The Slashdot consensus on RSS: It sucks.
Here is the funny thing. Despite being an advocate of syndication, I don’t entirely disagree. RSS does generally suck. Here’s why:
- Too many feeds. People like Scoble talk about reading huge numbers of feeds, and for a while I read around 340, but I’m now down to less than fifty — and even those I don’t make it through all the time.
- Too little consistency. There is no uniformity about titles, titles plus summaries, or full-text feeds. I won’t re-hash the debate on this subject, but let me just say if your feed isn’t full-text it won’t likely last long in my aggregator.
- Too many posts. To be blunt: Faced with feeds regularly containing more than six or seven unread articles I, with rare friend-driven exceptions, usually nuke the whole list.
- Synchronization sucks. Despite using Feeddemon, which has a built-in synch across multiple PCs via Newsgator, my machines are not in synch. There are various feeds that the synched Feeddemon insists never contain items, despite there being items visible in the raw feed every day. The items are apparently being synched right out of existence.
- Too many news feeds, not enough data feeds. I wrote about this ages ago in a Harvard Business Review article, but the real value of RSS is in infrequently/irregularly updated sites — it saves you having to rememember to go and check for new stuff — and in machine-to-person communications. I still want to be able to subscribe to my credit card, but I can’t — so I apparently punish myself by subscribing to waaaay too many feeds.
- It’s asynch, not synchronous. I alluded to this in a prior post about XMPP, but I want realtime RSS/Atom. Getting delayed feeds, especially data feeds, on important subjects is nonsensical, and at least as irritating as getting twenty-minute delayed stock quotes. I want realtime data, and I want it now (literally).
The upshot? In way too many current cases RSS is just a clunky high-volume replacement for web browsing. Rather than making it easier to consume information, it makes it easier to drown in context-free news, inducing that panicked feeling we all eventually learn too well when you see an RSS folder stuffed full with hundreds of unread posts. Yaaaiiiie!