Strong opinions, weakly held

The future of syndication

What’s the future of RSS, Atom, and other syndication formats? I’m still attached to my RSS reader, but it sounds like a lot of people are giving up.

For example, here’s RSS reader author Dare Obasanjo on RSS readers that work like mail clients:

The problem is that the RSS readers I use regularly, Google Reader and RSS Bandit, take their inspiration from email clients which is the wrong model for consuming casual content like blogs. Whenever I fire up an email application like Outlook or Hotmail it presents me with a list of tasks I must complete in the form of messages that need responses, work items, meeting invitations, spam that needs to deleting, notifications related to commercial/financial transactions that I need to be aware of and so on. Reading email is a chore where you are constantly taunted by the BOLD unread messages indicator silently nagging you about the stuff you haven’t done yet.

James Snell says feeds are useful but feed readers are dead.

This seems to be the discussion of the week as far as tech blogs go, so I’ll weigh in. I like my feed reader, and I deal with the overload of unread messages by not worrying about it. Right now I have 1600 unread items in NetNewsWire, and most of them will almost certainly wind up being marked as read without being viewed. The important stuff I don’t want to miss is in specific folders that I check all the time. The other stuff I usually just let accumulate until I mark it as read. I’m OK with that.

What I’m taking away from this discussion is that I need to account for people who aren’t using RSS but still want to keep up with my blog. To that end, I’ve created a Twitter account just for my blog — @rc3dotorg.

Update: I’m using the la petite url plugin for WordPress to generate short URLs for use on Twitter internally rather than using a URL shortener.


  1. Re: putting blog updates in your Twitter account–is that something you’re able to automate, or are you going to be doing it by hand?

  2. There may be a way to automate it, but I’m going to do it by hand, mainly because I want to compose my own Tweets. I am using a plugin for WordPress to generate short URLs.

  3. The problem I have with using Twitter or Facebook as a means of tracking blogs is that both demand my attention in a more immediate way. And with both it’s awkward to navigate back to earlier posts to find something you missed.

    On the other hand, maybe Twitter is a good way to track a blog that posts very frequently but which you only follow for a few interesting pieces that come along from time to time?

  4. I disagree that feed readers are dead. I don’t think that they’re just a fad, and even if they were they were at least an interesting and useful one. The ’email model’ makes a lot of sense when looking at very sequential items like webcomics or when you really do want to not miss a single thing. Working in a press job, I’ve got feeds on a couple of google news searches for example that have been very, very useful. Because readers have been useful, even if they’re superseded later they have at least not been a mistake.

  5. Jacob Davies

    May 8, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    I don’t use a feed reader but only so I don’t spend all day reading blogs, and instead have to remember to actually type in the names of the ones I want to read. (I don’t have them bookmarked, even, for the same reason (well technically I do, but under a delicious tag I don’t show on my work computer)).

    I like posting notifications on Twitter as long as they’re not spammy, but writing them by hand seems to be the way to go. The last thing I need is another way for people to blindly push “content” at me, I want to know why I want to read something.

  6. I’ve tried to use readers in the past and it never stuck: i always felt i was missing something over at the main page. However, i now use twitter to follow the blogs and more, and i find it perfect for that. The only difference i have is that i read tweets on my iPhone. For the reader i was stuck to a big computer. I think Twitter is the optimal conjuction of RSS feeds and mobile computing.

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