RSS feeds–an even simpler way to organize!

For people like myself who declare they love technologies and are open to change, but who secretly fear finding several possible ways of doing the same thing, the simpler the product the better. I am an example of the type of person who files away pages of interesting things she discovers along her web-journeys to revisit them “later.” The result is a running list of bookmarked pages and sites all packed neatly into various folders (and subfolders!) that make perfect sense in the curator’s mind. Until recently, bookmarking tools such as Diigo were my #1 choice because of the dependable and orderly way in which I was able to store my sources.

Before actually learning about RSS in the Electronic Publishing course, the term “RSS” actually unnerved me because I couldn’t grasp the concept of how it worked. I would shy away from experimentally clicking the little orange icon for fear of bringing up a list of things I didn’t understand. Knowing what I know now, I think that’s part of the problem for some people’s under-use of RSS—a genuinely simple process is made seemingly more complicated because of all the different ways of applying it (i.e. you can subscribe via: +My Yahoo!, Bloglines, Netvibes, FeedDemon, NetNewsWire, NewsFire, RSSOwl…etc.). However, for my purposes I picked Feedly and through my experiences of managing my subscriptions I’ve discovered some pros and cons with respect to my information needs.

Pros:

·      Updates. Often, I bookmark something because I think it’s interesting but I never remember or get around to revisiting it consistently. With an RSS Reader, all I have to do is login once and have all my sites listed with the latest posts ready at hand.

·      Content. I love that RSS feeds display only the content that is relevant to my information needs—the posts and stories without the advertising or flashy graphics of the actual website. I found this helpful with a particular website whose glitzy extras seem to create a slow loading and scrolling time.

·      Mobile. There are mobile apps you can download (I downloaded Feedly’s for my Samsung Galaxy III) to access your feeds from anywhere. I’ve tried it rather successfully while waiting for the bus.

Cons:

·      Teaser update. I realized that my RSS feeds reader would only display the headline and one or two beginning sentences for some of my websites. I’ve since discovered that with some feeds, I need to go to the website in order to read the full article (hyperlinked through the headlines in my reader). This defeats my “like” of having only the (textual) content displayed without the advertising and extras.

·      Choices. There are countless RSS feeds reader tools available, each with its pros and cons. It really is subjective, but as a somewhat indecisive user with strong organizational needs, I’d like more of a concrete guide as to the best tools.

·      Necessitates being “on.” For consistent updating and access to full articles, SS assumes its users have continuous access to the Internet.  In this day and age generally isn’t a problem; however, for those who have limited data plans or are conservative data users, or for those who just don’t want to feel tied to being online 24/7, the RSS experience will not be very satisfactory.

From the users’ perspective, I think the feeds update could be a little smoother in terms of presenting bigger snapshots of the article to read. From an organization’s perspective, RSS definitely promotes traffic to the website by offering an easy way for users to connect. I appreciate how smaller businesses, institutions, groups, etc. could speak to their customers through these regularly feeds and thereby expand their online presence. The ultimate question: does RSS really make things simpler? I think that overall, it does.

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