When I recently wrote about the Death of RSS Readers, it seemed that there was a wave of similar posts around the web (like this RSS is Dying ). A lot of people reacted to these Death of RSS sentiments with Sure, RSS is dead, just like the web is dead) which, for me, sort of misses the point(s).
I was interested in RSS reading from a teaching perspective. I’m not saying for one minute that RSS is dead as a technology, it’s just that is knowing about RSS really necessary when introducing people to the whole world of Web2.0? Lots of the people I know who use RSS Readers have been using them for at least 5 years, maybe 10. They’ve grown with them, slowly and carefully built up a collection of feeds worth reading. Is this roughly how long it takes to massage and mulch RSS reading into something you like? Given tools like paper.li is learning about Google Reader really worth the effort?
I’m sure part of my, and others’ ennui with RSS, or rather news in general was in part similar to how newspapers are woefully slim at Christmas, when you need them most with some time to kill in the post-Boxing Day lull.
In my swapping OPML experiment with Doug and Andy, I noticed they had about 200ish feeds each. I had 200ish feeds too. Is that a natural limit? Is it point where you start to see the phenomenon I noticed whereby with different feeds you can start to receive roughly the same news. Is 200 the point when the benefits of looking for new feeds stop paying off because the news they report starts to overlap with news you already get … from sources whose names you can remember.
Interestingly, I’ve found that by adding BOTH Doug and Andy’s OPML subscriptions to my subscriptions (now 600ish instead of 200ish) I’ve found that it’s breathed a breath of fresh novelty, of similar but different news into my old favourites. Either that or people who make the news are back at work again.
I’ve also found the Feedly iPhone app has helped too (see below) because if RSS Reading can’t be done on the train then you do begin to lose interest too. (And if you are Google Reader user AND a Firefox/Chrome user and haven’t tried Feedly, go give it a go… Paul! )
So, some questions…
Is 200ish just a magic number when it comes to RSS subscriptions? If you use Google Reader, how many subscriptions do you have?
Why is subscribing so binary? Often, you want to hush a feed, rather than unsubscribe forever. Or maybe you only want to hear from a feed if people from your social circle (or network) are into a feed…
Why is there an artificial split between writing and reading? Why is there a separate application, like Delicious, for tagging web pages (that you can also write notes on)?
… and an idea!
Imagine if you will a mashup between Delicious, Google Reader and WordPress. It’s a simple enough idea called “Reading & Writing & Organising”.
All three of those tools share tags, content (posts) and URLs… why not work with them in one place rather than three.
- You create a blog post, it contains some links and add some tags. The aggregator in the background notices both the links and tags and suggests new content from that site or author, or other content based on the tags. But ultimately you never have to “subscribe” to particular feed.
- You tag a page as interesting and it shows up, to you, alongside blog posts you’ve written earlier as “maybe of interest. If you start creating a blog post with those tags, those pages will be “to hand”.
- Whilst reading some news, you share a few items. Adding more text and notes as you go you decide that you’d like to publish this on your blog.
The tags you tag random content out there in the wild internet, the tags you tag “subscriptions” with ( the difference between Delicious and Google Reader starts to blur if you imagine that Delicious had have auto-discovered newer items from the ones you’ve tagged) and the tags you tag your own content with, become, or can become, the same tags.
The random notes you add to tags, can become blog posts… or not.
Your subscriptions are like your “best bits” blogroll.
And all it needs is to blur (and remove the replication of concepts ) Delicious, Google Reader and WordPress… and to remove the separation of reading and writing. As ideas go, it’s about taking stuff out rather than adding stuff in…
A blogroll that auto-subscribed to new items, and was shareable (does anyone really bother with blogrolls anymore?)
Bookmarks that were linked to YOUR WORK… and your news.
A Tag Cloud of news subscriptions… tags AND/OR content.
…. just a thought ….