There should be an alternative to one-size-fits-all RSS feeds for busy sites.Matt goes on to quote the frustration of Khoi Vinh at his feed reader:
Too many high-volume sites assume everyone wants to read every post. That's wishful thinking. Some readers may want 5+ posts a day from your site, but what about moderate fans who only want 5 posts a week? Or casual fans who want a mere 5 posts a month? These people just want a glass of water yet sites insist on pointing a firehose at them.
I've collected so damn many RSS feeds that, when I sit down in front of the application, it's almost as difficult a challenge as having no feed reader whatsoever. With dozens and dozens of subscriptions, each filled with dozens of unread posts, I often don't even know where to start.Matt also quotes an older Wired article that nicely states the problem:
I want to solve the question of "I don't have any time and I subscribe to 500 feeds. I just got off the plane. What do I need to read?"Current RSS readers merely reformat XML for display. That isn't enough. Feed readers need to filter and prioritize. Show me what matters. Help me find what I need.
Matt's post focuses on issues for people with hundreds of feeds in their feed reader -- a common problem for us geeks -- but I think the problem is much broader than that.
Not only do most people not want to read every post from various feeds, but most people do not want to go through the hassle of tracking down and subscribing to individual feeds in the first place. XML is for geeks, not something that should be exposed to readers. Most people just want to read news. Next generation feed readers should hide the magic of locating content.
Overall, feed readers need to do a better job of focusing on scarce attention. Readers have limited time. Feed readers should be helping readers focus, filter, and prioritize. Feed readers should throw out the crap, surface the gems, and help people manage the flood of information coming at them.
See also my Jan 2006 post, "RSS sucks and information overload".
See also my March 2005 post, "A relevance rank for news and weblogs".
See also my Sept 2005 post, "Findory RSS Reader, Part II".
Update: Got to love the title of this recent post by Nick Carr, "Lost in the shitstream".