Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Death of the Feed

Image courtesy of the awesomely cool Russell Beattie

I remember in 2001 when I first heard about RSS. Back then, we still called them weblogs, and there were so few blogs that it was news when a new one started. For example, I distinctly remember reading excitedly about a promising new VC blogger named Jeff Nolan from SAP Ventures.

At first, I just visited selected blogs regularly, checking for updates like I did on my sports websites. Then I learned about RSS and started following blogs using Bloglines.

For years, my RSS reader was my most important source of information. But gradually, I've found it's getting displaced. Not by Twitter, as many people have argued, but by group and personal filtering systems.

In some ways, it's back to the future--once again, I fond myself checking just a few sites and services. But this time, it's due to a surplus of content, rather than a paucity. Both my RSS reader, Twitter feed, and Facebook feed are overwhelming. Reading every item would literally be a full-time job. Instead, I find myself dipping into the stream on an occasional basis.

Here are my information consumption habits:
  • RSS feed of close friends (to keep up with their thoughts and activities)
  • @mentions on Twitter (to see who's reacting to my tweets)
  • Techmeme (to see what everyone is talking about)
  • Hacker News Daily (to see what young technical entrepreneurs are talking about)
  • Summify/My6sense (personalized feed filters to tell me what my network is talking about)
  • Twitter (dropping in to see what's shaking, much like cruising a neighborhood and checking for parties)
  • Facebook (ambient awareness of what my casual friends and acquaintances are doing)
What's interesting to me is the balance between personalized and general. The personalized news sources help me maintain relationships and keep me informed about my little world; the general news sources help me discover new insights and information sources.

Perhaps the is the natural long-term balance; more personalized than the old pre-Internet mainstream media, but with a core of commonly read information to help set the agenda.

26 comments:

DJJoeJoe said...

RSS may be dead to you, but I still use things like Google Reader for my 'main' circle of blogs and sites that I 'follow' rather than Twitter. I don't have the luxury of twitter friends that keep me connected that way, in fact I have zero friends on twitter and that's why getting into it is almost impossible.

Twitter is not an ideal way for me to learn about news/topics/articles, rss is still the best way for me to sort and check off articles I read and want to read later, I can still share things from there to other places like twitter or facebook.

RSS may be dead for you, but it still serves a vital purpose for others.

chexxor said...

RSS is dead for YOU. That is an important distinction. RSS is still very useful, but you have evidently outgrown it. For staying afloat lots of news sources, RSS is king. But over time, one's interest in being flooded with so much information disappears, and a desire to see just what is relevant for yourself arises.

This is a maturity thing. Kids don't know what they are interested in until they grow older and experience different things. After you have acquired your tastes, then you want to shut out the noise.

Show some respect to the RSS, many people still love it.

Zachary Reiss-Davis said...

Agree with the previous comments; while an interesting post looking at the difference methods to find content, it doesn't really imply that RSS is dead, or even that a RSS feed reader (which is really what this is about) is dead. It may mean that the way some people USE RSS feed readers will change.

David Sheardown said...

Yes again, RSS is maybe dead for you, but I again heavily use Google Reader still augmented with twitter search updates.. it's still the way most (ok, I'm a techie) news stories are dispersed.. and consuming them via RSS is far easier than having to trawl those sites manually.

From my perspective, I have scripts to read all of my RSS feeds and pull in twitter too, so I have combined view.. granted a grabbed a lot of feeds from scoble at some point!

Kenna Griffin said...

I still love my RSS Feed. It's a simple way me me to consume a mass of information. I know it's not even close to the information that's out there, but it allows me some organization and a place to start. The Feed won't die with me.

Scott said...

It's a good thing I caught this post in my feed reader. Otherwise, I would not know that feeds are dead.

Anonymous said...

Why is this a story/post?

Anonymous said...

How did this article make it to the front page of Techmeme?

marty mankins said...

Echoing others on the "RSS is dead for you" statement. I understand getting overwhelmed by a lot of what's on the web, but it's about better management, not removing a viable web technology that's at issue here.

Google Reader, and the great Reeder for iPad are what I use to manage the blogs I read. Twitter and Google Buzz also add to the list of where I get information from. Facebook, not so much, as to me, that's more of a communication platform with family and friends.

vikshepa.com said...

Like a previous commenter, found this article in my feed reader. I rely on both RSS and microblogs and find that both of these need to be kept under control in order to remain useful.

Vincent said...

RSS rules, you don't.

Anonymous said...

Google Reader is the best thing since sliced bread. In fact, I pretty much read everything from RSS feeds, with the only exception being Techmeme.

