The Future of RSS Isn’t Another NetNewsWire:

My hope is that peo­ple don’t use this sec­ond chance at a decade old tech­nol­ogy just to build NetNewsWire with popovers, a Tweetie-like side­bar and Twitter and Facebook shar­ing. The future of RSS isn’t in the feeds itself. It’s in fig­ur­ing out how to extract the infor­ma­tion out of those feeds and present it in an inter­est­ing and non-overwhelming way.

A reader is for engag­ing with infor­ma­tion; it’s a tool for con­sum­ing, man­ag­ing, and using knowl­edge. In addi­tion to pre­sent­ing new infor­ma­tion to con­sume, I also want it to pay atten­tion to, infer insights from, and make acces­si­ble in an ever­green mat­ter what I’ve already read. For me, this presents the pin­na­cle of per­sonal infor­ma­tion man­age­ment — an intel­li­gent tool that can rein­force what I already know and help guide me towards what I need to know.

Daniel Bachhuber — “Phone” is to the iPhone as “RSS reader” is to ?.

Just updated my Feedburner set­tings which were using a long out­dated URL end­ing. If you’re sub­scribed to the RSS feed it might be worth check­ing. http://feeds.feedburner.com/andrewspittle or http://andrewspittle.net/feed/ are what will work going forward.

Mother Jones, Egypt, and liveblogging

I just got around to read­ing the entirety of the Mother Jones updates on what’s hap­pen­ing in Egypt. If you haven’t seen it yet it’s a trea­sure trove of infor­ma­tion, thanks to Daniel for the link.

Partly due to the fact that it’s such a great resource it leaves me want­ing for a bet­ter way to track updates on it. What Mother Jones, and a lot of news orga­ni­za­tions, have done for their live blogs is cre­ate a sin­gle post that has many revi­sions and addi­tions. This gets the infor­ma­tion out there while also pro­vid­ing a sin­gle place to turn to for updates and back story.

This method works but it leaves a bit to be desired. What’s miss­ing is the abil­ity to track updates as sep­a­rate news items.

Permalink the updates

Mother Jones has hacked around the inabil­ity to ref­er­ence sin­gle updates to the post by adding in anchors for each day’s worth of updates. Here’s Monday for exam­ple. This works but is far from a true solu­tion. When Mother Jones pub­lishes an update the entire post is sent out via RSS with the most recent update all the way at the bottom.

The for­mat also means that we have no way to link into their cov­er­age. There is an anchor for each day in the text but I want gran­u­lar­ity. I should be able to spec­ify a sin­gle update they’ve pushed as some­thing worth reading.

The Guardian’s live blog does a bit bet­ter of a job at this. Each update is pref­aced with an update-level perma­link that will take you right there. They even add a nice touch with the pop-up win­dow there that gives you the link pre-selected.

A bet­ter live blog

A live blog should be just that, a fully func­tional blog with mul­ti­ple posts that each have a perma­link. Otherwise it’s just a post that’s added to over and over again.

Were Mother Jones to turn their Egypt cov­er­age into a true live blog they’d hit these 3 improvements:

  1. Entry-level perma­links: Every entry would have a unique perma­link that would allow read­ers to link deeply into the organization’s coverage.
  2. Granularity in updates: By break­ing each update into a sin­gle entry it would allow each update to be sent out via any num­ber of media. Combine this with the abil­ity to sub­scribe to new updates in RSS, Jabber, Email, Twitter, etc. and you have a news orga­ni­za­tion that can push updates to you anywhere.
  3. Attention of users: I can more eas­ily parse out new infor­ma­tion in a com­plex event like Egypt when every update does not also include the full back story. Keep the broader con­text avail­able for new read­ers but allow your repeat users the abil­ity to skip over what they have already read.

Ultimately the updates to an event and the back story need to be sep­a­rated out. You wouldn’t ver­ba­tim repub­lish yesterday’s story with one new para­graph in print so I’m not sure why it flies online. Your RSS feed is your dis­tri­b­u­tion chan­nel, the more repeated noise you push through there the more likely I’ll tune it out.

Updates and con­text are both impor­tant but to stay on top of a fast-moving event new infor­ma­tion ought to be eas­ily sep­a­ra­ble while main­tain­ing a broader com­pendium of every­thing that makes up the back story of the event.

RSS keeps me alive and kickin’

Dave Winer has been on a seri­ous win streak for the last few days. On the 4th he defined what an open web means to him. If your web has silos then it isn’t really your web is it?

Then he talked about “A tool whose only out­put is a set of RSS feeds.” Which sounds like a lovely loosely cou­pled net­work. That’s a tool I’d want to use and exper­i­ment with.

Finally he weaves RSS, iPads, WYSIWYG edi­tors, and a river of news into a tale of why first impres­sions are some­times the most hon­est but are many times bla­tantly wrong.

It’s all as Seth Godin says,

RSS is quiet and fast and pro­fes­sional and largely hype-free. Perhaps that’s why it’s not the fla­vor of the day.

Flavor of the day or not it’s how I con­sume the vast major­ity of my news and it alone has rad­i­cally trans­formed my con­sump­tion of infor­ma­tion and acqui­si­tion of knowl­edge. So thank you Dave Winer and all the other devel­op­ers who have con­tributed to keep­ing RSS thriv­ing. :)