RSS Is Not Dead. You Are Using It in a Wrong Way.

These days the topic about RSS being dead is active on techcrunch.

(I know this isn’t much of a technical article, but it is somewhat related to web usability)

So, RSS is not dead. You are using it in a wrong way. As I wrote more than 2 years ago, Google reader, which is the most widely used RSS reader, is..bad. It shows a stream of articles. And twitter also shows a stream of “articles”. So in google reader vs twitter, the winner would be the one serving more relevant and interesting content. Undoubtedly that’s twitter. Because someone has already read the article and recommends it. Or because someone is saying something funny.

So yes, I agree that twitter beats google reader. But RSS can be viewed not only as a stream. The reader I’m using is Netvibes. There you place all feeds in different boxes around the screen. 3 columns, multiple rows, and multiple tabs. You are given the ability to categorize your feeds. This is not a stream. Netvibes does not create a “mash” of your subscriptions.

What’s the benefit? Well, you are not forced to read through everything. You are not forced to click on individual sources. If in the morning I won’t to read local news, and when I go to work I want to read technical articles, and in the afternoon I want to read comics, I can do it by just opening my netvibes homepage. But I may not want to read all local news if I’m in a hurry. Or I may not want to read all comics. Even if you group your streams in google reader with “news”, “comics”, “technical”, you don’t have such control. And this control comes from the simplicity. You are filtering the content because you know where it is on the screen. There are no fancy filtering tools – it’s just there and your mind does the filtering.

On the other hand, when you have a single (or a few) streams, it means that you should scan through all inputs. And what if one very valuable source is publishing rarely. You can easily miss it in the stream. Assume you are on holiday, and you don’t want to read technical articles – just local news and comics. Then you get back and … there are tons of DZone, TheServerSide, Mashable, TechCrunch articles, which are all grouped in the to “tech” or “web” group. And you are missing the one article published in the springsource blog for their new product. Too bad. I’ll say it again – let me filter the content and choose which box to look at and which not. Don’t make me read through everything that I don’t want.

Enough with examples, and I know that there are good usage patterns with the stream-oriented view. Recently Netvibes also added a stream view in fact. By the way netvibes presents the information is because I’m still using RSS, and I’m unlikely to stop soon.

1 thought on “RSS Is Not Dead. You Are Using It in a Wrong Way.”

  1. Great article! Yes, RSS is by far not dead. Actually your example is just confirming that it is evolving (its use are evolving and it is even more sexier than ever) If you have some time, see my take at: http://fav.ly/QCnG

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