Category Archives: RSS

Blogging is Easy

From a (sort of) recent Facebook status update:

While I agree for the most part with the “Tumblr > Twitter” sentiment, well, that’s kind of obvious. Twitter is definitely good for some things (mostly sharing short fleeting thoughts, but also sometimes for sharing links, and conversing with people who use Twitter as their main form of communication). I did not see “being a blog” in that list, though. And as Commenter #1 points out, you can view Twitter updates on your Tumblr dashboard while posting slightly longer commentaries on Tumblr. Of course, Commenter #1 also makes the fatal mistake of saying that he (or she) wishes they knew HTML.
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Who needs a newspaper?

or: The True Power of RSS

On the same day when TechCrunch delivered this piece on the Internet as Robin Hood, I also realized how irrelevant “old media” and/or “the establishment” has become to me personally. What brought me to this realization before I even looked at the TechCrunch article?


I am going to say with all honesty, that nearly all of the blogs I read via RSS (which is nearly all of the blogs I read) are focused on tech (e.g., TechCrunch) and basketball (e.g., Ball Don’t Lie). And yet, I still found out about Vajazzling only a day after Jennifer Love Hewitt was on George Lopez’s late night show. Thank you, Basketbawful.


You can almost see the sparkling Swarovski crystals.

As someone who has received some of the riches that Robin Interhood has stolen from the big news outlets, I can’t help but champion the power of the Internet. But honestly, I was kind of amazed that I can be plugged into pop culture even when I limit myself to two particular subject areas. And I’m not the only one who’s interested in this kind of thing. Tracking new media, I mean, of course. Not the vajazzling itself.

5 Reasons Why Feed Readers Still Rock

From Read/Write Web.

I just still feel like I’m missing something. I can’t get past the fact that Twitter is not a feed reader, yet people insist on using it as one. I mean, if I were following all the people whose feeds I read on Twitter instead of using Google Reader, I don’t feel like I would see even half the posts that I do now. Granted, I skip over half of them anyway, but at least I know that I’m consciously skipping things I don’t want to see instead of just losing them to a Devil’s Kettle whirlpool of information.


Here’s the Top 5 Reasons I Still Use An RSS Reader:
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The Audience is Listening

TechCrunch ran a post about Why Twitter Hasn’t Failed despite multiple, long outages in its short existence.

Here’s the money quote (for me):

Twitter has a simple premise: You tweet & the message is pushed to your friends. The actual mechanics are slightly different (messages go to everyone who follows you, whether they’re your “friends” or not, assuming your stream is public) — but from a user’s perspective, the circle of receivers consists only of the people they know. Everyone else is part of a faceless crowd that’s hidden behind the follower count.

This simple premise holds the key to Twitter’s success: messages go to a well-defined audience. In the moment you release a tweet, you know who’s on the line and you have an idea of who can catch a glimpse of your message. @replies are the best illustration for this sense of audience: Even though Twitter is not a point-to-point message delivery system (let alone a reliable one), @replies are sent with the understanding that they will be read by the intended people because they are known to be in the audience. (Imagine a newspaper article that suddenly greeted a specific reader.)

That is exactly why I signed up for Vox a while back (before once again realizing that building a new social network every time you join a site is a Sisyphusian task; though I still like the short URL). It’s also the reason I used Twitter voraciously for a while (until my RSS feed broke for reasons unknown and apparently unfixable).

While the TechCrunch article argues that Facebook is not “Designed for Audience”, I would contend it is moving more and more toward that. The Status Update is pretty much a Tweet, if you will, with the added bonus that you can actually create groups of friends who won’t see your Status Updates. This allows for (what I consider to be) the important separation of Work and Life. The same applies to Facebook’s Notes. Yes, the app is still fairly primitive, but you can write a Note and have it only visible to a group that you explicitly select. Which, of course, brings us to the real reason that Facebook is not “Designed for Audience”.

TechCrunch is definitely correct in saying that the major problem with the Facebook News Feed is:

“When I post new things, will my friends actually see them?”

And also:

“Have my friends posted something that I’m not seeing? The news feed is cluttered right now with people I don’t care about.”

