Ramblings

by Mike Masnick




When Did I Become The Bandleader For RSS Backlash?

from the no,-wait-a-second... dept

Now what have I started? I must admit that the response to my post earlier this week concerning whether or not RSS was overhyped got quite an odd response. While there was a good number of comments responding to the post, I received more emails, instant messages, and personal comments than on any other story I think I've ever posted. What surprised me, was that every single one of them agreed that RSS was overhyped. I really expected the RSS supporters to come out of the woodwork and tell me why I was wrong. So, I was a bit surprised to find this story at InfoWorld suggesting that via that post, Techdirt is part of the "RSS backlash". I think I was misunderstood. My point is not that RSS is bad or useless. I think RSS is great and incredibly useful. Techdirt's very business is based on finding and aggregating information, so you can see why everyone here is interested in the possibilities of RSS. The problem is that I'm afraid, with the way it's being pushed now, that RSS won't live up to its potential. That's because so many people seem focused on the standard - and not what it's good for. The InfoWorld article suggests that I should simply butt out of the "insider" discussions if I think there's a problem - but my point is simply that if RSS is going to live up to its potential we need to move beyond the "inside baseball" discussions and explain why RSS really is useful. Trust me, most folks who don't already know about RSS have stopped reading this post. They see "RSS" and they think "technical junk that I don't understand." RSS has a marketing problem - because the focus is on RSS and not what can be done with it. We need more stories promoting the compelling applications that use RSS - not RSS itself. Most people didn't start using email after reading articles about SMTP and how it was going to change the world. They did it because someone explained email to them in a way that made sense. Most articles on RSS focus on RSS. They say it's this wonderful thing, but the reasons never seem compelling. They always seem like "well, it's got a couple of advantages over email and the web for some things." If you're going to get people to shift away from technologies they're comfortable with, the applications have to be clear and compelling. "RSS" is not there yet. I'm not trying to lead RSS backlash - I'm trying to figure out why there's so much hype about the standard, when so little has been done to market what it's useful for.

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  • identicon
    Tony Lawrence, 5 Sep 2003 @ 5:20am

    I don't see the "backlash"

    I don't see any "backlash" in what you quoted.

    I see a complaint that too many Blogs lack original content, a complaint that some write too much about RSS, and the observation that your average Joe doesn't understand why he would use RSS at all.

    The first is completely unrelated to RSS at all, and is just a fact of life on the web: Blogs and non-blogs all over the place often duplicate content found elsewhere. So what? Techdirt comments on things I can find elsewhere, but I still like to read what YOU have to say about it.
    Sometimes what I find here is the seed for a comment that I make at my own site, and on it goes. Are we all supposed to only comment at the original source - which might not even have a facility for making comments?

    That some people write too much about RSS is a given. I write too much about Unix, Linux Today writes too many Linux stories, and MacFixit seems stuck on Mac topics. So?

    As to our average joe who doesn't see the benefit of RSS, my feeling is: give it time. We spend most of our summer at a resort community, where for years there has been an opt-in address list maintained for people who want to keep in touch over the winter. Eight years ago I suggested adding email to that list, and was met with blank stares. Today, almost everyone who wondered why I suggested that has an email address on that list. I think the same will happen with RSS when it is built in to browsers and people just fall into it.

    By the way, I have duplicated this comment at my site, it talks too much about RSS, and your average joe won't find out about it through RSS.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Ed Halley, 5 Sep 2003 @ 6:52am

      Re: I don't see the

      I see a complaint that too many Blogs lack original content, ... By the way, I have duplicated this comment at my site

      Er, I see your point.

      RSS itself, the way it's most often used, is a homogenizing force in content. It seems that every site has little headline tickers to coax you away from the current page, to an page pretty much just like it. Wired headlines on Slash, Slash headlines on c|net, c|net headlines on Wired.

      RSS can be used appropriately, but I think most sidebars and headline tickers are silly diversions from the real promise.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        ThwartedE, 5 Sep 2003 @ 8:32am

        questionable use of rss

        Wired headlines on Slash, Slash headlines on c|net, c|net headlines on Wired.

