RSS is not dead

I’m sick to death of people saying that RSS is dead, and I’d like to make a public service announcement about this anti-syndication meme:

RSS isn’t dead, and isn’t to blame for making you a news junkie. It’s an efficient way to gather information from multiple sources. You should use RSS.

RSS isn’t dead or dying. It’s a syndication format that makes the retrieval of information from multiple sources more efficient. While I do understand the tendency for people to overdose RSS and fall victim to information overload, this is an easily remedied problem.

Problem: I’m suffering from information overload because I subscribe to too many RSS feeds.
Solution: Subscribe to fewer RSS feeds.

And yet I’ve been seeing things like this in my RSS reader (of all places!) written by people I have a lot of respect for:

Jason Fried:

Is RSS dead to you too? I haven’t used an RSS reader for a year and I haven’t looked back.

I just go to site [sic] that I like. I’ve found it more satisfying and it slows me down. I’m less news/information junky now which is a good thing.

There’s simply no good reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater on this one. Eschewing an incredibly efficient way to gather information from multiple sources because it’s too efficient at collecting information from multiple sources makes no sense.

If you find that you’re spending too much time looking through your RSS reader, why not try spending less time looking through your RSS reader? It’s easy. You either (a) don’t open your RSS reader as often, or (b) reduce the number of RSS feeds you subscribe to.

I’ve also seen some claims that “all of the important stuff will make it’s way to you” no matter what. The idea is that shutting off your RSS reader will save you a bunch of time, which you could be using to accomplish more important things.

Chris Wanstrath:

I don’t know how many of you read RSS, but I challenge you (that’s a keynote term) to give it up for a month. Just turn it off. Stop using Google Reader or NetNewsWire or whatever the kids are using these days. It’s not worth your time.

What should you do instead? If you use Twitter, try following the authors of your favorite blogs. Read their tweets on the bus. Or in the bathroom. Check Ruby Inside once a week and skim over the posts. Visit an aggregator like once a month. But mainly, let other people do the filtering for you. Use your time for other things.

You will not miss out on anything big. Stuff like the Google App Engine, or Rubinius running Rails, or the killer speaker line up at this year’s Ruby Hoedown will find its way to you. How can it not? I’m willing to bet a lot of the stuff in your RSS reader is stuff you already knew, or heard about somewhere else.

I understand that reading feeds can be a time-sink, but the suggested alternative here is to cut out feeds and use Twitter instead. Seriously? Not only is Twitter more of a time-sink than RSS feeds, but isn’t Twitter just a micro-blogging service and proprietary RSS reader shoved together into a single package?

I don’t understand why this has to be all or nothing. RSS is useful. Why not use it?


Published by

Trevor Turk

A chess-playing machine of the late 18th century, promoted as an automaton but later proved a hoax.

5 thoughts on “RSS is not dead”

  1. Hear, hear!

    I find RSS tremendously useful for staying on top of this fast-paced industry.

    For me blogs like yours, RubyInside, Rubyflow, Railsenvy and Railscasts are MUST HAVE subscriptions for anyone serious about Ruby development.

    People who whine about feeds just don't make good subscription choices. If it aint useful and sucks your time away, then just UNsubscribe, no?

    As a sidenote, the only non-work related feed I'm tuned into is LOLCATS – As far as I'm concerned, if you don't have time to chuckle at funny animals, then your priorities are all screwed up!

  2. Some great points in this post, but I've still got a few issues:

    a) RSS is annoyingly successful in separating presentation from content (I mean that in an XML v. CSS way, not an (X)HTML v. CSS way – I'm all for web standards). I may well be wrong, but I wouldn't want to miss out on the awesome variety of web site designs out there. Isn't that what diversity's about? As they always tell us, "it would be horrible if we were all the same," which is as true on the Web as it is in real life.

    b) Please give me a link to a decent feed reader. Google Reader is ugly, shows duplicate posts from A List Apart's feed (RSS 2.0), screws up on entities (i.e. foreign characters, and symbols), and does a whole other load of (I'll be polite:)stuff I don't like.

    Just my 2 cents; again, great post.

  3. I use NetNewsWire as my RSS reader, but I don't actually do much reading in it. I usually open things I want to read in Safari instead. If I don't have time for something that looks interesting, I'll throw it in Instapaper and read it later. If I find something valuable or interesting, I'll usually bookmark it in Delicious.

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