I have yet to be impressed by Facebook’s algorithms for selecting items for my News Feed, and everything seems to have been thrown into a tornado with the update to the New Facebook. For example, yesterday, I got a news item that my wife had tagged some friends in photos from our recent road trip. That is something I care about, but she’d actually done the tagging a week ago. I knew about it because I was in the room while she was doing it, but what about the friends on Facebook who don’t live with me?

I mentioned before that Facebook should offer an RSS version of the News Feed. Yes, it would probably be overwhelming, but there are some people who would probably relish and/or wallow in all that information, and there are others for whom it would solve the two-pronged problem of Audience. (“Who’s watching me?” and “Am I missing things?”)

FriendFeed works because it provides all the information about what people are doing (from limited sources, of course), and you can opt out of specific applications for specific friends. I realize this probably takes some extra tables in the database, but if Facebook could allow people to say “I don’t want to see anything more about this application” or “Just don’t show me anything from this application for this person” then the RSS News Feed would quickly be pared down to what each user really wants to see (which is what Facebook’s algorithms are trying to determine in the first place).

Executive Summary:
Recommendations for Facebook:
1) RSS News Feed
2) Opt out of applications and/or opt out of applications for specific users

The content generators can do as they do now, and share what they want to share with who they want, and the content consumers won’t have to worry they’re missing something unless they take action to exclude it.

Where’s the Facebook RSS News Feed?

Yes, I know they have added a Status Feed, and a Notes Feed. But all that really demonstrates is that we know that they can produce RSS feeds.

The easy way out is to boil it down to money. My guess is, Facebook wants their millions of users to see the ads that Microsoft paid for, as well as advancing their Social Ad platform. That is certainly understandable; internet advertising is big money. But…

Shouldn’t (or maybe, at least, couldn’t) Facebook continue to be a pioneer of web technology as they did when they created the Facebook Platform for internet applications? While I probably overestimate the adoption of RSS, I think part of the reason for that is because, as it stands right now, there is no money to be made from it. The closest I’ve seen is Feedburner’s integration of Google Ads (and being as Feedburner is owned by Google, this is not a big suprise; Google has also provided integration of their ads into Blogger, as well as integration of Feedburner and Blogger). In Feedburner’s page about the Google acquisition, there’s this:

Google believes that feed-based content and advertising is a developing space where we can add value for users, advertisers and publishers.

Now, perhaps Facebook does see feed-based advertising as a space where they can add value for advertisers, and it’s possible that they’re working on it internally before revealing a solution publicly. But…

Facebook is going to let users insert additional RSS content into their News Feeds. Yee to the Ha. Let’s add a few more bricks to the wall around the garden. How about let’s work on getting my content out? If the Facebook argument for not creating RSS feeds from members’ News Feeds and Mini-Feeds is purely based on advertising, then how come they can’t:
a) Just keep putting those ads that are already in the News Feed into the RSS version of the feed, and/or
b) Insert ads at the bottom of RSS items as some publishers currently do

Now, I certainly understand that Facebook may be keeping the News Feed to themselves in order to keep members coming back to the site for reasons that are only tangentially related to advertising. The lock-in provided by making members come to the site to check the News Feed is something I can understand, but it also seems narrow-minded. If you can get people to subscribe to (or add to their My Yahoo) a feed that links back to your site, you will be feeding them reminders to go to your site more often than they’re likely to ever think of it themselves (yes, I know this doesn’t apply to that category of people who check obsessively, but I would still wager that aggressively encouraging the use of an RSS News Feed would actually increase the amount of traffic on the site).

The other advantage to such a feed is that, because it is connected to a network of a member’s friends, it’s unlikely that people would unsubscribe from it. Facebook already has the algorithm in place to sparsely populate the News Feed so as to not overwhelm members with News Items. (This would work well for RSS readers, but while I’m at it, I’d like to suggest that Facebook also offer an RSS version of a full News feed, for people like me who don’t have hundreds of friends, and want to keep track of more friend updates than just what is provided in the News Feed; but, really, that’s a whole different post)

So, really, the point of the post is this: WRT News Feed as RSS Feed… Make It Work.