It’s wonderful to see my friends at the Guardian taking the ballsy move to produce full-text RSS feeds. I know this is somewhat nerve-making in media: Why shiould we put all our content out there on a feed without getting people to come to our pages and see all our ads? A few answers. First, many people won’t click through. Take ‘em when you got ‘em. Second, think distributed; that’s my first WWGD? rule for news organizations. You have to go to where the people are. RSS is home delivery 2.0. Third, the feeds will have ads and though there’ll be fewer of them, the potential for more audience reading more stories is great. It’s a bold experiment and I hope they do well with it. (Disclosure: I write and work for the Guardian.)
Posts about rss
So here’s what I’m trying — and I’m grateful for any help in doing it better:
The idea is that Twitter users can share instant reviews of what they’re watching — TV shows, movies, concerts, anything — by twittering (is the verb form tweeting?) to @twitcrit.
It takes some hacks to try to make that visible, since @twitcrit messages are private and since the RSS feed it spawns requires authentication. Here’s how I’m doing it now: Following Chris Brogan’s example, I’m using a search at Terraminds, which creates an RSS feed of all tweets with “@twitcrit” within and I’m importing that into the twitcrit account on Twitter (so you can follow that) using Twitterfeed and also into a Twitcrit Tumblog. This has problems, though: Tumblr updates only once an hour, Twitterfeed only once a half-hou (and it includes only up to five entries). Arrrggghh.
The goal is simple: We twit/tweet/whatever our nanoreviews using Twitter and then aggregate them so we can compare notes. I’d like to be able to follow everyone’s critical tweets on Twitter and archive them on a web page (blog, tumblog, whatever). I was hoping to start heavy use of it this Sunday watching the season premier of The Wire.
Any better ideas of how we can aggregate our instant reviews?
: Later: Stowe Boyd suggestings using hashtags: #twitcrit. And then I can feed that RSS onto a page. But can I follow a hashtag on Twitter? That’s what I want to do.
Dave Winer in an email exchange asks whether I want the product to look like Club140. Yes. But I also want to follow the nanoreviews in Twitter. Perhaps I want too much.
Contemplating the Guardian’s 50,000th edition, it occurs to Charlie Beckett that early newspapers were a lot like RSS:
It has the same level plane which allows the reader to decide what is the most important story, simply assembling news on separate pages which you have to filter and organise for yourself.
In that sense it highlights how online functionality is in some ways still behind the old technology. As I discovered trying to read the new one-section Independent on Sunday, newspapers are brilliant for flicking through until you find something you want to read. Unfortunately, the Sindy has nothing I wanted to read and so I quickly returned to my PDA and my Netvibes RSS aggregator page….
Online journalism has many advantages over its paper version, but it still needs to work much harder at usability. Newspapers took a century to work up the ultra user friendly objects we now have. News websites and blogs will have to work a bit quicker than that if they are to celebrate 50,000 editions.
I like the analogy to RSS but I’m not sure I agree that it’s a regression not a progression. Dave Winer has been begging for news organizations to just give him a river of news that he’ll judge. That says that RSS is an advance in the form. We can debate whether the news is overpackaged or whether online is underpackaged and I’ll say both views are right: One-size-fits-all news cannot possibly give me just what I need and the idea that editors can feed us what they say we should eat is hubris born out of the limitations of the medium of paper. But I also want some more functionality on top of my beloved RSS feeds to help me sift better. That may be technology. It’s more likely people and technology together.
: LATER: Charlie says I misstated. He’s right. I should have put it more in the context of where RSS is in its evolution. From the comments:
I didn’t actually say that RSS was a ‘regression’ – quite the opposite. I don’t know anyone who would defend a century-old format over online journalism!
As I wrote, I would choose the variety of RSS feeds over any newspaper. But what I concluded, however, was that newspapers have had a long time to get their format right for their audience. Now online news sites and blogs need to work even harder at finding the right reader and helping the reader find the right stories.
I’m delighted for the Feedburner team that they’ve been acquired by Google for a reported $100 million. It’s hard to think of a more upstanding company in the blog and RSS world than Feedburner. They have unparalleled customer service; they have always been forthright and transparent; they are incredibly responsive; and they’re just nice guys. They also have vision. When Feedburner started, I’ll admit that I didn’t understand why I needed them. But I finally got it and I have had nothing but pleasant encounters with their management and their service. Congratulations. (Investor Fred Wilson’s take here.)
Dave Winer is up to something important… again. He has been talking about wanting “rivers of news” — that is, headlines stripped of the packaging around them to give him a constant flow of what’s new. And he just created a few to feed his — and our — mobile phones.
What’s fascinating about this is that while consultants and think tanks aplenty are still running around trying to come up with fancy applications made just for mobile but Dave shows that the best application is simplicity: Just the news, sir. And keep it flowing.
Note that the only graphics on the pages he created are an orange question mark that leads to an brief explanation page with a picture of Dave. That’s it. Otherwise, it’s just information. In a sense, it’s like RSS, except it’s even simpler, even dumber: just a page with an address that has the latest from a source. I’ve been using them today and they’re quite compelling just because they are so simple and fast and to-the-point.
At some point, I’ll want to customize them; I don’t want sports. And the sources will have to figure out their ad strategy for the mobile world, but they’re doing that anyway. (He points to Times printer pages, which are sponsored.) But they should take the example from this simplicity.
(Full disclosure: Dave is an investor in Daylife, where I’ve been working; that was where I first heard him push his demand for rivers of news.)
: LATER: Ewan MacLeod explains why this is better than the state of the art.
Doc Searls is giving the closer at Syndicate.
He says the problem with search is that it isn’t live. He says that search engines see the web as a static thing. But he says they do search the live web, they just hide it.
Yahoo has a news search with a blog search under beta but, he complains, it’s on the right side of the page where we’re trained not to look because that’s where ads go. Google’s blog search is there but hidden and he asks why it’s not included in the main search. He emphasizes that the live web is more than RSS and blogging; you know the list.
Repeating a wonderful line from his blog, he says that “the best blogging is about rolling snowballs.”
: UPDATE: See Doc in the comments clarifying what I mucked up. And see this post with a much, much better blogging of the talk. I got interrupted with a phone call and didn’t do it justice.
I just put a correction on the post below. One other site had already picked up the post but the old, uncorrected version is there. That’s a problem. Now that itself isn’t RSS’ fault for that site just lifted the item and put it in its blog. But the proper method would be to put up RSS and make sure it pings to find changes, additions, and corrections.
I’m at the Syndicate conference in New York. Just did the unkeynote. Have no idea whether it worked. You tell me.
: The meatiest thing that came out of it was a lot of confusion and complaint about the state of tagging. It’s time for taggercon.
: Richard Edelman, who’s becoming known as the most clueful flack, says that they are getting rid of the “message triangle,” the old, accepted wisdom of media training that taught the speaker to keep coming back to three points no matter what the question is. He says the John Kerry failed in his debates because he was too-well trained; he kept coming back to those points. Too much training reduces credibility, he says.
He says that PR people in the future should be “chief listening officers.” Yes, but that should be the job of all execs, no?
: Thinking about it, I’d do the unkeynote differently, modeling it more on the unconference. It needs to start with a goal — a question to answer, a problem to solve, a debate to surface or settle, so people try to pull together to some end and the conversation isn’t random … and so the unkeynoter can bring the conversation back on course when it veers off (as this one did). Lesson learned.