Friday, March 10, 2006

RSS was designed by geeks for geeks

Simon Waldman (Director of Digital Publishing at the UK Guardian) talked about RSS and use of RSS by the public at large at the FT Digital Media Conference. A choice excerpt:
There are two distinctive views on RSS.

The first is that it is a fantastic technology that will empower web users [and] transform the way we get our news and information ...

The second is that ... it has been designed by geeks for geeks; it is too fiddly for normal human beings; and after you've finally worked out how to set up your RSS reader you rapidly find yourself with 5,000 unread articles, 200 photos from Flickr, and a few dozen podcasts that you will never get round to listening to. The net result is complete information overload: the very thing it was designed to eliminate.

In my opinion, both of these are true. Despite the smart software and web services available ... [it] is still too clunky for many users to adopt. It is still very much a minority sport, favoured by those - shall we say - with natural technical aptitude.
Stepping back a second, why are we exposing things called RSS, Atom, and XML to readers at all? Do they care what these data formats are? No, only geeks like us care. Mainstream readers just want to read news.

I think next-generation RSS readers will have to get past exposing RSS feeds. Readers just want to read news. All the magic of locating the content needs to be hidden. It all needs to just work.

See also my earlier posts, "Blog readers and RSS", "RSS for the mainstream", and "RSS sucks and information overload".

4 comments:

Alex Bosworth said...

What we really need is a killer blogreader that will do for RSS what iTunes/iPod did for MP3

It's not about the fancy acronyms, a ton of people just don't read enough (or varied enough stuff) online to find blog readers that compelling

That's at least my theory why Grandma's not blogreading anyways.

JX said...

I'm not trying to suck up to you or anything lke that, Greg, but the problem with RSS readers is overload of information. That's why I've grown fond of Findory. It shows me only what I want to read.

I know Findory's not powered by magic, but it sure feels like magic :-)

Charles said...

As if to prove the point about having too many feeds to read, I am only now catching up with Geeking with Greg...

Anywho, I concur that RSS will have to disappear to really take off. I can't wait until Outlook has a baked in RSS reader...by then the autodiscovery/subscribe issues ought to be work out satisfactorily.

What I want to know is will consumers want to publish feeds as easily as they consume them? Not if they have to know about RSS of course, but will the smart readers of the future also be feed publishers?

Seth Russell said...

Next time some geek comes up with a perfectly rational reason not to agree to standardize on a subscription mechinism, somebody should make him write "It all needs to just work" 1000000 times.