COOL HUNTING

show nav

COOL HUNTING

Mainstreaming RSS

by Josh Rubin in Tech on 21 May 2004

Most simply stated, RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a format for reading news and information Web sites. You may be reading this right now via RSS, or you may be looking at the actual Web page. For the time being, most people who use RSS do so by putting URLs for feeds in a news reader that allows them to aggregate all the sites they read in one place. And most of these people are pretty techy. In the not too distant future, however, RSS will be relevant to a much broader audience. Robert Scoble, over at Microsoft, is evangelizing the integration of RSS in as many products as possible. He recently wrote an email to help some nay-sayers understand the value proposition of RSS for the more mainstream user.

I realize most techies want these features, but will most general end users really see the benefit of reading 1400+ web sites a day? What benefit will this have to people that don't want to spend the whole day (or night) reading data off the web? Let's assume you're a normal human being. Not me (no, I'm not normal, deal with it). Let's assume you're someone named Rebecca Krolander. 49-year-old mother of three kids (23m, 18f, 16m). Has strong ties to 15 family members, with moderate ties to about 50 others (her 23-year-old just had a wedding where 100 people showed up, about half of which were family connections). Of these family members, 10 already publish blogs occassionally (but she only cares about three of them, her son, a close friend, and an aunt she keeps in constant contact with). Let's assume Rebecca likes sewing/quilting. She has three sewing community sites she watches for new patterns to load into her new digital sewing machine (serious, I met a 49-year-old woman last weekend that does just that). She also wants to keep up on the news, so she watches news.google.com and msnbc.com. She's also an executive at a bank, let's say Wells Fargo, so she watches Quicken.com, and WellsFargo.com for financial info. Finally, she trades a bit on eBay and buys stuff on Amazon once a month. So, let's see, that's how many sites? 1) Son 2) Close friend 3) Aunt 4) Sewing site 5) Sewing site 6) Sewing site 7) Wells Fargo 8) Quicken.com 9) eBay 10) Amazon 11) MSNBC 12) Google News Of all these sites, 10 could be available in RSS (Amazon and eBay can make quite a bit of info available in RSS, but actual transactions with these sites needs a browser). So, let's say that's 10 sites. Now, what happens when you use a browser? You need to visit all 10 sites every single day if you want to be kept up to date. That's good for the news sites, cause they change every day, but what about the personal sites and the sewing sites she wants to watch? They only change once a week, maybe (if Eric Rudder was one of the sites she watches she'd get really pissed if she loaded that site up every day and it only changed once a quarter). What if she wants to forward around stuff, or put it on her own blog? RSS is a lot easier to deal with. What if she wants to archive it on her hard drive so she can read it offline? RSS wins there too. What if she wants to view it in a non-browser context? RSS wins there too. She's a busy person. Reading in RSS would save her a lot of time (many minutes every day). Are you saying such a person wouldn't see the advantage to reading RSS?

Get Cool Hunting delivered to your inbox every weekday morning