Of July 1 and RSS

Yesterday, I opened Google Reader for what should be the last time. I wanted to get a last download of the various subscriptions that I had there (see: Google Takeout). I also wanted to grab an impression of the service since its been a good while and there were some UX aspects that were done well (at least on the iPhone version). Still, I’m kind of in a similar boat to many others where you get this regular behavior of reading a collection of websites just the way you like that’s been shaken. There are many other services that are trying to take on the challenge of being the next Google Reader. But, I’m not sure that July 1 should be a reprise of the history that has been. I think the RSS reading public should be aiming to do better.

What could be done better? Well, I’ve actually got a few ideas (though not the ability to develop them completely):

  • As much as I like the idea of sharing content on social media sites, I think that the stream itself should be social enabled right from the behavior of clicking on the link. Doing something like a right click (or a two-fingered click or a click-drag-release) to share the item would be something I’d do
  • On my reader, I want to kind of reproduce a feature that Google did, where when you click on an item that it is no longer seen in your reader view
  • There are quite a few articles that I come across that I don’t want to share except to my notebook/Evernote or to write a note on it that’s longer than a tweet – having some kind of click-gesture that allows me to annotate the feed item and then it publishes to my personal notebook, Evernote, or blog

Some time ago, I started experimenting with RSS as a pipe to my own landing page. I still think it makes sense to use RSS as the backend to such a page, but not just for the purpose of letting others see what I’m consuming (al la a Facebook/LinkedIn activity feed), but also something that turns itself towards my own personal reader. If you will, RSS enables me to shift content to the eyes that I’d like it seen.

Its interesting. July 1 has been seen fearfully by some folks, and a chance to reinvent life for some others. I think Dave Winer (the founder of RSS) has probably the better perspective:

here we are at a crossroads. There are lots of ways RSS could improve. The question is this — will the tech industry learn how to cooperate on an open format, or will each of them play a game of winner-take-all, which will certainly result in none of them getting anything in return for all their efforts.

Could it be that RSS has been a part of a solution for enabling consumers to actually join the crowd of producers, but that we’ve been all to great examples of that? What if the failure of Google to see a point to RSS (they could no longer validate the hosting/funding/marketing of such a targeted service) is really a failure point for techies? Sure, we can make a service and have a following, but if we aren’t able to help others get to the point of creating neat things out of it themselves, then are we really forwarding life with the web and its technologies, or are we just shifting chairs on a sinking chip.

Could some of us look back at July 1 as the time when techies (and journalists) step up to a better challenge of this tech? Or, will it just continue to be business as usual.

If you are a developer and interested in playing with the code that I’ve used for my personal RSS reader, get in contact with me via Twitter or LinkedIn and let’s chat.

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