RSS from the user’s side

really simple shit. I love “RSS”. I love my aggregator. I want the two to work in harmony for a long, long time. If I understand correctly, several blogtool vendors are making up their own versions of rss as they go along. Most of these new formats won’t work with my aggregator unless adaptations are made. This doesn’t make any sense to me, if you want your blogtools to become popular, wouldn’t you want the established base be able to read them? Reminds me of railway history, where newcomers developed incompatible ‘broad-gauge‘ trains and tracks. Go ahead and learn from this history, the outcome is as predictable. [Adam Curry: Adam Curry’s Weblog]

Like Adam, I consider myself a technology user, albeit one that is willing to pop the hood and poke at things myself rather than wait for the mechanic to arrive.  I too love RSS and my aggregator. They are the ‘secret sauce’ that gives me immense control over my information environment.

For example, I just checked, and I am currently subscribed to 236 news sources in “Radio”‘s aggregator. I rarely surf to these sites and don’t particularly care what stories look like in context. I get annoyed with sites that don’t provide a full RSS feed and insist on offering snippets or headlines only. Sites that provide no RSS feed essentially don’t exist for me. Selfish? Certainly. Shortsighted and apt to miss something of importance to me? Possibly, although I expect I’ll hear about it from one of my sources that does provide an RSS feed.

95% of my online information comes to me by way of my aggregator. For much of what I am interested in — business uses of information technology and knowledge management related topics — important stories hit my aggregator two to three weeks before they show up in conventional online sources.

I have been following the recent debates over variations in RSS formats in a bemused sort of way. Engineers are always convinced that they can do a better job than the next person. Have you ever browsed the parts bins in a hardware store? I suppose that when engineers were debating the merits of philips head, flat head, and torx screws it certainly mattered to them who did what when. I just want things to more or less work together.

I’m enough of a weekend tinkerer and early adopter that I will tolerate a certain amount of breakage from time to time. If I don’t have the right screwdriver I’m likely to just pound on things with a bigger hammer. But I do get annoyed when people try to invent new screws to sell their brand of screwdriver instead of trying to solve a real problem of connecting things.

One of the risks of choosing to be an early adopter is that I’ll end up picking tools that fail to pass the test of time. In that sense, standards do matter to me as protection against bad choices. The data that makes up what I’ve posted here since October of 2001 is in a format that protects me from the worst of those risks. And that does matter.