Guidelines for News Redistribution

By: Robin Cover.       Version: 2000-12-28.


This document is a draft version of Guidelines for News Redistribution. It pertains to redistributing news items from the news column of The XML Cover Pages Web site. Permission for news redistribution is being granted (experimentally) to OASIS Sponsor members and perhaps other sites, by special arrangement. This Guidelines document is intended to represent not so much a formal legal description of the arrangement as an informal "framework of understanding" that should govern the relationship between OASIS and an OASIS Sponsor member who wishes to redistribute the news column. We regard this news redistribution facility as something experimental and evolving, so its success will depend critically upon the cooperation and participation of the OASIS partners as we seek to refine and enhance the service.

Contents and Defined Terms


Definition of terms:

Remote site
the Web site of the OASIS Sponsor Member, or its administrative center
The editor
the Managing Editor of the news column, namely Robin Cover

A. Mechanisms

1. News delivery automated by "pull" technology

The mechanism for news distribution is to be automated such that: (a) no human intervention by OASIS staff is required, and (b) no human intervention at the remote site is required. Standard scripting languages such as Perl or Python (which natively support HTTP) will make it possible to enable news transfer by machine using a "pull" method initiated by and scheduled) on the remote site. How?

  1. the remote redistribution site will poll the OASIS server via HTTP periodically to detect whether there is an updated news document
  2. if the news document on the OASIS site has been changed, as indicated by the timestamp of the file, the remote site (under script) will fetch the document and then extract individual news items which are new and/or which have been updated
  3. the remote site scripts [and/or human editors] will manage the process of republishing the news items in Web format (HTML / XML / XHTML).

2. Provision for news article update

The remote site should arrange for the automated update of the individual news articles. The news articles are frequently enhanced and corrected, particularly during the first month, and especially during the first 48 hours, as more complete details become known. Updated articles in the news document are easily detected via a script by checking the value of an attribute (rccwp:rev) encoded in markup. The value of this markup attribute represents a revision number, incremented when the news article is updated on the canonical/host site.

Note: There is currently no support for updating of news articles after they have "fallen off" the bottom of the stack. Under the current method of production, the news column is stored in a single document, with news items (articles) in serial order, most-recent first; periodically, when the news docment becomes too large, the older news items are retired to an archive document. News items are typically held in the canonical news document for at least a month. Once these older articles have been retired, the remote site redistributing the news is not expected to make any further updates. [obviously, not everything is ideal here, but that's the status quo]

3. Provision for manual update

The remote site should provide the editor with a (private) URL which effects a manual update of the remote site's redistributed news. This will allow the editor of the canonical site to activate an "immediate" update to the remote site -- in advance of the next scheduled polling event at the remote site. The URL functions as a simple trigger for the remote site's update script. Manual update is occasionally necessary if some politically sensitive "error" has been made in the editing of a news item, requiring that the "error" (perhaps damaging to the reputation of some company) be rectified immediately. The URL can simply encode a (harmless) CGI script that activates the update process on the remote site.

4. Provision for news article retraction

The remote site should provide a mechanism for the deletion (retraction) of a news article, should some extreme situation require retraction. In the general case, retraction can be accomplished through the predictable operation of the "manual update" mechanism described above: the editor would simply action the URL for update, which would effectively zero out the news item needing to be retracted. The policy issue is simply this: OASIS and its editor have the right to retract/withdraw a news item; the remote site must agree to this condition, and must provide for rapid execution of a retraction decision, whether under script mechanism or requested by email communique.

5. Provision for stable markup to support scripting

The automation of news "pull" delivery requires that the news articles be encoded/structured in markup. The editor will make this schema available to OASIS partners (initially) in the form of a [SGML/XML] DTD fragment which documents the information objects in each news article. Should it become necessary in the future to change the markup, we will provide adequate lead time so that the administrators at the remote site will be able to schedule script editing (ideally, at least 30 days). Contact the editor via email to request a copy of this DTD fragment.

B. Attribution

1. Names "Robin Cover," "OASIS", [WebSite], [NewsSection]

On the remote site's principal access page(s) -- from which the redistributed news is visible -- attribution should be given to the source of the news as an edited work, citing the name "Robin Cover", the name OASIS, the name of the canonical Web site (The XML Cover Pages) and the name of the canonical news section. The news document currently has the title "SGML and XML News," but this title will probably change 'soon'. An example of attribution:

    From Robin Cover's "SGML and XML News" on The XML Cover Pages, hosted by OASIS.

2. WebSite logo to be used

The graphic file with the logo of The XML Cover Pages is to be used at least once in the principal access page for the redistributed news. It may be used in additional contexts, with discretion. Whenever used, it should encode a link to the home page of the canonical Web site [] and an "alt text" description-string encoding the name of the canonical web site [The XML Cover Pages]. Contact the editor for instructions on obtaining an image file with the website logo.

3. Active Links to [Website], [NewsSection], and OASIS

HTML links (or their functional equivalent) are to be supported on the access page(s) of the remote site, pointing to the [Website], [NewsSection], and to OASIS. See B.1 above.

C. Redistribution Formats and Guidelines

1. Selection is permitted

We expect that the OASIS Partner will wish to republish the news column in its entirety (all articles), but the remote site may elect to republish just a subset of the news items. If a subset is used, the access page(s) should reveal clearly that the news column as redistributed is not complete: (e.g., "selections from...")

