RSS: interesting or boring? (Hint @marshallk and @louisgray, we’re not normal)

Marshall Kirkpatrick takes on the “RSS is dead” meme, started by Steve Gillmor, but really started by all those people who haven’t been using RSS much anymore.

My answer to Marshall: I’m not in the news business anymore, but if I were I’d keep Twitter up on screen. I’ve been looking closely at Google Reader’s latest features, Twitter, Facebook, and FriendFeed and I gotta say that most of what shows up on TechMeme shows up in my Twitter feed up to a day earlier.

Over the past two weeks I’ve been doing a little experiment: can I outrace TechMeme and TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb and all the others? The answer is a resounding YES. But it requires following a very select group of people on Twitter. Believe it or not, the same group puts most of their items into FriendFeed and Facebook, too. It’s very rare that I see news in Facebook or FriendFeed that I don’t see in Twitter first. It’s even rarer that I see news in Google Reader. Why?

RSS isn’t real time. Deal with it. Yes, it’s moving more and more real time, but I guarantee you that this post will be in FriendFeed and Twitter before it hits Google Reader. Why? I put it there manually the second I hit post. I’ve noticed that most of the top content producers (you call them writers or bloggers) do the same thing.

Anyway, want to see how this works? I’m watching 2,391 people and brands on Twitter. That’s FAR MORE than I could read on Google Reader, by the way. Headlines in Google Reader just aren’t satisfying and reading full text slows you down so you must be far choosier on who you listen to.

That means I see new Tweets every few seconds. Easy to keep up with, if you are dedicated.

What do I do with them? I click “favorite” on my favorite Tweets. In just about two weeks I have built up a database of about 1,700 favorites. It’s good stuff, but it’s mostly useless unless you only want to see the last 300.

What’s missing from my favorites? Noise. I’ve filtered it out. But to do that I’ve probably had to read about 100,000 Tweets. Maybe more. And THAT is the disadvantage of Twitter and why Louis Gray does have a point when he says he still loves Google Reader.

The thing is none of the four of us are normal. We are ALL news junkies. I love knowing what’s going on in people’s lives and what they are passionate about in the tech industry and I want to hear it directly from them. I can’t get that by just reading a newspaper. I can’t get that from TechMeme, just look at my favorite tweets. How many of them go to TechMeme or Digg? Not many.

I’ve also started playing with a couple of new feed reading tools. One is Feedly. It only works on Firefox, unfortunately, but it sits on top of Google Reader and is very nice. Still, I like Twitter better for some reason. Yesterday LazyFeed came out, I’m working on a video with the founder that will be up in the morning, but it does the RSS hard work for me (it goes and finds feeds on topics I’m interested in so I don’t need to know anything about RSS). The thing is it isn’t nearly as interesting as Twitter. Why? I have no idea who wrote all the stuff that’s coming in there. For normal people Facebook is far better than all of these ways of learning the news.

I personally am bored with the whole topic. I don’t need more feeds. I don’t need better readers.

What do I need?

Better filters. That’s why I got so excited by FriendFeed. It’s why I’m playing around with human curation and all that (which proves again that Facebook is going to win this game).

Anyway, to me RSS is no longer interesting to talk about. The battlefield has moved on. RSS will be used by lots of people for a long time, but, honestly, when I give talks to people I show them FriendFeed, Facebook, and Twitter and all the tools that play in those. I don’t usually open up Google Reader anymore. Why? It’s moved into the boring camp for early adopter audiences and it’s still too weird for late adopter audiences who are hearing more about Twitter and Facebook.

What about you? Is RSS interesting or boring to you? Why?

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

68 thoughts on “RSS: interesting or boring? (Hint @marshallk and @louisgray, we’re not normal)

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  3. I just discovered a new service that recently launched under the rader, called

    It lets you read, filter, share and discuss all the news you receive from all the social services you use. It automatically tags each snippet of news that enters your feed and groups related snippets by person, place, company and topic.

    Seems similar to Friendfeed, but the filtering and auto-tagging functionality makes it pretty powerful.

  4. In my opinion this discussion all comes down to a persons reasons for using the tool and how comfortable they are with the various tools.

    Twitter may be to noisy for one person and great for another. Even if Twitter breaks news faster if getting the news 1st isn't my personal goal and google reader is easier for me to understad/use i'm going to stick with it. If Twitter is super easy for me to use and understand then i'm going to use it and find the right people to follow in order to see the news i want.

  5. I think Webhooks and realtime commenting are going to bring back the blog. If you add some immediacy, and rapid conversation, to the medium blogs beat Twitter hands down.

    They have native support for photos, video, hyperlinks with descriptive URLs, full-length documents, geolocation, and a whole raft of other completely useful stuff that Twitter only supports crudely. Twitter is instant, brief, and woefully underpowered. Plus, it is centralized which makes it inherently prone to failure.

