I don’t know a huge amount about RSS and the standards (or not) behind them, but Mark and Nuclear Moose make some points that I agree with. The principles behind RSS are clear enough – drag what’s been written on a site into a reader program so you can scan more information in less time. But isn’t that part of the problem ? You scan it – you don’t necessarily read it.
Because you have so many feeds, you become accustomed to whizzing through it picking out only a few words. Sure, you can get the general gist of things, but can you also pick up the personality behind it ? Can you ?
Before I keep on going, I’ll declare my side .. I sorted out my Firefox RSS Reader Panel earlier (purely a coincidence) and counted the feeds I have. 50. Even I was surprised. So how do I use all 50 ? The vast majority are sites that I monitor for news that may interest me – such as A List Apart, Webmonkey, The Register, kuro5shin.org, MetaFilter – but what I want from these is news. That to me is what RSS was initially for – to keep up with the rapidly changing world of news. News is, by and large, impersonal. If Webmonkey produce something about webcode, then it’s not about someone, it’s about something. It’s factual, but unemotional. Blogs are different.
I also have people’s blogs in there, but the Panel just highlights the fact that a new entry has been posted – I very rarely just read it by RSS – I go to the site. In fact sometimes I visit just to see the site, to see if things have changed, to read comments that may have been posted. And I go because what will be there is personal, it matters, it means I get to see what the person wrote in the surroundings that they chose, I go because I can see if the site has changed, who else is commenting, what new links there might be. It’s a person writing that blog, and their personality comes through their site. It cannot come just through text. If blogs are meant to be more than just ascii (and I’m often told they are due to my attitude about this one) – then surely using RSS is simply a way of depersonalising the other person’s site when you would want yours to be viewed more favourably ?
There are some people’s blogs that either do not have a feed, or I just have not bothered to add them to the Panel. No feed is not an issue, and neither is not adding them. Why ? Because I like their site. I like being there, so to speak.
We spend hours altering our sites, playing with templates and CSS, adding hacks, buttons, graphics, and we do this partly out of vanity, partly because we can and partly because we want our site – our little corner of the internet – to reflect us, our personality and our interests. How our site looks matters to us, and we all hope that visitors will find our site both interesting and worthy of a repeat visit. Does RSS help this ? Not for a blog it doesn’t, not really.
If RSS disappeared, would it bother me ? Nope. Sure it would slow down my news gathering habits, but for personal blogs ? I’d still read as often as I do.
Time. So RSS saves you time. That’s an argument to a point I guess, but if it’s a friend’s blog, when do you decide to visit it ? That’s not a criticism – after all – I do have more time than many of you reading this – I’m just wondering …..
Convenience food is good for a while, but you shouldn’t have too much of it. Bit like RSS isn’t it ?
And I’d still like a way of knowing who is pulling my feed.