Thursday, November 29, 2007

RSS is for Y-O-U

RSS is Real Simple Syndication. Practically every website that deals with volumes of content, user-generated or otherwise, will simultaneously present an RSS "feed" of that site's content for various readers. Firefox has an RSS manager built-in, and many people (self included) have become smitten with Google Reader. I personally subscribe to about 500 feeds.

If you're not regularly using an RSS reader, or using RSS on your website, you should be, and here are a few thoughts on why:

  • Email is all but useless as a notification system, and most people do not view email conversations as "threads" (sans GMail users). SPAM blockers will often flag the HTML-laden notifications that accompany a lot of mailing lists these days, and in many cases, users simply miss the notifies while scanning their inboxes. RSS allows people to subscribe to your content, increasing the probability of them actually absorbing your product (writing, music, video, etc) because with RSS, they're actually asking for your content, versus filtering it from their inbox.
  • Removing notifications from your email system makes your email inherently more useful as you'll spend less time filtering (and missing) messages,
  • A "subscription" puts the consumer in a different mindset with respect to your content - subscribers actually *want* what you're producing - an inherently more satisfying engagement than the begging that accompanies most email.
  • As an RSS user, you get the benefit of engaging content on your own terms, grouped and filtered and organized in a manner most befitting it's usefulness. Some power-users (Robert Scoble) scan thousands of feeds daily.
  • RSS can make for a much "quieter" web experience. RSS feeds are typically (although, this too is changing) without banner-ads that flash, detract, and annoy. They also tend to come without all the sidebars/top bars/bottom bars full of distracting links found on native sites. Less of a chance a user will get lost because a web designer went to art school.....
These are a few of the reasons I believe RSS readers are becoming the de-facto interface to the Web. If you've ever felt overwhelmed when visiting a website (NYTimes, for instance), it's time to give your RSS reader a serious try.