Using RSS to keep up with your favourite sites

If you want to keep up with this blog but don’t want to have to remember to check back on a regular basis, one option available to you is the RSS feed.

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a family of Web feed formats used to publish frequently updated content such as blog entries, news headlines or podcasts. RSS makes it possible for people to keep up with their favorite web sites in an automated manner that’s easier than checking them manually.

To take advantage of this technology, you’ll need a feed reader. The software is either web-based, which has the benefit of being able to be accessed anywhere in a browser, or client software, which arguably has more features. Google Reader and Bloglines are two of the most popular web-based options, and on the client side, RSS support is built into Microsoft Outlook 2007, Internet Explorer 7, and Mozilla Thunderbird, to name but a few.

The technology lends itself well to the typical email software layout, as blog posts or articles appear in feed reader software much like an email — the sender is the site itself, the subject is the headline, and the message is the body of the article.

I personally use Google Reader to read my favourite blogs. It features typical Google simplicity and an interface very similar to Gmail. I have a feeling, however, that RSS is really going to take off in the mainstream now that it is in Microsoft Office, in Outlook 2007. Up until this point, you needed one of several plugins to read RSS feeds in Outlook 2003. In 2007, the technology is baked right in.

As far as my feeds go, you can subscribe the RSS feed using a reader, or you can have the RSS feed delivered as email. There is also a feed just for the comments on this blog.

The value of blog postings and comments

It was a long time ago in internet years that I started reading Dave Winer‘s blog, Scripting News, and even longer since I started reading Jakob Nielsen‘s writings on his site, useit.com. These two are truly pioneers of the digital age, with Winer instrumental in the development and promotion of RSS and Nielsen writing the book(s) on web usability.

Winer recently discussed why he doesn’t allow comments on his blog, which morphed into a full-blown examination of whether the ability to comment on posts is what defines a blog.

Do comments make it a blog? Do the lack of comments make it not a blog? Well actually, my opinion is different from many, but it still is my opinion that it does not follow that a blog must have comments, in fact, to the extent that comments interfere with the natural expression of the unedited voice of an individual, comments may act to make something not a blog.

He makes a compelling argument, as previously I was in the camp that believed a blog must have comments, else it was but a mere shadow of a ‘true’ blog. His main point was that everyone can comment on what he writes by linking to it on their own blog, rather than appending their thoughts to the end of his post. Those responses are much more valuable and meaningful, since it will filter out the abusive comments and be more constructive.

Jacok Nielsen’s latest article talked about (to be blunt) how useless most of the blogs out there are because they rarely, if ever, offer something new and valuable to their readers. Most blogs just link to the interesting stuff, and Jakob was lamenting the fact that so few blogs make the effort to create the interesting stuff rather than just linking to it.

Blog postings will always be commodity content: there’s a limit to the value you can provide with a short comment on somebody else’s work. Such postings are good for generating controversy and short-term traffic, and they’re definitely easy to write. But they don’t build sustainable value.

This one really had me thinking for days last week about what I’d done with my blog since February 2006, whether I was creating sustainable value with it, and what I could improve or change to make the stuff I write better. I like to think with this blog it’s a mix of short-term, newsy posts and long-term stuff that would continue to attract readers long after it vacated the home page.

I did a lot of thinking this week about where I want this domain to go in the future and how it was going to get there, and where it has already been and how that turned out compared to my expectations. You’ll probably begin to see the results of my meditations very soon, as I transform this space into something more representative of my various interests.

How Playboy protects its intellectual property

Gives a whole new meaning to the term “asset management” doesn’t it?

With more than 53 years of multimedia content under its belt, Playboy Enterprises takes content management and rights management very seriously. Developing the best systems to manage all those photos, videos, television footage and text is top priority for Playboy chairman and chief executive Christie Hefner.

Read the interview with Christie Hefner.