We do not believe that selection (inclusion/exclusion) of news articles for political purposes is appropriate (e.g., omitting articles that describe a competitors' projects and products).

2. Content changes are not permitted

No content changes to the news articles are permitted, either by addition (augmentation), substitution, or deletion. The complete textual content (i.e., the default display content) and link functionality is to be replicated exactly in the redistribution of the news from the remote site, with the addition of no other content or links in the context/vicinity of the news article(s). The underlying markup may be altered (e.g., a site may prefer <tt> to <code> in HTML display), but the textual content and functionality are not to be altered in any way. If the source on the canonical web site contains an error, this error should be reported to the editor, who will make the correction in the canonical course document; the correction will propragate to all the news redistribution sites.

3. Redistribution framework is a distinct column/department

The news column redistributed on the remote site it to be treated as an edited intellectual work having distinct identity and unity/coherence. It appears as a special "column" or "department" within the The XML Cover Pages, and we expect the redistributed news to have the same "flavor" on the OASIS Sponsor's web site. This column or department is to display a title for the redistributed news, together with the attribution information (above).

As further explanation of what is meant above: no use of the news items other than as a distinct "redistributed news column" is envisioned. In particular: the news articles are not to be unbundled and integrated into a diverse stream of other news articles (from other sources). Similarly, they are not to be unbundled from the 'news column' format and integrated into the remote site's Web site -- as a means of providing general/topical content on the remote site. They are not to be unbundled and aggregated into any other new publication format or document type other than via single-article retrieval from an archive. The news articles are not to be redistributed via email or other publishing channel (which in some cases might require an editing and result in a loss of functionality). The only approved news redistribution format at this time is via Web page (viz., on HTTP) in the form of: (a) a [portion of a] news column, with articles in a fixed serial order, and (b) individual news article display generated from search/retrieval, as indicated below.

4. Archival use is conditional and limited

The OASIS Partner may make archival use of the news articles (e.g., storing them, indexing them, supporting article retrieval), provided that full attribution is given in contexts where archived articles are retrieved and displayed. Any news articles used in this manner should bear the (possibly updated) publication date of the article (as canonically encoded).

Rights to archival use of the news are not intended to be "retroactive" -- that is, we do not envision that an OASIS Partner electing to redistribute news beginning in May 2000 should acquire the news database dating back to July 1998 for building a remote-site news archive. The "archiving" would begin as of 'May 2000' (in this case). That is: OASIS is not offering the news archive of the XML Cover Pages for republishing.

The OASIS Partner's rights to this archival use are conditional, however, upon (a) the partner being a Sponsor member, and (b) other dependencies internal to OASIS, per a decision communicated by the OASIS Board. Simply put: news redistribution rights terminate if an OASIS Sponsor member ceases to be a sponsor member or equivalent; rights to archival use of the articles might be terminated for Sponsor Members (but we do not anticipate conditions which necessitate termination of the archival use).

5. Periodicity of news update on the remote site

An OASIS sponsor electing to redistribute the news should make provision for regular and timely update so that the news content on the remote site stays in synchrony with the canonical news document -- reflecting new and updated news articles. At this time, we request that an appropriate periodicity for ideal/minimim/maximum polling events to ensure synchronism be "every 3-4 hours." However, this value may change; if so, we will communicate the new disposition. It is not considered appropriate to poll/update less than every six hours.

6. OASIS not responsible for errors

A caveat, unfortunately necessary in today's litigation-prone world: the OASIS partner redistributing the news should understand that while every effort is made to represent facts accurately in the news articles, and to respect other ethical and legal principles in common practice, as well as cultural expectations, mistakes can be made. In no case can OASIS be held responsible for legal challenges or claims/damages (etc.) arising in any connection with the news redistribution at an OASIS member site. The OASIS partner assumes full legal responsibility and risk.

D. OASIS Partner Participation

1. OASIS Partner to report broken links and data errors

OASIS Partners who elect to redistribute the news are expected to indicate their commitment to the quality of the news column by reporting broken links and data errors that they observe. We hope OASIS Partners will take an active role in this regard.

2. OASIS Partner to provide leads for news articles

OASIS Partners who elect to redistribute the news are expected to provide some reciprocal benefit to The XML Cover Pages Web site by providing its editor with leads for news articles. Particularly, we are interested in leads for news stories that would not naturally/easily come to the attention of the editor.

3. Provision for flexibility

OASIS Partners in the news redistribution are asked to be flexible in their approach to redistribution of the news content and its associated mechanisms. We anticipate that technology changes will enable new data formats, new link capabilities, and other features. As we take advantage of changes, or are forced into them by Web agent behaviors, we will communicate our intention to modify the structure of the canonical Web site, with recommendations on how OASIS partners in the news redistibution can adapt to the innovations. We intend to give ample opportunity for all news redistribution channels to update their scripts and delivery methods.

E. Contacts

1. Initiation of news redistribution via email communique

An OASIS Sponsor member wishing to redistribute the news should contact the editor via email communicating:

  1. the company's intent to arrange for news redistribution, and approximate date of initiation
  2. that these Guidelines have been read, understood, and are agreeable to the OASIS Sponsor Member company
  3. the principal URL for the access page on the remote site [if known]
  4. any other pertinent information, questions

2. OASIS Partner to supply contact addresses

Two email contact addresses (primary, secondary) and one principal telephone number from the OASIS Partner should be provided to the editor of The XML Cover Pages to permit communication with the remote site, as may be required from time to time.