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NewsRack makes online news archiving easy
New Delhi: The software is an Indian news aggregator that allows users to create multiple categories to store subject-specific news. It is starkly different from the global players like Google.
SEVERAL USERS ENGAGED in the process of collecting news often find it difficult to search for appropriate information on the Internet or find a suitable place to stock them for the future use. To save them from this time-consuming and tedious task of collecting newspaper clippings Subramanya Sastry, a web developer, has developed NewsRack, which is an online news aggregator.
 
Sastry noticed the inconvenience faced by many organisations and researchers in monitoring relevant news items. Subsequently, he decided to work on a tool that could monitor news and classify them into various categories and at the same time serve as an archival area. He worked on this project during the Sarai FLOSS fellowship programme. Sarai is a Delhi-based public initiative of media practitioners and scholars that provides fellowship for projects in the area of free software, open source software and the social usage of software.
 
Users create their own profile on NewsRack and save news pieces under different categories. They also have an option to browse public news archives prepared by other users.
 
The news articles can be saved in cached form. Users in their profiles can specify filtering rules that are used to select relevant articles from incoming news feeds. The selected articles are then classified into various categories. Currently, NewsRack can only process news from news sources that provide RSS feeds.
 
Presently, a number of users are using and contributing to NewsRack. Sastry says, ‘So far the response to this tool has been good and lots of activists, researchers and other organisations have expressed their interest in it.’
 
In some ways, NewsRack has an upper hand over the news aggregator of Google. It is easy to search for general news on the Google tool, but when it comes to subject-specific news items it is not all that effective. Google has very few categories in which all news is classified. Whereas, in NewsRack the categories are defined by users. So, there is no limit on the number of categorisation for any news item. 
 
Sastry is developing the project further to make it more user-friendly. At present, NewsRack requires prior knowledge of XML to enable the users to create a profile. Sastry says, ‘The only persistent complaint so far has been the user interface and the use of XML for writing profiles. If this aspect of the tool is fixed, far more users will adopt it.’
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