Instant Syndicating Standards

nickvidal's picture

Edit 07 August 2008 Edit 07 August 2008 This proposal has been passed along to Knight Foundation for consideration.


The Internet has empowered people to share information and ideas in unprecedented ways. It has enabled people to easily and at almost no cost to be both producers and consumers of information world-wide. Nowadays, people are able to have their own channel of information, broadcasting ideas, photos, videos, etc. This is very exciting and brings many opportunities for education, research, business and entertainment. However, it brings many challenges as well.


From the consumer’s point of view, with everyone having its own channel, how are people going to find what they want amidst all this avalanche of information? The Web as it is today, as complicated as it might be to publish something, seems already overcrowded with its billions of interconnected documents. How then are people ever going to find what they want when technology easies the publishing process even further and opens hundreds of millions of hidden worlds all filled with rich personal media?

From the producer’s point of view, how will he or she broadcast his or her channel so that it reaches those to whom it is relevant without interfering with those to whom it is not? How will his or her channel stand apart from the so many others that exist? How will he or she get his or her idea across and be heard in this open and democratic medium, where everyone has gained the right and opportunity to have a voice?


The idea is to connect people with news and information that matters to them the most by letting people themselves express what matters to them at an individual level. Each individual connects with their own personal social network to receive and disseminate information. This challenges the top-down model of information-sharing and gives place to a bottom-up model, where each person has a unique voice and equal opportunity to contribute and benefit. In this way, we hope to bring people closer together to discuss common interests and share information in a more open and democratic manner.


Each individual will have their own broadcasting channels (represented in form of tag clouds). These channels are connected through a trusted network of people (represented in form of tag links). The following figure is a prototype created in jCarousel representing an individual's personal social network and their corresponding broadcasting channels:

Only local images are allowed.

Much like Instant Messaging, users manage their contacts list by adding people they trust and with whom they share a common interest. However, instead of just displaying the contact’s name and avatar, a tag cloud of channels for each contact is displayed as well. This promotes the awareness of news and information being created and broadcasted within the social network. If a user becomes interested in a particular channel, he or she may subscribe to this channel and add it to his/her own personalized channel.

Creating news and information is as easy as writing an instant message and in a way it resembles blogging very much. However, instead of sending this information to someone in particular or to no one at all, the information is broadcasted to a particular channel. Everyone within the personal social network that is subscribed to this channel receives this information. The advantage of this approach is that it’s non-obtrusive and yet a target public still exists. The information travels within the social network as long as it remains relevant. Who decides the relevance of the information are the people themselves.


We are currently building UFRGSWeb, UFRGS' rich-media social network. UFRGS is one of largest universities in Brazil, with over 40.000 people. Being so large, it's difficult to be aware of all the interesting research being developed at the university. Our goal is to provide students and professors with tools that will help them discover and share information with colleagues and society.

To achieve this goal, we are creating a symbioses of Orkut and YouTube from an academic perspective. We are adopting the Instant Syndicating Standards, a set of open standards for both Instant Messaging and Web-based applications to facilitate the discovery, aggregation and syndication of information.

A very early prototype of UFRGSWeb was created and may be accessed now (only in Portuguese, but it gives out a general idea of the project). The next version shall incorporate at least some of the functionalities mentioned in this proposal.

How does your proposal meet the stated goals of the Knight Drupal Initiative program?: 

The proposal presents a bottom-up architecture for information-sharing. In this sense it promotes a much more open and democratic medium, where there is a free exchange of information and ideas that is both non-obtrusive and highly personalized.

How long will your project take to complete?: 

By April, 2009: Develop ISS personal contacts list.
By June, 2009: Develop ISS personal syndication channels.
By Sept. 2009: ISS documentation completed, including video. Documentation published on the web and on
By Nov. 2009: ISS Package – deliver online a package allowing anyone -- universities, organizations, businesses and individuals -- to deploy ISS and use it share news and information in a more open and democratic way

How will you implement and distribute your project?: 

UFRGSWeb is currently being built by:

  • Niccholas Rodriguez Vidal: project lead. Founder of ISS (Instant Syndicating Standards). ISS was created as part of his Master's thesis at UFRGS.
  • Renato Oliveira da Silva: design lead. Undergraduate student at UFRGS. Created UFRGSWeb' original theme.

The university is currently seeking funding from various sources to continue the work and invite new people to the project.

The source code will be distributed from both as well as Hopefully other universities, as well as any other community seeking a way to help users to disseminate information, will benefit from this.

The UFRGS university will support the work by advertising the platform to all students and professors. Also, it will seek to promote the exchange of ideas among other universities in the region and in the country.

