Web 2.0: RSS et al

Web 2.0: RSS et al

: I wish I hadn’t been at the table up front at the RSS session because (a) I don’t know much — to use the words of Dan Gillmor, this audience certainly know a helluva lot more than I do!, and (b) I couldn’t blog it as it happened and so now, trying to recall what all was said, from notes, turns from blogging into reporting. How old.

Anyway…. It was a packed session; tons of interest and passion and action in syndication. All this energy is still flailing around a bit, which means that we’re still in the early stages; we don’t know what the ‘it’ is yet. But it is also vital that we learn lessons from the past — from the early ’90s and the starts of the web and HTML and commercialization — and do it better this time.

Here’s an earlier post I wrote about RSS; that’s how I ended up on that table. I argue that getting more content on RSS is good but to motivate content creators to put it there we’ll often need to give them data — via cookies, as a start — so they can track size and ad performance. We also need to give some opportunities for branding. That’s my starting point. Now I’ll give you random notes from my notebook….

: Bob Wyman of PubSub spoke a lot (and plugged his site a lot, which was comic relief) and had good things to say, especially recalling the history of HTML and advertising and the ’90s. He said that what’s radically different about this RSS world vs. the HTML world is that we move from a request/response model to publish/subscribe.

Wyman emphasized that we need to focus on the post not the feed in discussion of traffic, advertising, and all that (it is the RSS corollary of Meg Hourihan’s rule that the elemental piece of content is now the post, not the page).

: Dan Gould, of a thing too new to name, made the exactly right point early on: It’s all about power. Used to be, of course, publishers had the power; they fed us what they wanted to feed us. In this new world, we take what we want and if we don’t like it we don’t take it.

So there’s a negotiation that happens: Subscriber says if you don’t give me a good RSS feed, I’ll go elsewhere. Publisher/content creator says if you don’t let me make money from that feed — or prevent me making money on my web site — then I’m not motivated to put content there. Welcome to the marketplace.

: The folks at the table up front who were actually running this (I was a guest) — Dick Costolo of FeedBurner and David Hornik of August Capital and a blogger of long repute — made many good points about the models we will see in this world: Some people will pay for feeds; some will be supported by advertising; some will go out free because the publicity is what is valuable.

: Jeremy Zawodny of Yahoo found himself yingyanged a bit: Yahoo gets credit for bringing RSS to the mainstream, but Steve Gillmor beat them up for data going in and not coming out.

: Steve Gillmor give an impassioned and smart snippet about the need to empower and remunerate the content creator or else new people won’t be able to create content and the power remains in the hands of Dan Rather.

Right on.

: Gillmor also plugged a new standard in the works: attention.xml. That’s all I know about it. So more here.

: The founder of RealSimpleShopping.com was there: a cool use of RSS to aggregate shopping opportunities. There are new affiliate marketing opportunities here.

: Hornik said the advantage of af eed vs. email is that you can stop a feed from coming.

Jeremy also quoted someone else saying that RSS is the ultimate opt-in.

: I did my standard spiel on how this distributed world will start replacing centralized marketplaces — see classifieds, for example. Said it before, so I won’t bore you again.

: Much discussion ensued about whether RSS will start to dig into eBay. Brian Dear said all this could be a long-awaited eBay slayer.

Of course, eBay should start putting out RSS feeds because it will generate more sales. Some said that eBay still has value as entertainment. Yes, but I have plenty of entertaining RSS feeds that are distributed.

It’s all about trust… and organization…

: Esther Dyson said that rather than looking at this as centralized vs. distributed, we should look at the value of “clusters.” Social networking has a role in helping to cluster people of similar taste/needs/desires. And she added: “The dimension that really matters is time.” That is a reason why she invested in Technorati; it adds those dimensions to Google. I agree heartily.

: There was much discussion about efforts to get data tagged. Uh-oh: The semantic web! Chris Tolles from Topix said he tried manual tagging in the Open Directory project and it didn’t scale. Google did. He said the problem with expecting people to tag data is that they are either (a) lying or (b) lazy.

: I pleaded for efforts to come up with better names and descriptions for RSS to spread the gospel. I was properly shot down with the notion that the architecture should be hidden. Jeremy said, “My parents don’t know what SMTP is but they send email.”

: Hornik said the key to spreading RSS is getting more and ever-better readers out there.

Gillmor added that we need the ability to sync our readers.

: I wish this were a better report but I have really bad handwriting and my notes go cold. Anybody else who was there and blogging, please leave links….