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What productivity gains with RSS?

posted by DL Byron on September 17, 2004

readers My opinion that RSS isn’t that productive came up again this week with News.com’s article on RSS bandwidth. While News.com inevitably compares RSS to PointCast, I wondered again, how exactly I’m supposed to save time when I come back from a day offline to hundreds of unread posts. Even worse is a week offline where I have thousands of unread posts. To me, RSS is becoming another full inbox of time suck and I find myself not reading RSS to get my work done. I chatted with a couple friends that noted they haven’t had time to read blogs at all this week - it’s as if they need to get their work done.

Yes, I get the Scoble et al. evangelism on RSS, but going to a news site, scanning headlines, and picking a link also works well. On a news page, the page refreshes and expires old news, while a RSS reader presents 600 old, unread RSS posts.

Full inbox of time suck

Thinking maybe another RSS would be better; I tried FeedDemon’s Newspaper view. I’m sure much thought went into that layout, but that’s even more like a full inbox of time suck.

Many smart people are working on RSS and it’s bound to get better. It isn’t there yet.


Comments (3)
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Sep 19  |  Frank said:

To me, it’s not that RSS is unproductive. The RSS readers we have today are not smart enough (yet). Glassdog has an interesting post about it: http://www.glassdog.com/archives/2004/08/25/whatswrongwithfeedreaders.html

Sep 19  |  -b- said:

That’s a good point and thanks for the link to Glassdog - that post is right on. While I’m writing this, CNN is covering how blogs affected the Dan Rather documents controversy with, “More fact checkers than CBS could ever hire.” Now that blogs are mainstreamed, the technologies will have to catch up. I think that’s why the PointCast comparisons keep coming up. It’s a technology that at first you think is totally cool, then you start using it everyday and find that it sucks.

Maybe Feed Readers help people that read RSS for a living or, “care about a sub-set of the endless sea of crap out there,” but it’s doing little for everybody else. Another example is excerpt v. full feeds. One of the reasons I thought Bloglines was helpful was that I could scan headlines, blurbs, and click a link into a new browser tab for the rest of the post. Now, some of the feeds are full text and I’ve got even more data to look at! That lead me to consider Google’s news page and think, “this work better.” If I could tell Google that I want to have that page generated from these sources, that would be even better.

One response I got in email was to simply “mark all feeds reads.” Ok, but that doesn’t address the larger problem - there’s too much to mark “read.” One solution maybe “Smart Playlist” type functionality, where the feed reader extrapolates topics for me based on what I tell it to find.

Sep 29  |  Martijn said:

It’s not that RSS is to blame. You are to blame yourself. Why not should you decide that being behind your desk is the place you would like to receive info constantly and when off-line you just discard any message passing you by. Are you to afraid to miss out on anything? Are you not able to decide by now that maybe only 5% of what you see passing by is good enough to use and that the absolutely important stuff has never missed your attention? So do not blame technology for providing opportunities but use it at your best abilities.

Nevertheless I agree with the fact that the software should be able to cross compare feeds and pick the first one on a topic. Utopia. That would make the news also a message of the sender and not…
a message that things are happening and thus making them important because everybody is writing about them.

Stay in touch but don’t hug me ALL the time.

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