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How To Be Wrong About RSS

Andrew Chen on RSSAndrew Chen writes today on his blog (or is it an essay?) about RSS and more specifically how he found the light with email subscriptions:

RSS was meant to be a different way to present content, and doesn’t have identity or interactivity baked in. One of the best aspects of email subscriptions (and Twitter) is that you can actually see who’s taken interest in your work.

What can I say to that? RSS is a syndicator of content. RSS is a standard. This is something available to anyone that wants to ask for it, and it updates automatically. The identity of the creator is built in, and you definitely know who you’re subscribing too. But, does some sort of feedback loop need to be part of RSS? No, that’s not what it’s about. That’s what the web is for.

Andrew, if you read this, you have feedback. If I wanted to provide other forms of feedback, I might then tweet a reply or email him.

As I switch over to emphasize email, my hope is that I can increase the level of interactivity with my audience.

His idea of having a group of users subscribe to his blog and get unsolicited email messages automatically when a new post is available, is probably more about what RSS “was meant to” stop. Every email server is going to check for, and possibly filter these kinds of messages. Unsolicited email is a problem. An RSS feed that has been updated by a site you subscribe to? There is no filter, and no need for one. If I’m a user that subscribes to 160 different blogs that might post, on average, three times a week – I’m going to get at least 480 email messages in that time frame (over an above the email I already get). Imagine what happens for sites that include more posts. I’m quite sure email was not meant for that.

Even more important to note, is that users don’t read everything they see. I may, at times, see 20 or more headlines about and event and choose to read only one site regarding that story and move on. Do I want to have to efficiently sift through 20 email messages that are of no use to me?

RSS can stand to be improved in countless ways, including the creation of an RSS reader that appeals to those of us that read a large number of stories. But, email subscriptions to blog content is clearly not that improvement.