Today’s hits and yesterday’s gold

My terrible, terrible friend Chris and I have a funny little routine we do when we somehow end up listening to the radio.  I think Chris actually came up with it originally, but we both do it.  It goes something like this:

“Tired of hearing the same old shit?  Hey–neither are we!  Here’s more Led Zepplin on [station]!  Your classic rock SUPERstation!  It’s another Led Zep weekend!  All effin’ Zep!  All effin’ day! All effin’ night!  ALL THE EFFIN’ TIME!”

Now, don’t get me wrong–I think Led Zepplin is just dandy. Just dandy fine.  I like ’em a bunch.  I’ve played some of their songs, and certainly acted like a goof while listening to them.  But you know, I have never owned a Zep album.  Ever.  I’ve never needed to. I can hear at least as much Zep as I ever want to, whenever I want to.  Zep has been everywhere for as long as I have been listening to music. And now that I live in the American Midwest, even moreso.

There is always someone playing Zep.  And there are always other people who, when they hear it, will say “Right on.  Zep.” and bob their heads along with it.

Bloglines is shutting down.  Bloglines is an RSS aggregator site that I, like a few thousand other people, have been using to read RSS feeds on the Web for the past few years.  I have about 55 feeds set up in Bloglines, and go through about 1500-2500 stories a day.

I don’t actually READ every one of those stories. I go through them by headline and just read the stuff that interests me. And there are a lot of duplicate stories in those feeds.  As a matter of fact, the number of duplicate stories seems to be slowly increasing as more and more blogs and conversations tend to revolve around the same topics.

Anyway, Bloglines shutting down is only a bit of bummer for me.  I liked the interface, and I was also familiar with it.  I could get through a lot of things pretty quickly. I could save stories I wanted to come back to later. I liked the fact that it was a Web interface, because it meant that I wasn’t tied to one machine for reading this stuff.

Now I will have to find some other feed aggregator that will do the same things for me.  I’m fiddling around with Google Reader right now, but I’m not crazy about the interface.  And really, the interface is all that differentiates one RSS reader from another–the content is obviously going to be the same.

But here’s the part that I find really silly: In a blog post, ask.com (who acquired Bloglines in 2005) give their reasons for shutting Bloglines down. In a nutshell, the focus of ask.com’s business is elsewhere, and the “push” concept of RSS is not as popular as it used to be. There’s no way to argue with the former–that’s up to ask.com. The latter reason however, is worth looking at.

The blog post contains this interesting quote: “.… As Steve Gillmor pointed out in TechCrunch  last year , being locked in an RSS reader makes less and less sense to people as Twitter and Facebook dominate real-time information flow. Today RSS is the enabling technology – the infrastructure, the delivery system. RSS is a means to an end, not a consumer experience in and of itself. As a result, RSS aggregator usage has slowed significantly, and Bloglines isn’t the only service to feel the impact.. The writing is on the wall.”

Again, I can’t blame ask.com for not wanting to maintain a site that is not viable.  But I have real problems with the choice of words here, and the underlying mentality.  ask.com is not alone in this line of thought, and in some ways, is merely a victim of it.

Twitter and Facebook are, as anyone trying to make a buck on the oneterweebs will tell you, SOCIAL MEDIA.  It’s where folks just meet, in an informal kinda way, and you know, kick it.  BUT ONLY IF THEY ARE FOOLS! Because, as anyone who is trying to make a buck on the onetrnebs will tell you, the most important thing you can do with social media in today’s modern world of today is make it commercial media.  Get a brand on your ass and get that brand out in front of the peoples.  Step 3: profit.

They are deadly serious. Seriously serious.  1998 serious.

So having a web site for say, potato chips, is a waste unless you have a Twitter account and push 140 character messages about potato chips to people on at least a daily basis.  And having a web site full of information people can look at when and if they want to is vastly inferior to having a Facebook page and posting status updates about potato chips all the time.

Twitter and Facebook have their uses–OK, well, Facebook does anyway–sort of. The problem with them as sources of information however, is that they ARE social. What gets posted on them is modulated by both the poster and the intended audience.  Everything passes through the lens of the poster.  It’s supposed to. And that’s fine, if you want to target messages, or if you want to receive stuff targeted at whatever social group(s) you wish to put yourself in.  As much as they were designed for anything, there were designed for that.

But what if I don’t WANT targeted messages? What if I want the raw feed, so I can choose what I want to read?

What if I don’t want to be social all the time?

Twitter and Facebook may indeed dominate real-time information flow, but what if I want to hear something other than all effin’ Zep, all effin’ day and all effin’ night?

And I just can’t let this sentence go unpunished: “Today RSS is the enabling technology – the infrastructure, the delivery system. RSS is a means to an end, not a consumer experience in and of itself. “

WTF “Today?”  This is what RSS has ALWAYS been. And yes, it is “..a consumer experience in and of itself.”  It may not be one that you can easily monetise, but that doesn’t make it any less an experience, nor any less useful.

I am the sort of person who posts a lot of links with comments and answers a lot of questions, as this blog, and my old Livejournal illustrate.  At least once a week, someone will ask me “Where do you FIND this stuff?”  And the answer is the same every time: “The same place you’d find it if you were looking.”  Back before the Googlopoly, I used to just fire up whatever engine was handy, search for something, and then go merrily sideways across the Weeb, hither and yon, reading whatever interested me, and making mental note of how to find stuff.  And then I might do the same with a different search engine, because back then, the fact that different engines got different results was actually considered useful. I wasn’t trying to get the same results each time.

I used to do this same kind of thing in libraries (pronounced “Lye-berries”) in the dark ages before the tubes, though it was harder to find pr0n there.

The point was not to know everything. The point was seeing how much there was to know, and making better sense of what I did know.

But I can bitch about search engines some other time.

As I said, I find a lot of duplication of stories in the news feeds I read, and this is increasing as time goes on.  The same story about how to set column widths in Windows Explorer will show up in four geek blogs. That stupid story about having your ashes pressed into an LP will show up in a hipster music site, then a couple of nerd blogs, and then filter through more and more popular sources until eventually it ends up on major news sites and finally as a puff piece on television news.  Everyone + dog will have some gabble about famous people having sex, doing drugs, or being arrested for doing so, or going into rehab in order to stop doing so (and hopefully, failing spectacularly).

These same stories show up almost instantly on Facebook, and get Tweeted and re-Tweeted. The same stories with the same comments, over and over.  And that is just dandy.  Just dandy fine.  But I don’t want to just listen to Zepplin, you know?


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Comments

  1. Hey you! I was using the Google Reader until I found Feedly. It is just so easy to use and to organize all my reading/grazing.

    I have your blog filed under art and culture… (yep! I do!!!) on Feedly. (:

  2. I simply desired to thank you so much all over again. I’m not certain the things that I could possibly have carried out in the absence of the type of points contributed by you regarding this problem. This has been a distressing scenario for me personally, however , witnessing a new professional fashion you solved it made me to leap with joy. I’m just grateful for this guidance and as well , pray you find out what an amazing job you are always undertaking training others by way of a blog. Most probably you have never got to know all of us.

  3. Thanks Tandy. Your comments mean a lot to me, and I look forward to further correspondence with you on this topic, which obviously resonates deeply with both of us.

    I took the liberty of removing the link and email from your comment, but I must say, you seem quite friendly! You should be careful about posting information like that so freely, however–there are a lot of arseholes on the 1neterweb who would take advantage of you if they could.

    Best of luck with the spamming, and tell your mom to say “hi” to the johns for me –

    – netdud

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