What is your total budget estimate and how much funding are you requesting: 

The UFRGS university has allocated servers, IT staff, and a sum of $12.500 for the development of the proposal. We are currently seeking resources to continue our work from both public and private sectors. Another sum of $25.000 would allow us to pay for management and offer scholarships for 3 students to learn and further develop the proposal. We believe the students will be able to help us create the tutorials and polish the package for easy deployment at other universities. Most importantly, while doing so, they will be able to learn and, thus, help us serve 40.000 people.


Hi Nick! This looks

jbrown's picture

Hi Nick!

This looks exciting. Which video modules are you using?

Video Module

nickvidal's picture

Thank you jbrown! We are using the video module. Currently we are hosting our own videos, but we are thinking of hosting them with YouTube. This would relieve us from the scalability issues, specially since there are so many students and professors involved.

What's most exciting about this project is the video sharing capabilities we are building. This is the basic workflow:

  • A User logs in and watches the videos that have been recommended by her personal social network;
  • While watching a particular video, she may choose to add this video to her channels or not;
  • If she likes the video and decides to add it to her channels, all she has to do is select the channels from her own tagcloud. An interactive jQuery tagcloud is being built for that;
  • Everyone in her personal social network that is subscribed to these channels will receive the video;
  • They too can add the video to their own channels if they like it;

playlist integration with xspf_playlist?

arthurf's picture

I'd love to see where that play list integration is happening. XSPF playlist is a good candidate for this as it has integration with views already. I'd be interested in exploring this if it seems workable.

Playlist integration

nickvidal's picture

Hi Arthur,

I'm also interested in exploring this! ;)

I'm keeping an eye on your projects, especially Media Mover. Rich media sharing is key for providing rich learning environments. Let's keep in touch!

Best regards,

Not sure I totally grasp this one

agentrickard's picture

I gave this one a 3, personally. I would neither advocate for or against it as it stands now. However, I love the idea of funding student scholarships.

I think similar toolsets exist currently -- this is, in fact, part of what FaceBook does. So to me, the primary pitch here is "this is an open source version of closed platforms."

There are some other discussions going on in the community -- see walkah's note about DiSom for instance. -- and I wonder how this integrates.

I would also change the title to describe the service provided, not the modules used. But that's minor.

Very nice to see an international application!

Would the end product be available only in Portuguese, or in English with a provided Portuguese translation?


Yes, it's hard to grasp

nickvidal's picture

Hi Ken,

Thanks for your comment.

Yes, I agree with you: it's hard to grasp at first.

I've been studying information-sharing for a couple of years and this has resulted in my Master's thesis presented here: ISS (Instant Syndicating Standards). ISS is an evolution from blogging, social networks, social tagging, and content syndication.

The key idea for information-sharing is to build an architecture that helps users to find an equilibrium in awareness, i.e. where they are not kept on the dark, nor are they flooded with information. I believe current social networks such as Facebook and Twitter do not provide the appropriate mechanisms for reaching this equilibrium, although they too are evolutions from prior art. I believe ISS is the next step. The mechanism proposed by ISS are the use of tagclouds and taglinks that allow users to discover, subscribe, aggregate and syndicate information within their social network in an intuitive and non-obtrusive way, reaching an equilibrium of awareness.

The end product will be in English; the content that flows, however, who knows! :)

BTW, thanks for the Knight Drupal Initiative! Very nice work!

Best regards,
Nick Vidal


agentrickard's picture

I changed this to a 4 today, as I really like the scholarship part.


This sounds fascinating

kyle_mathews's picture

Your project sounds similar to what we talked about here (just a lot better)

UFRGSWeb -- the site you're building at your school to connect people and ideas -- sounds very similar to a project I'm working on at BYU -- -- the site is only used in the Information Systems department at the moment but we want to take it school wide once the kinks are worked out.

Are you in the Drupal in Education group? I'm sure many there would love to hear about what you're doing with UFRGSWeb.

Kyle Mathews

Kyle Mathews

Drupal in Education group

nickvidal's picture

Hi Mathews,

I'm subscribing to the group! Thanks for the pointer!

I definitely want to see your progress at BYU. A rich-media social network provided by schools and universities will only help foster education if done appropriately!

Best regards,

I'm also finding it hard to

IceCreamYou's picture

I'm also finding it hard to follow you--is your proposal like this?:

Information-Sharing Cycle

nickvidal's picture


I guess asking you to read my thesis is too much! :)

I'll walk you through the information-sharing cycle to help you understand it:

Let's say you have a series of channels. Each channel is identified by a tag. For example, you have an "Educational" channel. It's your channel. You can publish anything you want there: videos, images, audio, text, etc. To create content for this channel, you either create it yourself, or you republish content that was passed to you by your personal social network. You start building friends. You start taglinking interesting channels from friends to your own channels. For example, you subscribe to my "University" channel and you link that to your "Educational" channel. Every time I post an entry to my "University" channel, you receive it in you "Educational" channel for approval. If you like a particular entry, you may approve it. If you do, this entry gets syndicated to everyone in your personal social network that is subscribed to your "Educational" channel. Once you have built a trustful network of people, you don't have to do an exhaustive information search and filter all over the web. Collaboratively, you and your personal social network filter and syndicate information. The interesting information finds you. The tag clouds that appear by each friend of yours (as seen in the figure below) helps you to be kept aware of new information being created and syndicated by your social network. In fact, the jQuery tagcloud widgets help you to discover new information, subscribe to channels and syndicate entries easily.

