I’ve been quiet for a few days, working on a number of projects. Let’s just say that it stands to be a busy summer.

I might as well unveil the curtain on a project I’ve now ushered into public use.

It’s a custom-branded RSS reader, which comes pre-loaded with links to our local Community Alert pages for the American Red Cross in Birmingham and the local EMA.

Since the vast majority of internet users know how about aggregators or how to manually add feeds, this installer package has a great potential for our Red Cross chapter. In fact, the whole thing is designed to be seamless enough that the average user might still not understand what RSS is.

We’ve rolled it out locally, and I am tracking the number of downloads through various venues. It’s primarily targeted for the media, and will be a great asset the next time we have a huge disaster response. But since all of the information is public, we’re also pushing it to local municipalities, our board, and anyone else who has a vested interest in knowing about pending emergencies.

In order to make this work, we had to find the right piece of software — and being a non-profit, we had to make it affordable. Our RSS reader had to have some key features:

  • Free to use and distribute
  • Included a “pop-up” notification
  • Customizable with our logo and branding
  • Adware and spyware free
  • Short refresh cycle

Check out Newsplorer! We were lucky to find just such a program, called Newsplorer. The developer was very kind to set us up with some technical assistance and a customized installer package.

That pop-up notifier was so critical. In a newsroom environment, you can’t expect people to manually refresh their feedlist (assuming they had one.) Otherwise, you could just ask them to manually refresh the old-fashioned newsroom page. With the system-tray pop, and an option to check the feed every minute, we now had a system capable of generating dozens of alerts per day, if events and emergencies warrant it.

Download it and give it a whirl. If you don’t see anything for awhile, that means that nothing bad is happening!