Information Workshop said...

Yeah, I think what's at issue here is whether different users of information feeds can allow things "slipping through the cracks."

In my work, I don't want to miss anything important. This is why Twitter frustrating -- for every important tidbit I happen upon, there are hundreds others that were missed.

Hacker News and other "firehose" feeds would also benefit from a little filtering to make them more useful, which boggles the mind why this ancient concept is not used by "hackers."

Another issue here is "superlatives." It's not all-or-nothing, as each person has their optimal balance of the various information streams. So phrases like "death of xxx" or "xxx killer" are a bit extreme. :-)

Akshay Kothari said...

Great read. Have you tried Pulse News? It actually brings all of these - RSS, Techmeme, Hacker News, Facebook, Twitter together into one platform. I'd be curious to hear your feedback.

Jeff said...

Agreed that RSS feeds are easy to over-subscribe. There are some tools to help: my6sense on the Android (may be on iPhone too) and AmethystRSS.net (for netbook or larger, doesn't play nice with mobile sized screens). Both of these track what you read and sift similar posts to the top.

Michael said...

RSSFeedo, you're nothing to me now. You're not a brother, you're not a friend. I don't want to know you or what you do. I don't want to see you at the hotels, I don't want you near my house. When you see our mother, I want to know a day in advance, so I won't be there. You understand?

Russell Beattie said...

Feeds aren't totally dead... For example, just now I was using my news reader when I saw your post pop up with the image you copied from my site (without attribution) from when *I* wrote about how feeds were dead a few months ago.

;-)

http://www.russellbeattie.com/blog/the-future-of-web-aggregation

But, yeah, in general I agree. Feeds are no longer on an upward trajectory.

-Russ

Anonymous said...

I agree with the others - RSS is far from dead. Switching to Google Reader has probably cut out over 2 hours of surfing per day while still reading the same number of articles. I don't think I could ever live with having to surf my 20+ sites manually.

I do agree that some sites are far too overwhelming for the large volume of posts. But, just because you have 100+ new posts, it doesn't mean you have to read them all.

Also, as another person mentioned, it is extremely useful for friends that post on blogs/sites that I often forget about. Most of them don't have twitter accounts and still have yet to post on facebook.

I can only see RSS fading away when Google and such build the list of files for you from crawlers instead of rss.xml files. I'd be okay with calling RSS dead if that's the case.

Chris said...

Glad to see that RSS is alive and well, or at least that it has plenty of defenders!

Google Reader is still one of the applications I use on a daily basis, but I find it interesting how it no longer owns the same position of unquestioned primacy it held in say, 2005.

Kaipa Kartik said...

This is insane. RSS is fantastic and Google Reader is one of my most visited web sites.
And seriously how did this make it to the front page of techmeme. It is only now that people are beginning to understand what RSS really is.
The number of applications that it is being used for are mind boggling.

Anonymous said...

Way too early to call RSS dead...

Google Reader is my primary source of information - much better to get the posts there first than to wait for "the crowd" to deem a particular story retweetable or not. A lot of my interests are niche and/or academic enough that they simply are not carried by the regular crowd-flow you seem to get most of your info from, and I can't see that this will change any time soon, without a complete death of all culture outside "popular mainstream".

Twitter is awesome for news if you're primarily interested in Justin B, boingboing retweets, the Japan earthquake and how to become a social media guru earning 6 figures from home...

Stijn said...

Let me echo the fact that I still use my RSS reader every day.

True, there is an overload of information. There were months where I did not dare to open Google Reader, for fear of losing too much time. From time to time I would just "mark all as read".

However, all that changed when I stumbled upon the PostRank extension for Google Reader. It helps you get through your feeds by highlighting 'interesting' content. Since the day I installed it, I've managed to get my count back to 0 (zero) every single day.

Perhaps everyone here could give it a try?

Charlie at HockeyBias.com said...

My patterns have shifted in a similar way. Hey - if hockey is one of the sports you like, please check out http://hockeybias.com. It is updated thorughout the day and I curate it!

Christian said...

Yes rss is a new usage a kind of "easy API", sometime it's very useful to chain external source without having to develop an rely on API. my 2 cents

MPM said...

And yet.... If it were not for an RSS Feed, I would never have found this article? Interesting. I think that's what we like to call... Irony.

Anonymous said...

Google Reader made the RSS feed useful. It's so easy to quickly peruse your feeds and mark those that you want to come back to. The only problem is RSS feed addiction, resulting in information overload, but that's just a fact of life these days. I also use Twitter to follow colleagues in my career field. I learn a lot from my Twitter feed too.