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What’s happening now: news.ninemsn.com.au

April 30, 2008 1 comment

The what’s happening now module came about after listening to focus groups about the site. Some of the feedback we received was that they thought we only updated the News site a few times a day. Of course to resolve this we put in time stamps throughout the site, but it got us thinking. The result was What’s happening now (or News Feed as the working title).

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The basic premise is that the feed will pick up any new article, slideshow, video or vote that’s put into the site. We also extended the feed to include editorially interesting content such as an articles first comment, whether it’s a new most popular video or simply when a piece of content has reached a certain number of views to show other users what’s engaging in the site. We also help check for breaking news every 30 seconds so you really know what’s happening now.

So far the feedback has been really good but we’re continually tweaking the metrics to balance what’s is interesting and what is overkill.

Now for the technical part. Like many portals we suffer from different content being in different places and we wanted to make it appear to be seamless from a user perspective, so we used good old SSIS.

I was a big fan of DTS in the SQL Server 7 days but SSIS is DTS on steroids. In fact after the WWOS project which dealt with extremely complex sport feeds we built a whole environment at ninemsn dedicated to using SSIS. In effect it’s an extremely cost effective flexible middleware system for us. So in this particular instance we asynchronously check our CMS, MSN and other web services for new content and place it into a table.

The news feed itself checks for the new content every 30 seconds using JSON. We use JSON throughout ninemsn due to it’s weight and speed, another one in my recommendation list.

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