Push vs. Pull Technology

I’m interested in finding out how current awareness services are evolving in other organizations. Most of our clients have indicated a preference for “push” services, but I’m told that the company is moving toward a “pull” environment. What are your organizations doing?

Thank you,



  1. Congratulations on your first post, Martha!

    I found this interesting discussion on the web which you might find helpful:
    Reconciling Push vs. Pull Technologies by David W. Powis-Dow. It is copyrighted 2006 by Dialog.

    It compares push and pull technologies, and rather than saying one is better than the other, discusses how we might choose one over the other in different circumstances.

    I especially like that this article is written for librarians and information specialists, how to serve our clientele.

    What are others doing to provide service? Push or pull? I must admit most of ours is “push” since it is via email. But we don’t have a full-blown intranet yet, and having one might make a difference.


  2. It’s a tricky question. Current awareness tools are only as good as they can be customized. I’m always talking up RSS as the ultimate ‘pull’, but the tech-literacy requirements can be more difficult if you want to deliver on focused subjects, rather than taking simple raw feeds. For this reason, I advocate Librarians working with their users to understand their research needs, marketing & practice profiles, and then developing personal custom RSS collections that will fit those needs.

    On the push side, most law organizations (my firm included) are delivering via email alerts. Functionally they’re ok, but similar to RSS, there’s the tendency to use a ‘shotgun approach’. The final product sent to the lawyers is very raw, and most lawyers I’ve spoken to feel we are clogging up their inbox with more non-business based communication. That’s not true, but the location of delivery – the inbox – makes them seem like ‘noise’, and an inappropriate method/placement for delivery.

    For me, ‘pull’ is definitely the future, but I also think we’re all going to be customizing all CA tools, regardless of ‘push or pull’. Extensive profiling and understanding your user community can and will be just as important.

  3. Thanks Connie and Steven. RSS isn’t an option here so we are using Lotus Notes e-mail. Our main current awareness service, which is delivered to clients worldwide, is a “pull” service on the company’s portals. Our other services are very focused and are delivered to specific individuals and/or departments by e-mail. I’m not getting complaints about the content (quite the opposite) but clients tell me that they often forget about “pull” services. They prefer “push” but I’m being told that’s not the way that the company is going. We are being asked to develop more and more customized current awareness services for clients and push vs. pull is going to become a real concern.

  4. Martha, I don’t know if you’ve explored it, or have the resources to do that, but I suspect that Notes and Domino can be made to deliver RSS feeds with some tweaking. There are also a bunch of “email to RSS” conversion services and programs. But when you say RSS isn’t an option for you, you may not be talking about technical limitations.

  5. Simon, you are right. It’s not technical limitations. However your comments make me want to take a closer look at Notes and Domino in case RSS does become an option. Thanks for the tip.