Monday, 15 February 2021

Why I still use RSS

 RSS, really simple syndication, was the poster child of content delivery in the naughties.

Today, other than podcast distribution, not so much.

And increasingly, sites, even when they provide something that looks like a blog, don't provide an RSS feed of the content.

And there aren't that many RSS feed readers around, and a number of packages that used to include an RSS feed reader no longer do.

So why do I continue to use RSS and pay good money to subscribe to a feed reader application?

The answer's pretty simple.

I live on the dark side of the world, in rural Victoria in Australia.

The blogs and news sites I'm interested in, usually ones dealing with archaeology and history, are mostly based in either the UK or North America. This means that, during Daylight Savings we're 11 hours ahead of London, 16 ahead of the east coast of the USA, and as for California ...

The net result of this is that when people post interesting things to their blogs or websites I'm hopefully tucked up in bed listening to the possums dance the fandango on the roof.

Using an RSS feed reader means that when I wake up, I easily scan all the feeds I follow for overnight updates in a single webpage rather than checking a whole lot of different sites with different update times. Alternatives, such as twitter, which thrive on immediacy don't really cut it - your immediacy is my 3 am.

In such circumstances the decoupling between time of posting and time of reading that RSS provides is crucial - think of the death of William IV:

On 20 June 1837 William IV of England died and Queen Victoria became, well, queen. No one in Sydney knew this until late October 1837 when the James Pattinson sailed into Sydney Harbour bringing news of a change of management.

This meant that people in Sydney had been toasting 'William IV, our sailor king' long after the old boy was in his box in the crypt of St George's chapel in Windsor.

The time lag seems inconceivable to us, used as we are to doomscrolling every press release and update, but to people then it was quite normal - they got the news of William's death and state funeral, and Victoria's accession all together in a set of newspaper reports in a single October morning, rather than spread out over several days.

And just like news of William IV's demise using RSS to follow events let's me compare reports and follow the story. No it's not immediate, but a lot of the time there's not much value in immediacy, it's what has happened that's the most important thing.

Simples, yes ?

1 comment:

Arthur said...

Also RSS readers show me only the feeds I choose, not algorithmically generated. Something I appreciate more and more.