My Case for RSS

By Alexander Mervar

This post has been inspired from one of my favorite MacSparky posts of all time.  Thank you to David Sparks for making a great blog and being a huge inspiration to my writing and work.

    Everyday it seems like it is impossible for me to go through a complete day without hearing an individual or group of people complain about the amount of time they spend on social media, their procrastination habits, etc.  Their usual argument usually lies around the fact of how these habits have negatively impacted their lives by hurting their grades, relationships, sleep schedules, or something similar.

    Now, I have no problem with social media, procrastinating, or any of those other habits.  If you look at my Twitter feed, you’ll see that I CERTAINLY don’t have a problem with Twitter.  But, I do have a problem when these things impede on your academic or social capabilities.  So, when I observe the nerd and geek trend of many people dropping their RSS readers for Twitter or Facebook, I see the very slippery slope that many of my friends and colleagues have placed their faith in.

    Now, there are two problems with this slippery slope of putting the existence and safety of your newsfeed into the hands of platforms like Twitter or Facebook.  The first problem is the inevitable and necessary addiction to these platforms an individual would have to develop to maintain an up-to-date newsfeed.  In a platform like Twitter, it’s very easy to have 500+ unread tweets since the previous time you logged in that morning.  You naturally skip all of those stories and jump to the news articles that are being published now, or if you wish to stay up-to-date and not miss an important story, you have to basically live on Twitter or Facebook (or both) and maintain an eternally present watch over your feeds.

    The second problem is the idea of having an algorithm, which was created to maintain your attention for the longest period of time and provoke a response (replying to a tweet, liking, etc.) from you, in charge of what stories and posts you do (or do not) see.  John Green made an excellent video about this very topic that I think you’d enjoy:

    For me, the way I combat this is with an RSS reader.  “RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is a way to queue up and serve content from the internet.” (MacSparky)  It’s the perfect form of staying subscribed to my favorite news feeds, web comics, blogs, and much more of the everyday slice of the internet I consume.  Unlike Twitter or Facebook, RSS takes away the necessity to check it everyday.  If you miss a day, all your missed articles will be waiting for you, which also gets rid of the need for an algorithm to control what you see.  I think David put it best when he described how returning to an RSS feed after a break is like “...get[ting] caught back up with the world.” (MacSparky)

    I personally use Reeder as my personal RSS reader and I highly recommend it.  I hope you decide to give RSS a try.  Now, I’ll leave you with some wisdom from the Jedi Master, David Sparks, himself.

    If you are thinking about using RSS, I have a little advice. Be wary feed inflation. RSS is so easy to implement that it's a slippery slope between having RSS feeds for just a few websites and instead of having RSS feeds for hundreds of websites. If you’re not careful, every time you open your RSS reader, there will be 1,000 unread articles waiting for you, which completely defeats the purpose of using RSS. The trick to using RSS is to be brutal with your subscriptions. I think the key is looking for websites with high signal and low noise. Sites that publish one or two articles a day (or even one to two articles a week) but make them good articles are much more valuable and RSS feed than sites that published 30 articles a day.