Specifications for News Aggregator project outlined at the Network X gathering

Purpose of project

To create a website that pulls in news feeds from multiple sources and aggregates them into a single source of reference for the user.

Essential specifications

The essential specifications for this project laid out at the Network X gathering held in Manchester on the weekend of 15/16th January 2011 are as follows:

Division of contributions to the project

The main areas of contribution required for development of this project are as follows

Technical specifications for project

Design principles – essential


Stage 1: Simple system produced that can aggregate feeds and display them to the user based on their preferences. System then handed to designers and usability group for testing.

Stage 2: Changes made based on feedback from these groups

Stage 3: Alpha version released and publicised

Stage 4: Gain feedback from wider user base of alpha release and incorporate recommended changes

Stage 5: Beta version release and wider publicity. Forum or other tool linked to project to ensure ongoing feedback possible

Stage 6: Full release schedule to be mapped. Enhancements to Indexing engine released as available

Technical components

The finished aggregator will be made up of several components described here. The components do not necessarily need to be part of a single CMS eg Drupal and could be developed seperately provided they are able to communicate with each other in a standards compliant way. The project as a whole could be developed as a single tech effort, or broken down into smaller components with distinct teams of geeks working on each.

Aggregation Engine Spec

The aggregation engine can be either a standalone component or part of a CMS and must be able to do the following

Indexing Engine spec

The indexing engine will order and sort incoming data into the (most likely MySQL) database. It will handle linking additional metadata from external sources to articles that have been handed to it by the aggregation engine. It must be able to do the following:


FISE is an open source framework for semantic enhancement engines. Running FISE you can send English documents as plain text to the FISE server via a RESTful web interface and get back semantic annotations for this content. The annotations are computed using different “enhancement engines” which can be plugged into FISE. Depending on the active enhancement engines FISE will annotate e.g. people and places. The possibility exists for using FISE to enhance the metadata that is included by both the originating feed and user-generated tagging and provide relevant, linked output.

Search query handler

The search query handler will be responsible for constructing database queries from a number of sources including

User interface

The user interface design will be led by user feedback. The core requirements for the user interface are that it is as simple as possible to use and understand.