Only local images are allowed.

If you are still interested, please read my thesis or just ask me. I'll be glad to help.


It sounds like you'll have a

IceCreamYou's picture

It sounds like you'll have a big problem with recursion--what if two users subscribe to each other?

Anyway, that's pretty similar to what I was planning to do. I'll keep an eye on this. :)

Two users subscribing to each other

nickvidal's picture

Well, two users subscribing to each other is excellent! It means there is a two-way exchange of information going on. Don't worry about recursions. Obviously, the original author has already published the article he has just published, so he won't be getting it back. But he will be able to see the "popularity" of his article within his personal social network. For example: 75% of the subscribers to your "Educational" channel have republished an entry you've published. That means your entry is pretty popular (at least within your personal social network)! I talk about this on my thesis as well.

Best regards,

user relationships module

dugh's picture

I don't know if you've seen the user relationships module:
It's much more advanced than buddylist, and might be useful to you


nickvidal's picture

Hi Dug,
Thanks for the link! I'll check it out!
Regards, Nick

User Relationships

nickvidal's picture

Hi Dug,

I've decided to stick with buddylist. Indeed user relationships is more advanced but I opted to keep it as simple as possible. Thanks anyways for the hint!


How easy will this be to replicate?

bonobo's picture

Hello, Nick,

My main question on this has to do with ease of replication -- The platform you describe sounds incredibly useful, and something that could be used in a variety of different ways. How easy will it be for someone else to recreate this platform for their own organization? Does your proposal include time to document how to replicate this platform?



Tools for Teachers

Out of the box

nickvidal's picture

Hi Bill,

It's being organized as a module that has feedapi and buddylist as dependencies. It should work out of the box.

The proposal is actually all about packaging and documentation. We have a short deadline, so implementation has already started. Hopefully we will be able to offer some scholarships to students so that they can help us polish the work and make it publicly available.

Best regards,


bonobo's picture

RE: "It's being organized as a module that has feedapi and buddylist as dependencies. It should work out of the box."

That's great to hear. This, combined with the scholarship, adds up to my 5 vote.

Tools for Teachers

Sounds good

Dave Cohen's picture

I like the idea. Even if I don't understand every detail, I'm sure I will when I see it in action. Voting in favor (4).

Generic UI Design

nickvidal's picture

I've created a generic UI design for the proposal:

Only local images are allowed.

The 'Contacts' sidebar helps Nick discover new channels created by his personal social network.

The 'List' presents all aggregated entries from channels subscribed by Nick. Colors play an important role. Entries in blue are incoming entries, i.e. entries that have been received. Entries in red are outgoing entries, i.e. entries that have been sent. And entries in purple are entries that have been shared.

If Nick wants to share a specific entry, he may do so by tagging the entry appropriately. The Figure shows that this particular entry is already tagged with Science. He may add new tags by selecting them from his own tag cloud, or he may create new ones by typing them. When he syndicates this entry, he publishes this entry to the channels identified by these tags. Everyone subscribed to these channels will receive a notification.

Only local images are allowed.

Nick has associated Debbie’s Environment tag with his Science tag (i.e. he has created a taglink between the two channels). Every time Debbie publishes something tagged with Environment, these entries are automatically tagged with Science for Nick.

Thus, for users to share information, they don’t have necessarily to share the same concepts. All they have to do is to show how their friends’ concepts are associated with their own concepts.

It is important to remember that entries received are not published in Nick’s channels automatically unless they have been approved and shared by Nick himself.

Generic UI Design

mausman's picture

WOW! Can't wait to add this.


nipsy's picture

This is a really fantastic start Nick. Keep it up!

Thank you!

nickvidal's picture

Thank you! :)

Learn a lesson from twitter's picture

Scalability is an important issue with this type of application.

Consider this article:

Nice Articles

nickvidal's picture

Nice articles (the 3). I enjoyed reading the comments as well.

Indeed scalability is an important issue.

Thanks for sharing!

Looks interesting

bostondave's picture

Just commenting to keep track of this conversation

Project Update

nickvidal's picture


I've talked with the Knight Foundation and this is the status of the document they've requested:

If anyone care to evaluate it and vote for it (here), I'll deeply appreciate it!

Thank you,