Have you ever subscribed to receive thematic news on topics such as stock exchange, technology or updates of a friend's blog? These feeds are what we call Syndication, and their format is standardized by the W3C and called RSS or more recently Atom.
But beyond this feature of propagating news through the Internet, syndication can be a really good feature within your applications, leveraging the user experience by proposing to interact with the application in a non intrusive, lightweight "push"-like way.
This sounds good, no? I use Syndication for in my application. At first glance I can see two main feed audience.
First you can provide feeds for application monitoring. This aims mainly at technical users such as administrators or project leaders. The objective is not to replace reports from products such as Nagios, but rather to provide a higher level view on the application behaviour. For instance you can provide a feed giving an aggregate view on the application logs and alerts in order to follow its health over time.
But personally, I feel that the real added value is the business feed. Imagine the impact on you client when you will tell him that he will be able to access targeted business data from his brand new smartPhone, using his usual RSS reader, getting only the valuable pieces of information without bothering with the application. Your boss may need the application to provide feeds such as statistics digged from the database or audit trails. The marketing guy may want to have feeds back on final users navigation habits while the infrastructure manager would need performance and volume data. The head of finance would want to know the quantities sold of each product during the last week.
Very often, applications will offers such pieces of data, but you usually need to connect to the application, navigate to the proper statistics or dashboard page. This is not always easy and efficient, especially from a mobile device, and worse if you cannot connect to the application! One of the benefits of such a solution is that most of the feed readers provide you a way to access feeds off-line, keeping the information available at any time.
My point of view is that this approach can be really valuable. Syndication can be a way to provide a multi-channel access to these data: the feeds can be integrated within the application using web technologies such as Ajax (jQuery, JFeed) but can also be accessed directly using feed readers.
Behind the scene, implementing such a functionality is easier and easier, as frameworks such as CXF, Abdera and others provide solutions to implement syndication services.
RSS News feed: http://www.w3.org/2001/10/glance/doc/howto
Atom syndication format: http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom
RFC 4287 - IETF Atom Syndication Format: http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc4287.txt
RFC 5023 - IETF Atom Publishing Protocol: http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc5023.txt
Jquery Jfeed plugin: http://sourceforge.net/projects/jfeed/
Apache CXF - JAX-RS: http://cwiki.apache.org/CXF20DOC/jax-rs.html
Apache Abdera project: http://abdera.apache.org/