29 August 2007

RSS irony

RSS is great. I'm sure it would surprise no one that I could come up with a long list of criticisms of the technology, but—in actual practice—I'm happy with it. In fact, I'm starting to become annoyed at sites that don't offer RSS feeds. (I'm looking at you, web site of First United Methodist Church, Round Rock.) What is it? An RSS feed is a standard way for web sites to offer a list of recent articles/items. You use an RSS reader, or aggregator, to subscribe to feeds. I use Google Reader. You can also use My Yahoo. Firefox and Safari can appearantly handle the task as well. Your reader lets you know what feeds have updates & let's you read the items. (Although sometimes the item is little more than a link to the full story on the original web site. It depends on the feed.) I'm currently subscribed to 106 feeds. Podcasts are essentially RSS feeds that contain audio. This icon, , indicates either a feed or something RSS related. Incidentally, Google Reader generates that list of shared items here on my blog. When I see an interesting item in Google Reader, I click a button & it gets added to those shared items. It's natural to think that it's important for a feed to have regular updates. Ironically, however, the opposite is true. Noisy feeds that fill my reader with a constant stream of low interest items risk me unsubscribing. Where RSS really shines are the infrequently updated feeds. Your reader takes care of checking them regularly & only brings the feed to your attention when there is something to read. A dead feed (or—more importantly—a dormant, seemingly-dead feed) isn't a problem because it doesn't take any of your attention. Unfortunately, in the migration from Usenet → web → RSS, the web reinforced the "must have regular updates" idea. That made sense for the web before RSS, but not for RSS.

2 comments:

revshafer said...

I didn't know you were United Methodist! I'm a UMC chaplain in the United States Navy serving in Yokosuka, Japan...however, I'm from Arkansas, and I believe I have some family living around Round Rock. I'd like to see more examples of the UMC using the web well...Oh! My wife designed the logo for General Conference! I'd like to email you, but cannot find an address!

Robert Fisher said...

I apologize for the difficulty of finding my email address. I still find being careful with it an important part of my anti-spam defenses.

To get my email address, put an at-sign between my first & last names & then put a ".cx" on the end.

Yep. I'm a lifelong Methodist. I even married the daughter of a Methodist minister. (Oddly enough, although she & I met in Austin, her parents & my parents were both married in the same Methodist church in Ft. Worth.)

Our church is doing a decent job of using the web. (Although the CMS for the church website requires MSIE, thus preventing Mac users like my wife & I from contributing to it directly.) I keep thinking I need to see if there's anything I can do to get a podcast of sermons going.

I'm experimenting with a blog for the 8th grade Sunday school class I'm leading this year.