Sunday, February 27, 2005

RSS is evil?

I've only recently become a converted to using a aggregator to help me keep track of news. I guess I'm getting old and staying with the bleeding edge is geting harder. For instance, I still haven't figured what the fuss about instant messaging is all about and that's been around for years. I mean, what's wrong with email that some decent spam blocking software can't fix?

Anyway, I'm getting off the point. I recently got to the stage of information overload and decided I pretty much had to move to using some sort of aggregator. In the end I settled on NetNewsWire Lite, one of the more popular aggregators for Mac OS X, and I'm currently using the 2.0 beta which amongst other improvements now supports Atom as well as RSS.

To begin with it was actually saving me time, I think I actually managed to free up an hour a day, which is a considerable saving. I was pretty happy about this, as not only did I save time but the way I was working started to change. Instead of wading through my email to check on things like nightly builds they were being served directly to my desktop, pre-bundled for easy consumption.

But I'll admit it, I've turned into an feed junkie, and the number of sites I'm reading regularly has grown. Those RSS feed buttons are just too tempting. It took effort before to keep track of all those sites, now it's easy. I'm currently tracking over 90 feeds and I doubt this is going to go down. I haven't started wasting my saved hour quite yet, but it could get to that stage.

While I'm probably better informed that before, and I'm keeping up with the water cooler gossip of the tech world much more readily, I miss the variety. A lot of the sites I keep track of syndicate their entire content to their feed, so I rarely click through to the actual site anymore. The very reason the information is easier to manage is that the aggregator strips it of all but the most basic formatting and presents it in a consistent manner, so I've returned to the days when I viewed the world through a single interface.

In some ways it's almost, but not quite, like having Usenet back again healthy and unbroken, but having been reduced to a passive observer rather than an active participant. With the start of September that never ended we broke the last vestages of the "real" Internet, the Internet that existed before the Web. These days most people look at the Internet as a download medium, and we've turned into consumers. That's not a happy thought...

You would think that the rise of the blogosphere would act as counterweight? I think that's one of the reasons why I started blogging, after all as a Usenet regular I was used to throwing in my two cents on topics that mattered to me, but not everyone blogs. I'm a classic early adopter, and so are most of the people I know, and yet of them only a handful have blogs.

Things sure aren't how they used to be, and I sort of faintly regret it. Maybe I am getting old...