birmingham.io

Do you think RSS is dead?

I’ve been using RSS for a very long time. I don’t remember exactly when I started, and I know there must have been a period of time before I used it, but that was probably back in the dark ages or something, so I don’t care :slight_smile:

I think I first started using it to keep track of the various web comics that I read (and still do), but soon discovered that it could be put to very good use as a tool for keeping up to date with more useful information, such as the news feed from a company I’m interested in, or the resources list of a tutorial site.

I’ve spoken before about using RSS, and think that it’s a highly valuable resource - but more and more I’ve heard people telling me that RSS is dead, and that social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook killed it. “You don’t need RSS” they tell me, “because you can get notification of new content via Twitter”.

It was a sad day when Google Reader closed down, and many RSS users scrambed to find alternatives (I personally went with Inoreader). Was this the first victim of the death of RSS?

Personally, I hope not, and hope that RSS keeps going. I know that Twitter and other social networks have their place, but IMO they’re no replacement for RSS, and what RSS lets users like me do.

RSS lets me consume the content when I want to, not when the social media department thinks I want to. If I use a good tool (such as the aforementioned Inoreader), I have a single place in which the news and information I want comes to me, and waits patiently for me while I do other stuff.

This is of particular interest to me because of the recent lunch of Planet Birmingham, a site powered by RSS, so I’m keen on hearing what people have to say about it.

It’s most definitely less than it was. Personally, I think it’s a shame, because we’ve started to lose long-form writing as a whole. Social media is excellent at what it does, but long-form writing is not what it does. I’d like to see more people writing things with consideration. Medium is trying to capitalise on that trend… but long writing is still certainly pretty alive in the web community, and so my RSS reader is always full, at least. One thing I’m hoping that Planet Birmingham might do is encourage more people to write more…

I have to say I have never used RSS. For some reason I never got into it even though it is quite useful for things that you follow daily or weekly. I guess I just like to rely on my memory to go trough all new updates on things I like to keep an eye on. Not a very reliable way I must admit. :smiley:

I don’t think any of the RSS reader applications “crossed the chasm” so to speak i.e. they never seem to get mainstream traction. Compared to social networks RSS/Atom lacks comments, likes, avatars and even full feeds of the content. Whilst in many cases standards existed for these features, the evolution of these features was very slow, taking years for sites to integrate them, compared to Facebook, Twitter, G+ etc who can role out features in a few hours. Also readers strip out all branding, advertising and links to further stories - therefore it would likely become the victim of it’s own success if it got truly popular.

I think RSS still works well for the original purpose of syndication, which is exactly what planet.birmingham.io is and for feeding to other processes such as social networks (e.g. dlvr.it) or email marketing.

As do, say, books :slight_smile: Basically, I use RSS like a daily newspaper… keep up with stuff that I’m interested in reading. Hence planet.birmingham.io, as @rythie says.

I got into reading RSS feeds cos a widget was available on Windows Vista when it first came out. As we all remember the hue and cry over that particular OS, but thats another topic. Got onto Ubuntu and it too supported feed widget. It was good for that point in time.
Then came the social revolution (Twitter, G+ et al) which kind of, in my opinion, killed RSS. Twitter is basically a feature rich RSS feed, me thinks.

RSS is not dead, it’s just not seen as a social thing (and quite rightly so). What’s amazing about RSS is that it is an anonymous subscription service. As @sil says, it can be treated as a newspaper (one that you get to curate and edit).

To me, this makes it a much more popular medium than E-mail or anything social where the noise starts to creep in.

1 Like

The problem being solved here is how to represent a collection of resources in a machine readable way.

The advantage of RSS or Atom is that they provide a consistent and knowable format for listing resources available at a given URL.

The disadvantage is they are inflexible. Atom allows for more flexibility than RSS but you are still constrained by certain expected defaults, which not all resources adhere to.

With the decline of XML as a data transfer language and the rise of JSON it’s not difficult to see why inflexible resource lists in a dying format seem like they should also be dying.

The issue is that if we want to list a collection in JSON format we need to be able to discover the shape of the data programmatically. Most JSON APIs tell the developer what shape the resources are, but not the application. Atom and RSS avoid this problem by defining the minimum expected shape of the date up front.

This semantic gap is somewhat covered by JSON Schema, http://json-schema.org, which allows you to make a discoverable data definition for your JSON resources. This means that you can use the same HTML standard link tags to link your web page to a JSON version of the resource collection without losing the semantics of RSS.

Of course, you’d still need to write an application that understood JSON Schema, which would be more complex, but it would allow us to generalise the JSON format to fill the boots of RSS and Atom.

My main point above is that RSS isn’t dead but RSS readers are. I think Google gave up on reader because they couldn’t see it being a mainstream product ever.

In my view good comments are often better than the article. I follow a lot of links from hacker news and come back to read the comments because they often present a more balanced view than the original post.

Books are all written by one or a couple of authors, often there are pictures of them somewhere in the book. I think avatars are nice when you’ve got lots different authors in a single stream.

Likes tend allow the discovery of content you don’t already follow which I do think is valuable and Twitter, Facebook, G+, Tumblr have this built in.

I used Google Reader for a time, but there are lots of sources I wanted to read some of because they post too much or not of a consistently high quality. Now, I tend to use pocket for things I find on Twitter and other places I don’t want to read right away - which in some ways is like a RSS reader.

I’d echo this. Oftentimes I’ve followed some advice on a blog, find that it doesn’t actually work, and upon reading the comments would discover that others had already reported the problem (or, at worse, simply warned others away from doing whatever the article said), and in many cases, even provided the real solution.

Heh. I find roughly the opposite: don’t read the comments (see “Don’t Read Comments” (@AvoidComments on Twitter, who say “This will tweet periodic reminders to not read the comments sections for, well, pretty much anything, ever.”), and half the time when I google for a problem I find that the top hit is me, asking the same question, five years ago… and getting no answer :slight_smile:

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