Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Case for RSS

David Sparks:

For several years now, the trend among geeks has been to abandon the RSS format.

Has it, though? Sparks doesn’t cite anything to back this up. I’ve seen the occasional tech writer indicate that links surfaced through Twitter are equating, to a certain extent, those found in their RSS subscriptions, and others who see Twitter as increasingly replacing their RSS diet. But to call it a “trend” is, I think, an exaggeration.

I love this argument that Sparks makes, though:

That was never me. The reason I’ve stuck with RSS is the way in which I work. Twitter is the social network that I participate in most and yet sometimes days go by where I don’t load the application. I like to work in focused bursts. If I’m deep into writing a book or a legal client project. I basically ignore everything else. I close my mail application, tell my phone service to take my calls, and I definitely don’t open Twitter. When I finish the job, I can then go back to the Internet. I’ll check in on Twitter, but I won’t be able to get my news from it. That only works if you go into Twitter much more frequently than I do. That’s why RSS is such a great solution for me. If a few days go by, I can open RSS and go through my carefully curated list of websites and get caught back up with the world.

I can’t remember who, but someone once gave me the best tip I’ve ever received for using RSS: subscribe to your must-read websites, and those websites you like but aren’t updated frequently. It prevents your reader from quickly becoming overwhelming.

Truly, though, this isn’t a case for RSS so much as it is a case for a simple, easy-to-use way to receive updates from the websites you trust and like most. You could theoretically replace “RSS” with “JSON Feed” or “Twitter lists” — whatever works best for you. For news junkies like me, though, there will always be a case for dedicated feeds, without the interruption of non-news tweets or Facebook posts. RSS just happens to be one of the simplest implementations of that.