Karp carps about the terminology, as if using ‘subscribing’ instead of ‘syndicating’ would solve the real broken parts of the whole RSS mess. Paul does a better job enumerating real problems, which can be summarized as feed overload.
But the real problem is that the entire user experience offered up by RSS newsreaders is wrong. I wrote about this at some length last year in a post called RSS Readering: Why RSS Readers Are No Good For Me (And You Too, I Bet). In particular, I made the core point:
I tried them for a time, and then dropped out. These annoy me for similar reasons: I don’t like the Pez dispenser feel, where all posts are like another, and you assume the role of a pigeon in a Skinner box, hitting the button to make the pellets roll out.
I have been lusting for something, a new solution, that actually parallels my most rewarding reading experiences. The way this generally works is like so:
I stumble across some link, or reference – perhaps in an email, or in the midst of reading a post in a browser – and I decide that I would like to invest some attention to this concept, or meme. Note: I am not just deciding to click a link and go to a specific page – which is all typical browsers do. I am deciding to investigate the theme, thread, meme, or whatever, and assimilate and collate information about it.
I then use a variety of techniques to uncover what I am interested in:
- I might click on tags embedded in the post, that take me to Technorati, or I might simply decide to search at Technorati or Del.icio.us for references to the piece or for tags to the topic or the names of individuals writing about it.
- I might follow backlinks, from the post back to earlier sources: other posts, or articles.
- I might ask specific contacts of mine what they know about the object of my interest.
- I might write a post, summarizing what I have uncovered, and offering some thoughts on the subject
But what I seldom do is just sit there reading a stream of posts, based on their chronology, or other intrinsic factors. No, I am on a hunt, skipping from place to place, and these tools constrain me more than they free me.
So the problem is not RSS, which should be just a low-level protocol that tools rely on. The problem is the amazingly static and non-innovative way we are using RSS.
The basic metaphor of having all RSS streams converge into an app like NewsGator or Bloglines is too limiting.
I want RSS threaded into other social aspects of the web, like the Nerdvana concept I have been hawking for a long time: an integration of RSS feeds into the instant message buddylist, so that I can be notified when someone I am interested in has posted something recently, just like I can about their online presence, except in this case it is their onblog presence.
At any rate, Scott and Paul are attracting attention to a real problem, although the problem is the RSS reader model we have adopted.