The changing world of RSS

The new school year always seems to hit hard. Grant proposal deadlines meet teaching schedule meet new school year for the kid meet rain. Oof.

Like perhaps many info-folk I tend to be a bit smug about my ability to filter and manage information. I use some tech tools, elect to eschew others, and do a lot of reading, but rarely experience that “information overload” feeling we hear so much about.

However, when Bloglines announced they were shutting down (or, technically, Ask announced that they were shutting down Bloglines) it threw me. Right in the middle of September, at that! It took quite a while before I succumbed to the RSS reader allure, and I finally added all my regularly-read blog URLs to bloglines around 2006.

To my surprise I have become quite dependent on my Bloglines to catch me up with the news (and by news I mean also comics, LIS blogs, reproductive health info, family photos, etc.). I especially like the way Bloglines lets you archive posts that you want to save and get rid of the rest – I find this especially helpful for planning class content for courses that I’m not teaching in the current semester.

But Bloglines is going poof and there doesn’t appear to be another service exactly like it: web-based & platform-agnostic, clean layout, not owned by Google or Yahoo or Facebook, not reuquiring that one shares everything, and allowing saved posts. Jessamyn recommends the Firefox plugin Sage, which I hadn’t heard of and will investigate, but with Zotero everywhere somewhat promised I’m not feeling wedded to Firefox anymore.

Most folks I’ve talked to have given it up to Google, and I even transferred my URLS over there for a whirl but haven’t gotten used to what feels like a cluttered layout yet, and I’m dissatisfied with my ability to archive the good and trash the bad thus far (although I may just need more time to get used to the lay of the land).

In my search for recommendations for RSS readers I have discovered that a whole bunch of commentators think that RSS is dead, or conversely argue that RSS is not dead, and have been proclaiming this both ways for at least a year. MG Sigler did a post over on TechCrunch a few weeks ago that pretty much sums up my thoughts. Sigler writes,

It’s a mass consumption tool — but it’s not a consumption tool for the masses. If I didn’t have to (or didn’t want to) read and track a thousand stories a day, there is no way I would use an RSS reader.

When designing a website, yes RSS is a necessity, particularly if it’s a blog or news site. However, my kid’s blog? Only my tech-friendly friends read it via RSS. My family, the primary audience, don’t even know what RSS is (and not because I didn’t try to teach them – because it ended up not  being important in their lives).

I’m dissatisfied about the trend in feed readers toward the social and ephemeral. Why am I concerned about this? Because it doesn’t meet MY needs. I’m not sure it meets anyone’s needs, actually, since the mass public probably doesn’t need to manage hundreds of RSS feeds, but may find appeal in the social (this is why the FB “Networked Blogs” holds appeal, even though it is FB?). I’m reluctant to covert to Google Reader if it’s going to continue to become more social and less useful to me as an info management tool. Meh.

These newer social & ephemeral info streams are to specific RSS subscriptions like Google is to MEDLINE. I use Google, it’s quick & easy and often entertaining. But when I really want to find or track something I use a dedicated source. And I like my RSS to be reliable – a subscription, not a fishnet.

 

-Greyson

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1 Comment

Filed under social media, technology

One response to “The changing world of RSS

  1. amy

    While I agree that Google Reader is a visual mess, when you use it as a gadget in an iGoogle page, it’s really simple and streamlined.

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