April 24th, 2007

RSS Has No Value Without A Filter


The irony of the video RSS in Plain English is that it is simultaneously one of the clearest and most engaging explanations of RSS I have ever seen and also a vivid demonstration of why RSS has not gone mainstream — how can something that takes 3.5 minutes to explain be a killer app?

Translation: Why run around sipping from multiple water fountains when you can drown drink from one giant fire hose?

He’s the simplest way I can put it:
There is NO value to having information come to you in one place when the result is TOO MUCH information for you to sift through.

Or even simpler: Without a filter, RSS has no value.

Any questions?

  • Clyde: You said --

    "You mean, RSS allows me to copy content to watch later?
    Wait, you mean, the Tivo allows me to syndicate my content to other sites?"

    I wouldn't conflate the ideas of RSS to content *producers* and RSS to content *consumers*. I think there is much, much less of a problem with producers knowing what RSS is and how they can use it. If they produce, it is their job to know and they will eventually find out. Even in the case of amateurs with Blogger blogs, the RSS feeds are already built in.

    It's consumers who need the most handholding, hence the Tivo analogy. "Syndicatable", "shareable", etc aren't the killer apps of RSS for consumers. Customized, cached, push content is. That's exactly what RSS is and that's exactly what Tivo is. To me the only thing consumers need to know about RSS right off the bat is this:

    "Instead of constantly checking web sites to see what's new, choose the sites you like and have the new stuff pushed to you automatically so you can read it whenever you want."

    Period. That's it.

    There are a million other uses for RSS but that's the instant turn on for consumers. The "oh shit" moment, so to speak.

  • Josh

    Regarding Clyde Smith's comment that

    RSS needs two things to go mainstream:
    improved coding and services
    ubiquitous use in the school systems

    Would the answer to ''improved coding'' be the migration of content over to XML from HTML?

    Just curious.


  • If you decided to peek at my example of mixed feeds it's fluxresearch.com not .org. It's not anything special but now I have an excuse for making a couple more quick points.

    RSS needs a filter? But I thought the bloggers were supposed to be doing the filtering.

    It would be interesting to look at how people achieve their desired outcome of getting the news they want. It might expand the idea of filtering. It seems to me that I filter news when I choose or don't choose a feed source, when I go to Digg and use their filtering, when I rely on a recommendation via a blog that I trust.

    Perhaps looking at all the ways people actually achieve the function of filtering could lead to better forms of feeds and feedreaders as well as new products.

    Mike D:
    "RSS is to the internet what Tivo is to the television."

    You mean, RSS allows me to copy content to watch later?
    Wait, you mean, the Tivo allows me to syndicate my content to other sites?

    One of the difficulties is that the end user doesn't actually interact with RSS feeds, they use tools that use RSS. Really, focus on the tools and what they provide, not the feed and how it works, and you'll have a much better chance of reaching a mass market.

  • Based on how killer app has been used in the past, RSS is no killer app.

    And it doesn't need to be (unless that's where you're hoping to get rich).

    I'm not a "mainstream" type user but I use many of the tools, such as feedreaders (bloglines, newsgator, yahoo), that regular folks might be tempted to use and, so far, they're all a disappointment. For that matter, so is RSS.

    I use Feed Digest to mix some feeds for some semipublic projects I have going that are really for my own use, for example: fluxresearch.org

    I'm finding that a good way to keep up with select blog and news feeds but some feeds don't play well with others so I can't even mix in everything in that I want.

    What I'm trying to get at here is that RSS feeds and tools don't really function well enough to serve advanced users needs even after a lot of tweaking. And even though services like mobile phones have shown us that folks are willing to accept lower grade service if it adds useful functions and is understandable (i.e. it's a telephone with poor call quality but high mobility). The RSS-osphere combines just enough conceptual confusion with so so service to keep it out of mainstream awareness.

    RSS needs two things to go mainstream:
    improved coding and services
    ubiquitous use in the school systems

    Or maybe three:
    RSS apps that have relevance to kids

    Fortunately, for my part, it doesn't matter how mainstream it gets. It's not like folks necessarily improve their coding and services just because they're popular!

  • I agree with Aaron - it's not the fault of RSS, it's a fault of the readers.

    Scott what filtered reader do you use? :)

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