSS.

Council on video

It might not be the best idea to write this Hello World post while I have the Monday, December 17th, 2018 Windsor City Council Meeting live-streaming in another tab.  But as I was planning to write a little bit about the fact that we can now clip and share videos of City Council Meetings, perhaps it is apt (while also being distracting).

Even though City Council meetings have been recorded and made available online since June of this year, I have yet to see any media or city resident make use of the clipping or bookmarking service that the platforms provides. So I thought I would try it out and share what the technology is capable of.

So let’s pretend I’m writing a blog post that I want to add a clip from Windsor City Council for information and context.

On December 8th, my neighbours and I walked to Chapter Two Brewing Company to watch the Detroit and Windsor episode of TVO’s The Life-Sized City.  If you haven’t seen the episode, I recommend a watching. In it, you will learn how activists in Detroit and Windsor have coordinated residents to help improve residential buildings in neighbourhoods where there was a high degree of blight and a pointed need for re-investment.

Those stories reminded me of the debate that happened at the November 19th Windsor City Council Meeting [pdf] about the Ford City Community Improvement Plan. During discussions, I recalled Ward 1 City Councillor Fred Francis stating that he didn’t think that money going to home renovations to only certain parts of the city was fair

At this point, I’m going to drop this pretense of writing and now bring your attention to the act of trying to include the video from Windsor City Council into a blog post.

 First, we have to flip through the calendar view (or hack the datestamp of the URL) of the archived videos to find November 19th. The video is marked up with time stamps that match up the agenda but unfortunately the discussion of the Ford City CIP falls under the blanket category of REGULAR BUSINESS ITEMS (Non-consent items)

If you notice in the bottom right of the screen, there is a option to Share.

The resulting shared item is a link. In the example above, the link goes to:

http://csg001-harmony.sliq.net/00310/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20181119/-1/4021?mediaStartTime=20181119192435&mediaEndTime=20181119192535&viewMode=3

I have some options to share the video clip in a variety of social media platforms…

But unfortunately, I’m unable to embed the video in WordPress.

Now I know why I’ve haven’t seen video clips from Council from local newspapers and news outlets. There is no way to embed the video into a web page that provides context for that video. I can share the link but the only way I can add any context to the video is to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit or Google+.

It looks like the product that the City of Windsor uses for their video service is Montreal-based Sliq Media Technologies. It is unfortunate that a company that builds and maintains video streaming services for specifically for governments has made it difficult for journalists and residents to make use of the resulting work. I’ve asked the company if there is any known workaround for this problem:

As we wait for an answer, let us consider the notion of fairness and equity. One of my favourite definitions of politics is from political scientist Harold Lasswell who defined it as “who gets what, when, and how.”