@ilegal blogs

New cases in your Inbox

I’ve been having an interesting discussion on Twitter with @TheSmallPlaces and @JTownend over the last week or so about being able to get an RSS feed of a particular case type pulled from the BAILII case databases eg cases on ‘defamation’

My original view was that it wasn’t possible as the information contained within the RSS feeds which BAILII provides is not necessarily specific to the actual case type. However, Judith (@JTownend) came up with a brilliant solution – use the search function on BAILII to search for the particular case type and then form an RSS feed from this using an online RSS feed creator (note: there are tons of online RSS tools and sites and plenty that don’t serve adverts so, Google about until you find something that suits). It’s so simple I could kick myself!

Lucy (@TheSmallPlaces) then wrote up a blog post about it, which is worth reading to get some more of the background on how to set it up – I won’t be going into that here so do check out Lucy’s blog if you want to set it up for yourself

Since the exchange a couple of other things have come to mind. One of which is to get an email notification whenever a new case pops up that meets your defined criteria. There are obvious benefits to this, mainly being that you wouldn’t have to keep checking the RSS you have created or going back to BAILII to search the databases periodically

I did some searching around and I found what appears to be a very simple solution: IFTTT, also known as If This Then That

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Create an account at IFTTT
  2. Click ‘Create (a new recipe)
  3. Click ‘This’
  4. Choose trigger channel (feed/RSS)
  5. Then ‘New feed item’
  6. Enter the RSS feed you already have from above
  7. Hit ‘Create trigger’
  8. Click ‘That’
  9. Choose action channel (click the email icon)
  10. Choose an action (send me an email)

It’s all very self-explanatory and the IFTTT interface is beautifully simple and easy to work through. What will happen then is that IFTTT will check your RSS feed every 15 minutes (I don’t think you can change this) and if there are any new items it will send you an email (to whatever email address you registered with), case name in the subject line, link to the case in the email body. Genius!

I set one up yesterday for the main BAILII RSS feed and it has kicked in this morning. So far it seems to be working fine – I’ve received an email notification for all three cases that have come onto the main feed

I still think a bit of testing is necessary – I want to see if it’s reliable with very occasionally updated RSS, as well as pretty active RSS. There is also the broader issue of server load on BAILII that needs to be explored a bit more in respect of forming RSS from search operators but, for now at least, this looks a nice and simple ‘convenience add-on’ to Judith’s work

If anyone has any thoughts, views or ideas on any part of this please feel free to reply below. I’ll update when I’ve had time to play with it a bit more. Oh, and now I’ve found it, I’ve begun some new little IFTTT projects that should prove interesting too!

7 comments on “New cases in your Inbox

  1. Nick Holmes
    May 17, 2013

    Scraping BAILII search results pages to generate RSS feeds is obviously not the way forward! If BAILII can produce the web results page on the fly they can also very easily produce the equivalent RSS feed on the fly. So why not? Well, the server load you mention, but it could be limited in some way to prevent abuse and if there are demonstrable benefits from this functionality, surely the will will be there to get some sponsors together to help upgrade BAILII’s kit.

    I’m a bit nonplussed by the benefits of emailing yourself latest feed items; I thought that was what feed readers were for.



    • ilegal
      May 17, 2013

      Thanks Nick, on the feed readers I imagine it’s a matter of choice; not everyone wants to (or knows how to) use a feed reader to stay on top of and access content. In fact, I would have thought the majority of people would welcome email updates as an alternative? It requires less effort at least – being prompted by email, automatically, is considerably less effort than having to check a feed reader intermittently. ‘Email’ is also far more common a tool than feed readers and means you will receive the notification on the fly, even on your smart-phone

      Regardless, I think there will be times when email updates will be more useful than not. For example, Judith’s ‘defamation’ search/RSS is not very active – last case was 3rd May, previous 1st May and so on retrospectively – email updates are likely to be more convenient if nothing else

      I agree that scraping content could be a problem – open to abuse etc. I also wonder whether it breaches BAILII’s own rules but haven’t looked into this in any detail yet; it is on the list though, and I plan to contact Joe to get his take on it

      I agree 100% on increasing funding to BAILII to pursue new functionality as well as maintain present operations


      • Nick Holmes
        May 17, 2013

        It’s a prohibited use – see That may have seemed sensible in 2000, but it certainly doesn’t in 2013! We should really be pushing for more openness. Joe has previously offered to set up a sandbox for experimentation/development. I think we should take him up on that.



      • ilegal
        May 17, 2013

        Mmm, thought it might be. I’ll flag this post up when I email him and see what he reckons then. I’m still keen on the email option. If you’re in touch with him I’d be more than happy to be involved too if he’s up for it!


      • Nick Holmes
        May 17, 2013

        Joe’s gone quiet on me recently, but I’d certainly be interested in a joint meet.


      • ilegal
        May 17, 2013

        Cool enough. I’ve just emailed him


  2. Pingback: She’s Alive! BAILII Search RSS | ilegality

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This entry was posted on May 17, 2013 by in Automation, RSS, Useful tools and tagged , , , .
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