Learning Technology jottings at Goldsmiths

Thoughts and deeds

We’re the only people with a material interest in promoting RSS

with one comment

In a nutshell, RSS (‘Really Simple Syndication’) is an excellent, non-proprietary filter. Given the huge demands on time imposed by information and correspondence overload, I’ve been trying to persuade colleagues to use RSS for years.

RSS allows you to a) avoid having to subscribe to things by email, thus helping you to reduce the volume of email and its management and b) ends the need to keep visiting web sites to see if anything has changed – the changes come to you. For example I read all my journals this way now, and the ability to filter out, at a glance, what I don’t need has improved vastly. There is definitely more to RSS, but these are the most obvious gains.

Sadly, RSS is also – unless you know what it is, understand why you need it, and can recognise it – obscure. There are interests in keeping it that way.

Because it is such a good filter, RSS allows you to sidestep the advertising that seems to be part and parcel of today’s web. Precisely because it is such a good filter, it is interfering with some business models. Few think it’s a coincidence that RSS is being disappeared or obfuscated:

“… they can’t make as much money if we read their content our way… as they can if they can force us to read it their way- at their site, complete with scads of browser-clogging tracking scripts and ads galore.”

Here is Kroc Camen’s summary of the implications:

“If RSS isn’t saved now, if browser vendors don’t realise the potential of RSS to save users a whole bunch of time and make the web better for them, then the alternative is that I will have to have a Facebook account, or a Twitter account, or some such corporate-controlled identity, where I have to “Like” or “Follow” every website’s partner account that I’m interested in, and then have to deal with the privacy violations and problems related with corporate-owned identity owning a list of every website I’m interested in (and wanting to monetise that list), and they, and every website I’m interested in, knowing every other website I’m interested in following, and then I have to log in and check this corporate owned identity every day in order to find out what’s new on other websites, whilst I’m advertised to, because they are only interested in making the biggest and the best walled garden that I can’t leave.”

As Kent Newsome notes, we – the Web’s readers, lookers and watchers – are the only people who have a material interest in promoting RSS.

First, use it. Second, write to your browser’s developers.

Hat-tip Stephen Downes.

And (update) for an example of RSS in educational practice, see the experimental free online course Connectivism and Connective knowledge at Athabasca University – from its overview:

“So, how do you share?

First, use the CCK11 tag in anything you create. Our course tag is: #CCK11

It is especially important to use this tag in del.icio.us and in Twitter. That is how we will recognize content related to this course. We will aggregate this content and display it in our newsletter. Yes – your content will be displayed in the Daily. That’s how other people will find it.

Second, if you are using a blog, Flickr, or a discussion group, share the RSS feed. We will offer a separate post on how to find your RSS feed if you don’t know how. But if you know how, please tell us your feed address.

You can use the form here: Add your RSS feeds by adding a feed here

Then, when you post something to your blog or forum, use the #CCK11 tag. That is how we will recognize that the post is related to this course, and not about your cat or mountain climbing in the Himalayas.

You can either place the tag in your post, of you can use it as the post category. Either way works for us.

If you’re doing something completely different, send us some email. stephen@downes.ca We’ll figure out how to add it to the mix.”


Written by Mira Vogel

January 13, 2011 at 11:41

One Response

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  1. Mira..

    Sad to say that a number of authors have been predicting the death of RSS since 2006. Now things are really looking grim in terms of the number of negative articles out there as well as even noises that the browser developers including Mozilla will cease to support it in the near future.


    David Riddle

    January 26, 2011 at 01:03

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