I like RSS better than Reddit, Twitter, and Email Subscriptions.

The other day I was chatting with some of the Tech Lords over on the MBR IRC channel about radio antennas when a couple of guys got into an argument over how secure a self hosted site could be. Not self hosted as in some cloud service but literally running it off hardware in your own house and chucking it out into the internet sea. One of them posted a link to their site, urging people to try to mess with it (since it wouldn’t have the supposed security from a commercial hosting service). I went to the HTML based site and clicked around. Most of it was blog posts about radio hardware and Ubuntu but on one of the sidebars was his old school “about” section, links to recent articles, a button to a bitcoin donation address, and right below that “RSS Feeds I read”.

Clicking on the link to the feeds resulted in a popup asking to download a file. LOL NOPE WHAT CLOSE. But before closing the box I looked at the filetype it wanted to open/download. Something called an .opml file, which I promptly googled. Turns out it’s just a format of rss feeds in a huge list that a RSS feed reader can manage. So I went back and downloaded it. My mac didn’t explode. Now opening the file was a fun task, as RSS is no longer a thing for web browsers or even desktop apps these days. Here is what the doc looks like:

The opml file had a ton of links in it.

Now, I wasn’t about to go copy/pasting every one of those rss feeds to try and view them so I went out looking for a firefox extension to read this bad boy. A quick search led me to a handful of them and I chose the one called Brief. Now I had a little orange wifi signal up in my toolbar in the right corner of firefox. Clicking it gave me a big empty page with some menus where I could import this .opml file of doom. Two clicks later I now have a giant RSS feed with links updated as often as I set them to. Here is what it looks like with all the feeds in the left and the links to the right:

Kinda looks like email huh?

Now, yall will have to forgive me for not using RSS feeds back in the early 2000’s because I was in my 20’s and used Digg and bookmarks for news. But, I figure most of you who currently use email subscriptions to get updates from things will see the usefulness of this sort of system. Currently, if you want to stay on top of some kind of news you follow a twitter account, subreddit, or subscribe to a site via email. Each of these has its own pros and cons.

Reddit will give you popular breaking news within a community but the voting system allows things to be buried by bots or groups of users who go by and hit “downvote” on every link. The comment section also makes things awkward because you feel compelled to read the comments before clicking a link.

Twitter will also give you up to the second breaking news because it scrapes up instances of anyone posting a link or talking about a keyword (hashtag or no). Its major issue is that your feed isn’t always stuff you signed up to see even though retweets can be turned off people link bonkers stuff all the time. There is also the problem of your feed becoming a firehose once a certain number of people are followed.

Email subscriptions to blog and news posts seem to be the current favored method because you subscribe to an exact website and are notified in a place you already check constantly. But that’s also an issue because you use your email to receive notices from clients, stores, shipping updates, social media notifications, and legit responses to stuff. Now you’re throwing in a barrage of subscribed website news on top of it all and now you can’t find the link to your dentist appointment dates because of the fifty seven newsletters you subscribed to.

So this past week I’ve been moving all the major outlets of news that I normally get via newsletters, blue-check twitter feeds, and subreddits over to my RSS feed. Now I can cut down my emails, the number of people I follow, and bypass Reddit almost entirely. Plus, when using the links in the RSS feed, I’m taken to the actual websites as opposed to a blurb or in-email version of a post that doesn’t give the OC their analytics clicks or ad revenue.

One issue I ran into this week while doing this was the fact that so many sites no longer offer a link to their RSS feeds. Most of the more established sites have one for their main page at the very bottom of the end of the footer, others you have to manually type /feed/ at the end of their url to get to it.

Hilariously the feed updates you with just the headers for the new episodes and no link to them.

An interesting thing to note is that all of your beloved podcasts are syndicated through RSS. This is how your Podcast service of choice receives updates and show you the latest episode. While you can add the feed to your reader, not all the links will go directly to a file you can listen to or link to a stream of the audio so YMMV on usefulness. You can, however, add youtube channels to your RSS feed reader and keep up that way if you’ve opted out of email for shows you subscribe to.

Just like on youtube but without having to be logged in.

I know it’s easier to go to a social media platform to get updates and links to news but it’s also easier to get stuck scrolling through social media on loop. Also, I like the way the RSS feed becomes news that isn’t what a group of people on twitter or reddit thinks I should look at. Sure, it’s what a specific site wants me to look at but it’s a site with content I was interested in in the first place. That or I’m wrong and everyone is still using RSS feeds for news updates and I’m the one who is a decade behind.

So yeah, on my sidebar I’ve now added a link to the RSS feed for my blog should any of you care to join me in better management of news and website updates.

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  1. David Winer of scripting.com was one of the developers of RSS, and the developer for opml. He has a number of software tools to create and edit opml files.

  2. I love RSS. Thank you Dave Winer! Also, JETGIRL, you now have a new RSS subscriber to your feed.

  3. Don’t do twitter specifically for what was mentioned, to much content that I’m not interested in. Email already has so much coming in why do I want to have it in there… prefer rss for the dimple fact when I want to stay up to date with a specific blog/site I know exactly what I’m getting in my rss reader, focused content. Do people really not use it anymore?

  4. best OS X RSS app is called “Reader”, check it out..

  5. George Lowry

    I’m a happy NewsBlur user.