        Syndicated content/headlines is a terrible long-term use of RSS. The reason you have things like "Wired headlines on Slash" and "Slash headlines on C|net" is because everyone wants to be a portal, wants you to set them as your home page. I forwarded the article about using RSS to distribute content traditionally destined for the trash because it went out via email to our marketing manager. I want to get away from sending email newsletters -- I don't think I need to go over the reasons in detail; not the least of which is because no one reads them and it's a push, rather than pull, technology. He couldn't get excited about it, mainly because there isn't enough client support for RSS. Sure your latest browsers (which 95% of the population isn't using) and some email programs have a "dashboard" interface that shows you headlines, but he was of the opinion that if someone needed to download something to see something on our site, they wouldn't. And I tend to agree on that point, but we have a chicken and egg problem here.

        Also, if you've ever been part of a retail affiliate program that actually GIVES you product listings to display on your site, most likely it's in the stone age. It's flat text comma or tab separated values, and everyone has their own format. There are standard tools out there to parse RSS and XML in general, and we arn't using them. Mainly because RSS is seen as a syndication technology and not as a distribution technology (I know the distinction is a fine one)

        I can't stand online-in-a-web-site news aggregators. Little boxes over on the side that only give you the most X (where X is some random non-standard number) recent headlines. If I'm not at a computer for an extended amount of time, I miss a lot and there's no way to review it in the same format. There's also some deficiencies in the RSS format that make more complex aggregators difficult to design and write (lack of a standard date format, lack of GUIDs for each entry (so edited entries don't appear as "new" just because they are different than a previous entry).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Tony Lawrence, 5 Sep 2003 @ 9:28am

          Re: questionable use of rss

          I can't stand online-in-a-web-site news aggregators. Little boxes over on the side that only give you the most X (where X is some random non-standard number) recent headlines. If I'm not at a computer for an extended amount of time, I miss a lot and there's no way to review it in the same format.

          Some RSS readers limit the number of headlines they'll show - actually all of them must have some limit, but most of us don't put out more than 15 or so at a time.

          However, nothing says we couldn't. I could easily write out a file that had all my content for a month, a year or forever. It would be humongous, but it would be no effort for me to produce as an option. Do you think that's something people would want (I don't mean for my site, but in general)?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Tony Lawrence, 5 Sep 2003 @ 9:35am

        Re: I don't see the

        Mentioning duplicating it on my own site was meant to be half funny, though I did duplicate it in an expanded form :-)

        I agree that headline tickers apparently don't make sense. I won't use them on my site, but consider that they may serve the purpose of introducing people who don't have RSS reader capability to the value of RSS.

        But you are right: the promise of RSS is NOT to see xyz's headlines on abc's web site.


        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Con Tendem, 5 Sep 2003 @ 11:42am

    noteworthy RSS apps

    I have made a point of blogging about every useful or innovative RSS-related app I come across. I do the same for consumer-related Web Services (like the ones Google and Amazon offer). The latest one I have found useful is RSSJobs.com - an aggregator of queries to common job hunting websites that delivers the results via an RSS feed. Coupled with NewsBins in FeedMonster it is quite a tool.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bill Catz, 5 Sep 2003 @ 12:07pm

    RSS problem

    It seems that everybody has some method to create RSS feeds. Many others have methods to aggregate and view the feeds. What I find severely lacking is any method to submit feeds to a registry or single point (Syndic8.com) that others like NewsIsFree, Moreover, etc. will use to make new feeds easier to find. Users of RSS aggregaters need to search and find their own. Very few have any method to submit new feeds. So, we're stuck with what these aggregater services spoon feed us. That's a big problem in getting RSS off the ground.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Con Tendem, 6 Sep 2003 @ 8:13am

      Re: RSS problem

      Bill, I do not think we really want to be able to submit hundreds of thousands of feeds into various syndication services. People are working on a reputation-driven systems for suggesting new content, and a crude system for such autodiscovery already exists. If you find someone's comments interesting and go to their blog many newsreaders will autodiscover RSS feeds. You can also always browse through people's blogrolls or go to technorati and the like to see what kind of content people link to. The issue is not in submitting new feeds or creating repositories of all feeds, it is in finding interesting new feeds.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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