Goodbye RSS. Welcome Real-Time Web!

RSSA 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.
  • SharingGoogle Reader (my preferred RSS Reader), and most RSS reader tools out there are very outdated in the way they let you share the feeds you read.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?

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24 thoughts on “Goodbye RSS. Welcome Real-Time Web!

  1. The thing I like most about RSS and Google Reader is that each item comes in and I do something about it – like email. Each item is read or held to process later. I can't find a good way to do that in Twitter, FF, and Facebook. I guess the 'like' function on FF kind of does it, but that means I have to keep FF open all day to find those items. So gReader works better for me in that once I'm subbed to what I want, I can sort, search, read now or save for later every item so that I don't miss anything (usually!)

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  2. I'm pretty sure I'd go crazy if I had all the information coming in to me in real-time. I need something that can log and hold the new stuff so I can dedicate some time to sort through it all. Otherwise, the constant real-time notifications would prevent me from ever finishing anything! *shiny object*

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  3. Carol, it's a new way of approaching things, that's for sure. If you can
    get used to it and figure out how to organize your time around it I think
    you'll end up realizing you don't really *need* to read every single feed
    you're currently subscribed to. FriendFeed's real-time nature forces
    skimming a lot more, and for those you click through to you can truly read.
    But then again, it's a completely different way of approaching news and
    information – it won't come naturally to you at first. I suggest giving it
    a week like I did to try it out and see what works for you.

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  4. Rob, what I'm doing to resolve that is categorize the feeds I absolutely
    *must* read as my Feed Reader items. Then, all the others (which I
    discovered were most), I could catch elsewhere. I found I didn't really
    need most of the feeds I was subscribed to.

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  5. Makes sense. One thing I've been playing with is creating a list in FriendFeed and subbing to that lists RSS in gReader. Then I won't miss all their stuff. Only trouble is it's not granular in gReader so I can't mark one friend as read without marking all, but it's interesting.

    So what are you doing with the feeds you *want* but are not *must* and they are not on FF/twitter? I'm realizing I follow many news/business/fun blogs that are not on FF and I don't feel like creating a room for everything when gReader works great.

    It would be interesting to see you write out your strategy for using your 'always on' lists/filters + how you use RSS reader. Right now, I'm keeping gMail and gReader always open then sub to people/services I really want to get into one of those. Everything else I catch when I catch it.

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  6. Rob, I found I just had to pick and choose, and separate my wants from my
    needs. There were a lot of “fun” blogs I used to read, but I realized I
    really wasn't gaining anything from. It was those I trimmed down – you'll
    go through a little withdrawl, but I found I'm not really missing them too
    much. It is just one more reason to make sure your blog is being populated
    into FriendFeed though.

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  7. Without realizing what Orangejack had already written as a comment, I just wrote an entire post that mentioned, among other items, this aspect of Google Reader.

    While my reading configuration is somewhat different from Jesse's, the advantage of the RSS standard is that you can choose your preferred RSS reader(s) (in this case, FriendFeed and Facebook are just RSS readers with other features) to look at the incoming data.

    It should be noted, however, that FriendFeed (as well as Facebook) only provides the *illusion* of real-time. While native FriendFeed items truly appear in real-time, other items (such as FeedBurner feeds) do not immediately show up in your FriendFeed.

    Regarding whether Google Reader can keep up with FriendFeed et al – I think Google Reader tried to do this with its Comment view, but the results are obviously inferior to what FriendFeed and Facebook offer.

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  8. I've been going through a similar evaluation of my RSS habit – I too use Google Reader, but I've found that if I leave it alone for even a few days, the amount of unread stuff that piles up becomes overwhelming!

    I signed up with Twitter at the end of last year (http://twitter.com/montemplar) and almost immediately found that by following a few accounts linked to tech sites that I read, I was able to pick up and read stories that I might not have come to in a timely manner had I been relying solely on Google Reader. If I see something interesting on Twitter that I want to keep for reading later, I just add it to my favourites.

    I've also been using FriendFeed (http://friendfeed.com/montemplar) for a while, though primarily for gathering together all of my activity from other places online. However, since Facebook's most recent redesign, I've actually been using that more and more, particularly once I'd organised my friends list to make filtering of the News Feed more easy. Much like FriendFeed, it is possible to filter out stuff I'm not interested in (ie. most Facebook apps!), although it isn't as fine-grained as FriendFeed's – yet.

    I will probably still use Google Reader for the forseeable future, but mainly to gather together stuff from friends and from other sites that I cannot get via Facebook, FriendFeed or Twitter. I disagree slightly about RSS losing its 'value' – I think it is changing from being a carrier of information to being more of a lubricant to help information flow more easily into and out of different sites and services on the web.

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  9. Carol, one thing that Jesse said really resonated with me – sometimes a subscription “was cool for that 'one special article' the authors would some times write.” Let's say that I write about the Oracle database 5% of the time, but all other topics 95% of the time – is is really worth it to subscribe to my feed for that 5%? However, FriendFeed's new ability to store filters allows you to find items that fit your criteria, rather than having to subscribe to persons who may or may not discuss the items of interest to you. In effect, this moves you from subscribing to a person, to subscribing to a topic. Now if we can only come up with filters that think like a human thinks, this search problem will be fixed. 😉

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  10. John, you are right, with the exception that FriendFeed makes it possible
    for *anyone* to publish real-time. This post, for example, was published to
    FriendFeed using the PUB-SUP protocol that FriendFeed invented, enabling my
    blog to, when I hit publish, publish immediately out to FriendFeed. So it's
    up to the content providers themselves as to whether they want to publish
    true real-time or not. This blog does.

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  11. Die RSS-freie Woche…

    Nach meinem eigenen “Selbstversuch: Mediale Entgiftung in 7 Tagen” vom 03. April, bei dem ich auf alle Online- und Print-Medien verzichtete, hier die Ergebnisse und Erkenntnisse von Jesse Stay: “Goodbye RSS. Welcome Real-Time Web!”, der eine Woche …

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  12. Hilariously naive. Let's swap an open, interoperable protocol for the web application du jour.

    RSS is no more losing its value because you like FriendFeed over Google Reader than coffee is losing its value because you now prefer tea.

    Of course, if you want to make your content available on most social networks and “real time websites” you can just feed it in through RSS.

    RSS is an API not an application. Big, big difference.

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  13. Hilariously naive. Let's swap an open, interoperable protocol for the web application du jour.

    RSS is no more losing its value because you like FriendFeed over Google Reader than coffee is losing its value because you now prefer tea.

    Of course, if you want to make your content available on most social networks and “real time websites” you can just feed it in through RSS.

    RSS is an API not an application. Big, big difference.

    Like

  14. Hilariously naive. Let's swap an open, interoperable protocol for the web application du jour.

    RSS is no more losing its value because you like FriendFeed over Google Reader than coffee is losing its value because you now prefer tea.

    Of course, if you want to make your content available on most social networks and “real time websites” you can just feed it in through RSS.

    RSS is an API not an application. Big, big difference.

    Like

  15. Carol, one thing that Jesse said really resonated with me – sometimes a subscription “was cool for that 'one special article' the authors would some times write.” Let's say that I write about the Oracle database 5% of the time, but all other topics 95% of the time – is is really worth it to subscribe to my feed for that 5%? However, FriendFeed's new ability to store filters allows you to find items that fit your criteria, rather than having to subscribe to persons who may or may not discuss the items of interest to you. In effect, this moves you from subscribing to a person, to subscribing to a topic. Now if we can only come up with filters that think like a human thinks, this search problem will be fixed. 😉

    Like

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