When I hit my mid-afternoon work-lull I typically surf around to a few select sites (mostly blogs
) and see what's happening in the online world. During this time it often happens that I'll suddenly remember some blog I haven't seen in a while, like Mighty Girl
(famous among dozens -- lol!), or Uber
(better than you, daily), and have the joy of a selection of new postings to consume.
I decided it would likely be more efficient to use an RSS reader and subscribe to all these feeds. I downloaded SharpReader
and have used it for the last two weeks.
First observation: I'm amazed at how few sites actually put the full content of a posting into their RSS entry. I thought the point of the RSS Reader was to provide a centralized way to keep up to date on a variety of posting-centric sites. If the full post isn't contained in the RSS feed, then the feed mostly just becomes a notification system letting you know when new content is available. Quite the high-bandwidth notification system.
Second observation: Because feed providers really can't customize how their feed looks in your RSS reader, all the postings I read blend together and I find I don't really have any idea where I read something anymore. When I use a web browser the design and colours of a site influence my perceptions of the articles I read. The two become cojoined in my brain and form a memory.
I visited Slashdot with a web browser this afternoon after reading the entries with my RSS reader throughout the morning. My first reaction was surprise that I recognized all the story headings. The second reaction was disappointment that there was nothing new to read. I miss my random forays around the web. My sparks of memory that bring me back to a familiar design
with new content
To get around the fact that many people's feeds only provide a sentence or two, my RSS reader is very quick to fire up the embedded IE browser and show me that actual entry in the context of the website. At first this irritated me, but now I sort of rely on it. Much nicer than having to deal with a variety of separate windows.
Still though, there seems something inherently wrong about the whole RSS reader phenomenon. On one side the efficiency is enticing, but the sites I read through the aggregator become somewhat blurred and hard to distinguish. On the other side the site authors seem to really want you to come to their website directly, but don't want to be left out of the RSS craze and so they comprimise by giving you teasers through the feed and make you hit their site for more. It seems broken somehow. Two sides pulling in different directions. The whole experience leaves me feeling informed yet alone.
What really is the purpose of RSS? Who is it really benefiting?