RSS reader

Update on RSS

I started a post a few weeks ago after reading Dr. Dang’s piece: The RSS mess and his follow up piece: More RSS mess but I got distracted and never finished the post. These are excellent pieces of thinking and writing on the current state of RSS aggregators and clients post Google Reader.

Reading the good doctor’s two posts assured me that I’m not the only one still using RSS as my primary way to get updates from a variety of web sites I follow, and that not everyone has abandoned this excellent technology for the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

Even though this site is running on WordPress.com I’m not in the habit of using WordPress’ internal “Reader”, preferring to use ReadKit on my Mac and Reeder 2 for iOS (iPhone and iPad). I used to use Reeder for Mac and in writing this decided to download and test it again, we’ll see. I use Feedly as my cloud aggregator and for the most part this is all working well for me.

Since the Mac OS X.10 Yosemite upgrade, my entire computer including my RSS setup has become a bit more unstable but I’m pretty sure Apple is now releasing software with more bugs in it than in years past and this stuff will hopefully be cleaned up with a Yosemite update.

For me, RSS and my feed reader remain the most used and most important technology and application on my computer and on my iPad (Air 2), to a lesser extent on my iPhone (5S) simply because the screen is too small for me to follow things I want to read to their host web site.

Here’s a list of the various posts on RSS I’ve made here over many years:

What is RSS?

Nerding out on a rainy Sunday

RSS = Really Simple Syndication. Right… that doesn’t help much so this article will go into a bit more detail about what RSS is and why it might be useful to you.

Background
To most people, a web browser is the internet. Email through Outlook and the web through IE. What else might there be? Well, there has been more for years, as long as there’s been an internet but most of the “side technologies” have not made it into the mainstream and have been used mostly by serious computer users and hackers (in the best sense of that word).

But, in the same way that iPods are changing what it means to carry a lot of music around and cell phones can do text messaging and web surfing, categories are changing and we ought not be stuck in only the paradigms that are familiar.

I started getting an inkling of this when I first installed the beta of OS X and saw the then crude but effective Sherlock. Sherlock reads database information from various sources out on the internet and displays that information in its window: stock quotes, phone numbers, maps, dictionary definitions. Yet, Sherlock is just a “reader,” it doesn’t have any dictionary definitions or stock information in it: it reads that information from sources out on the internet and it formats the information in a way that’s easier to look at than most web sites. So, dictionary.com on the web or the same data through Sherlock? No brainer. Sherlock wins every time.

What this meant to me was a paradigm shift: the information at dictionary.com was separable from the web site and could be subscribed to by applications like Sherlock. Wow, that was a huge revelation to me at the time.

If you get what I just said about Sherlock reading dictionary.com, then RSS will not be a hard concept to swallow. An RSS reader (sometimes called “newsreader” is simply an application for aggregating (collecting), displaying, and reading feeds. Just as Sherlock can display the content from dictionary.com’s dictionary database, an RSS reader can display the feeds from any web site with a public RSS feed.
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