I'm honestly perplexed by recent postings about RSS feeds and their 'usability.'

Basically the discussion revolves around how a RSS link should be shown to the user.

I've developed Tabulas from the mentality that RSS syndication links should not be shown by default.

Users hate/are confused by the RSS button concept. RSS is a power-user tool for the web - I've consistently tried to get my casual friends to use RSS to keep up with Xanga, Livejournal, and Tabulas sites, but they just don't want to. They rather go through their bookmarks rather than take the effort in learning a new technology with a new name.

(As an aside, at the last Chapel Hill Bloggers Meetup, someone asked how to get casual users to blog, and one of the suggestions was to stop calling it blogging. People are MUCH more likely to update "a website" rather than "a blog." Hell, people are much more inclined to update their Xanga or Tabulas rather than a blog. I have never liked the word blog [you'll notice I refer to what I do as journaling] and continue to see it as a hindrance more than a benefit in getting the general public on board).

I remember a long time ago (a few Tabulas users may remember this), but Tabulas put the orange RSS buttons on all sites by default. Let me just say that everybody hated it with a passion. Even I did.

To me, the default behaviour for RSS should be using meta tags; people should automatically assume that any URL on a site is also going to reference the RSS feed - RSS aggregators should be smart enough to pick up on the <link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="RSS" href="" /> tag.

This creates a consistent system for subscribing to RSS feeds - a user simply puts in the URL. No need to find the orange XML button, or the orange RSS button, or the textual RSS/Atom link.

When I subscribe to RSS feeds using Bloglines, I always just use the URL. If the URL doesn't autodiscover, then the site owner is at fault. Why create additional widgets (RSS buttons), when the URL works just fine?

On a side note, since I'm sipping heavily from the hatorade today, I will get this off my chest:

I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate "summaries" or shortened RSS feeds. RSS is a syndication format meant to empower the reader. Offer summaries if you want, but give the option for full-text! If I wanted to get summaries, I would bookmark every site; I don't have time to go through 180 odd sites and click through all the summaries.

Nothing irks me more than people who try to use the "I have to monetize my content" argument. If you're on the Internet for the purpose of monetizing your content, you're missing the point. As far as I'm concerned, the primary goal of the Internet is to be a tool for efficiently disseminating and aggregating information free from external actors (obviously not an inclusive list).

If you need to pay off costs, that's fine. But you cannot convince me that you're actually saving money by forcing people to visit your site. Your fixed costs are primarily bandwidth and CPU usage ... which takes more... a textual RSS feed (for sites like Bloglines which is loaded once every few minutes for quite possibly thousands of users?) or a whole website?

It seems people who argue against full-text ads with the defense of needing to monetize the content were in it for the money to start, and that's a damn shame.

Posted by roy on May 31, 2005 at 11:36 PM in Ramblings | 5 Comments

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WillR (guest)

Comment posted on June 3rd, 2005 at 07:19 AM
Roy, I've dropped almost all the RSS feeds and 'blogs (hey! I also think that term stinks!) that summarize. Life's too damn short and, as you've pointed out, it shows a complete cluelessness about why us freaks put the 'net together.

MacDaddyTatsu (guest)

Comment posted on June 2nd, 2005 at 08:02 PM
I like the fact that the RSS isn't pushed on the casual users. I mean I may use it to publish to my Myspace, Xanga and Tabulas, but not everyone will and having that orange button...

middle_aged (guest)

Comment posted on June 1st, 2005 at 06:30 AM
i agree with you totally about RSS feeds. i love bloglines and i can't believe there are folks that feel that rss feeds aren't a great way of reading blogs... i mean journals!!
Comment posted on June 1st, 2005 at 02:45 AM
Google announced that Adsense will be available for RSS. (You didn't already write about this did you?) So that's 1 way to monetize your content AND provide full feeds.
Comment posted on June 2nd, 2005 at 11:58 PM
I did see that! I'm still not sure if it's the "right" thing to do ... RSS seems like such a pure format that adding in advertisements might ruin it for personal users (like Tabulas targets).