Brian Feeney
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RSS Revived

Wired.com, It’s Time For an RSS Revival:

For many of you, that means finding a replacement for Digg Reader, which went the way of the ghost this month. Or maybe you haven’t used RSS since five years ago, when Google Reader, the beloved firehose of news headlines got the axe. For others, it means figuring out what the heck an RSS feed is in the first place—we’ll get to that in just a minute. And some of you have already moved on to the next article in your Feedly queue. No matter what your current disposition, though, in this age of algorithmic overreach there’s something deeply satisfying about finding stories beyond what your loudest Twitter follows shared, or that Facebook’s News Feed optimized into your life. And lots of tools that can get you there.”

So many posts these days calling for a big return of RSS. I’m here for it.

April 08, 2018

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RSS by Time of Day

I use Feedly for my RSS reading and I believe I’ve found my favorite way to sort through the news. Last fall, I arranged my feeds into time of day: Morning, Afternoon, Evening, Night, Weekend, and Work Reading. Most feeds are in multiple folders, and few are in less than two. It’s a very easy way to run through what’s happening out there in the world. At particular times during the day, I’m more interested in certain kinds of news. In the morning, I want to read national news and the personal blog posts from friends and colleagues. In the afternoon, I like all forms of news, including entertainment and trivial stuff. In the evening, the longer form articles are more interesting. At night and in the weekends, I’d rather read lifestyle stuff and to give myself a break from the think pieces and awful politics. At work, I just want to read stuff that pertains to my career, so that stuff is quarantined to office hours.

All in all, it really works. I get through my feeds quickly but without rushing. I know if I leave 50 posts in the morning list, the timely stuff I’ll likely get to later in the day. And when I want to take a real break from RSS, I check only my Vacation folder: about 20 feeds which entertain me more than inform me; a breezy list.

There is a lot of work to do in making RSS products into the forms they deserve to be. At least now I feel I’ve cracked a personal code.

January 26, 2016

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Innovate with RSS

Dave Winer thinks it’s time to give RSS another shot:

If I were Google I’d fight Facebook with RSS. Re-integrate RSS with Chrome. Make subscription something browsers support. Provide an open, clonable, simple web service that returns a subscription list for any user with permission of course so a million ideas for RSS aggregators can bloom. A browser button that says Subscribe To This. Surround Facebook with open innovation from small developers everywhere.

I agree. I really appreciate the functionality of RSS, of being able to curate my own reading list, and I’m certain most people would, too, if they understood it better. As it stands, RSS isn’t so easy for the average internet user to comprehend. It’s not obvious enough. RSS needs a rebranding.

If I were Google and were taking Winer’s advice I would focus on rebranding the experience. A few things need to happen for it to be a success. First, RSS functionality needs to be as clear and fundamental as the address bar, tabs, and navigation. Place it where it won’t be missed. Second, make organizing feeds a smooth and frictionless process. It could still be folders and tags, but designed so it doesn’t take much time or thought. And third, advertise it. Make it clear how many feeds are out there (A: millions), and convince people of how much they’ll benefit.

If done well, I can’t see how it wouldn’t take off. People are devouring apps like Flipboard and News.me. Since Google wants so badly to be a Social player, Winer might be right in suggesting they pull in their reins on RSS. What I’m imagining isn’t too far off from Google Reader. They’re close. But Google Reader feels more like a feature than a central product. It just needs all the TLC they gave to the Google+ failure.

Clearly, Google wants what Facebook’s got. And I think Winer’s right in that it should tack in a different direction. Instead of attempting to clone Facebook, it should make the rest of the internet feel as Facebook-like as possible. Facebook is a walled-in garden. RSS is open ocean. If done right, there wouldn’t be the friction of a suspicion-inducing opt-in. If you’re reading on the internet, you could just as easily be doing so via RSS.

Another thought: RSS could also be a revenue stream for magazines’ online content. They could sell subscriptions to their writers’ feeds for $1/yr (or something), or subscriptions to different sections (i.e. Financial sections, Editorial, etc.), or, for a higher fee, to bundles, or maybe even every feed (the entire magazine) for a premium price. For example, I’m sure the New Yorker would make a pretty penny selling a subscription to only their fiction section. Even at $12/yr, I would probably buy that. I would certainly pay $1/yr for just the World in Review section of the Economist.

I don’t assume I’m the first to have these thoughts. But they make sense to me and I wonder what’s the hold up?

March 23, 2012

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