    If you make blogs real-time and far more social they are going to kick Twitter's ass. People will learn to write punchier headlines and shorter articles, because that is what readers want, and then Twitter won't have anything else to offer.

  6. These are killer features that I am told are in the queue. In the end this is what we need, smart feeds and the My6sense app is just the beginning. As machine(
    cheap jordan shoes) learning software comes into maturity these conversations will fade away and that’s exciting.

  7. I think it's something like this. You know that old adage, “Time is so that everything doesn't happen at once, space is so that everything doesn't happen at once *to you*”. So, Twitter is space, RSS is time…or something. It's ok. I don't want everything to be in 140 character chunks, sometimes I want to scan a 250 or 1,000 word news story even. That I would get out of my Google news reader. But, to be honest, I don't go to the Google reader with the RSS feeds anymore because it's overflowing and I'm scared of it.

    However, I put a few RSS feeds on my front page on Google. These are people like @ajkeen who blocks me on Twitter so I can't see his feed. But by searching for his name and then sticking an RSS feed on to the search results, I get a regular update not only from @ajkeen in my Google reader but people retweeting him, so it's mildly useful.

  8. You don't need to start clean. Just create some tags for the stuff U wanna read in GR. And Then I usually use the 'read next post in taggrouop…' bookmarklet to zap through them. This Way I see the osts in the blog, have the comemnts etc. And I I wanna remember I bookmaerk at delicious which will blog a digest to my blog the next morning at 1030. Perfect social media chain ;)

  9. You might bwe right for the news business. But my customers – usually business bloggers who own the business (or are the business) are not in the news but in the conversation space. They want to talk to a few select bloggers in their fields and want to monitor the blogosphere for people to talk to and to exchange link love.
    Twitter lets you share status and links, but it does not et you show expertise and it only allows for limited converstaion.
    In FB and FF your utterances are to widespread to be read as 'your thing'. so those are good vor conversation, but not for reputation or for buildung audiences.

    If follow U on Twitter, but U are just ONE voice in 2000+ I follow. The few dozen Blogs I follow have a far greater 'converstaion value'.
    And yes; I also gave up RSS foor Twitter for some weeks, but Twitter, FF and FB hardly replace Blogging and RSS.

  10. I have to agree. This discussion really doesn't involve all netizens anyway. We don't all aspire to break news before everyone else.

    I personally prefer to use Twitter and Friendfeed when I'm trying to follow an event that I was not able to attend, and stick to Feedly/Google Reader and my feeds for my daily dose of news and commentary.

  11. You nailed it with the filtering Robert but the Twitter vs. RSS argument feels moot. Twitter is realtime and RSS is the standard; neither is going anywhere any time soon. They have different cultures of use and different strengths and weakness. Essentially everyone is right and nobody is wrong. What makes them similar or different is beside the point it’s all data and only some of it is important or interesting.

    I agree with Louis about Lazyfeed the search tool and especially live tracking is a hot feature but filtering by category only gets us a tenth of the way toward the kind of real time hyper personalized filtering we really want and need. Add to that the fact that searching and tracking tools first require the kernel of knowledge that Scoble is looking for to begin with make it a nonstarter. When it comes to relevance filtering My6sense (Scoble’s interview ) has the advantage with its personalized feed ranking. They track your usage and analyze the content to build a custom preference model that is then used to rank your feeds. RSS or twitter. It’s the best of both world and filtered by your personal interests not a community’s. Add to this a scalable system in which they can grow their vector models and you’ve got something pretty powerful and chalk full of potential.

    For instance Google reader can’t take your present location into consideration when filtering or semantically indexing the page that the twitter post links to judge relevance. These are killer features that I am told are in the queue. In the end this is what we need, smart feeds and the My6sense app is just the beginning. As machine learning software comes into maturity these conversations will fade away and that’s exciting.

  12. I have to agree that RSS, Digg and others are just getting in the way of news. Tweetdeck and Twitter and you have a launch point, the rest is down to how many times you can break out of the time/space continuum to follow links. If the cream rises to the top, let's remember that single cream is only about 10% by volume of milk. Less, better presented, is more.

    What is interesting is what this means for tech communicators. If I may, I invite comments to my take here and you can get me for a rant or @pmaher for seriously brief chat

  13. You're right Robert, RSS and the real-time web are close but separate species. As you, most of the stories I see come from Twitter and FriendFeed, Google Reader being a second tier tool for less viral news or more obscure blogs that I still care about.

    my6sense on the iPhone, Lazyfeed, & feedly on my browser and FeedaFever on my server are tools that help me sort my RSS clutter.

    In the end, juggling with both RSS -via all these tools- and Twitter is a source of frustration for one reason: I hate duplicates.

    I would love to have a tool that would parse shortened and permalink URLs and mark them as read directly in my Google Reader. That would really help us all.

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