A few weeks back I mentioned here that I was giving myself a whole week without a single check of my Google Reader feeds in order to see how reliant I had become on RSS, and where I could shift my priorities in order to become more productive. It’s a technique I tried last year with Twitter, and I think proves effective with anything you want to gain a new perspective on. I mentioned I was going to report after my hiatus, and I admit I have been slacking, considering it’s now almost a month later. The time has been good on me though, as I’ve been able to learn how to adapt after my hiatus, and have found several things that have worked for me.
What I Learned
Going without RSS was insightful. I learned what was really important to me, what I may be able to do without, and what I would miss without RSS. First of all, the things I learned that were most important:
- Blogs I write on – it’s important for me to know what my co-authors were writing so I can stay up to date, as well as promote the content of the blogs I write for.
- Family – I follow several of my family members who blog. Knowing what they, and close friends write about is important to me, and saves me the need for the dreaded family newsletter we used to have to pass around.
- Guilty Pleasures – okay, perhaps these could go within the “do without” column, but let’s face it – we all have a few blogs we read that are just enjoyable to read. They keep us sane, and give us balance to our days.
Believe it or not, that’s about it. To help explain why, let’s go with what I can do without:
- Most tech blogs – lets face it, I can now pull most of my favorite blogs from sites like FriendFeed and Twitter. Better yet, FriendFeed, Facebook and Twitter work better for “media snacking” because I can filter results by number of people talking about each topic. I can also hold a conversation with a large group of people on each topic, and help promote the blog I’m reading much more than I can in a Reader. Believe it or not (and I learned this from my friend, Jeremiah Owyang), I can get most major news by just checking FriendFeed or Facebook or Twitter. I have yet to miss anything I regretted losing.
- Sharing – Google Reader (my preferred RSS Reader), and most RSS reader tools out there are very outdated in the way they let you share the feeds you read. I would much rather share something on FriendFeed, where I can re-post out to Twitter, post an image with the feed, or encourage much more conversation, real-time, with a very large audience. I can’t do that effectively with Google Reader.
- Mundane news – I noticed after my week was over that I was subscribed to a lot of just dumb news that really was unimportant to me. It was cool for that “one special article” the authors would some times write, but I found many of those were also sharing on FriendFeed or Facebook, and I could get my news there instead. In addition, there were many news sources that would just repeat news from other sources, making many of my feeds redundant.
- Shares from many of my friends – A lot of the shares I was getting on Google Reader I was also getting on Twitter and FriendFeed, and I was also already subscribed to the blog they were sharing. I hid most of those sharers from view, and instead added them to my “Favorites” filter list on FriendFeed. Now I still get all their shares, and can freely discuss, real-time with them and others rather than fracturing the conversation. If you want to share stuff with me, make sure I see it on FriendFeed.
Of course, there were several things I found I couldn’t ever leave. RSS is not, nor will it ever be completely unnecessary, although I can very easily see myself being proven wrong in the “never” category there as well. I found several things I just missed, and still can’t think of a perfect way to solve. Those include the following:
- Blog mentions of my company, name, or brand – the infamous “ego search”, as it’s called, is very important to brands and learning what others are saying about you. It’s how you can get eavesdrop, know where you stand, and perhaps step in where necessary. Notice I said “blog” though. Through FriendFeed, now in the Beta you can set up your own “ego filters” and save them in the right-hand sidebar. Any mention of your name in the comments and posts will appear in your filters. On Twitter, you can always use http://search.twitter.com, or a separate column in TweetDeck or PeopleBrowsr, or as I’m currently doing, set up a custom search in CoTweet for your brand name and track it that way. No RSS needed.
- Comment tracking – on any post I do for LouisGray.com, there is no way via Disqus for me to track just the comments from the posts that I wrote. Therefore, I subscribe to each post’s RSS comments that I write, and any new comments come into my feed reader. I do this with many blogs that don’t provide a way other than RSS for me to track all the comments.
- Wiki, forum, and other site tracking – one strategy I use to get the latest data is to track the “recent changes” on MediaWiki installs. This is available via RSS, and any change will be sent to your RSS reader. In addition, forums do the same thing. For forums, being replaced more and more by microblogs, it will be interesting to see how necessary this becomes, but it’s necessary for the moment. Now, I’m curious who creates the first real-time Wiki (send your royalties my way).
RSS is not dead. It’s just losing its value. As the web gets more and more real-time, we are less and less having the need to have data pushed to us via RSS – we can go get what we want, when we want it, from any point in time. We can now, through filters and real-time data, retrieve much of the data we want to get, in an environment amongst peers. Google Reader itself is old – it’s slow to adapt, and I just can’t see it keeping up with sites such as FriendFeed, Facebook, or Twitter.
If you want me to read your stuff, I still subscribe to some RSS feeds, but if you want to guarantee I see your stuff, subscribe to me via FriendFeed and get my attention there. Your site, in order to continue in the future will need to be part of the real-time web and those that don’t keep up will be left in the past. You can follow me on FriendFeed at http://friendfeed.com/jessestay (check out http://beta.friendfeed.com/jessestay for a true realtime experience!), or on Facebook at http://jessestay.socialtoo.com. I can’t wait to read your stuff there! You can read all the content I write across all the blogs I write for, real-time, in the custom FriendFeed room I created at http://friendfeed.com/jesse-stay – either subscribe to the room in FriendFeed, or you can add it to your RSS Reader! 😉 Of course, as always, for the old-fashioned out there you can always subscribe to this blog at http://staynalive.com/feed.
Are there any other things you can see a need to use RSS for? What other techniques have you begun using to adapt to the real-time web?