My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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what i want in an RSS tool

When i first started using RSS, i was ecstatic. Rather than relying on going to each person’s page, i could just throw them all in one place and go through them. I’m a bit more disillusioned now.

I got all excited and started adding every blog that had an interesting thread. Almost humorously, i started breaking after about 150 regularly updated blogs. Worse: i miss half of the interesting posts that i want to read because i’m too overwhelmed.

This made me sit back and think about what kind of an RSS feed i want.

First, i want to be able to choose to watch an entry, a topic or a person. I don’t want to be forced into a person only; this unit of view is way too big.

Following a person should be like now – i see everything in their feed.

Following a topic means that i can specify things like “all entries by this person related to ‘echo chamber’.” As such, i can follow whatever this person has to say on something. This is particularly relevant for following bloggers who have a topic of interest to me, but whose entries are by in large, not of interest. Of course, i know that this means that all of you YASNS followers will never read my V-Day writings. But alas, i know you don’t care about my politics anyhow.

Following an entry is a bit more fun. Say that i find an entry that i think is of interest – either in my feed or out there on the web. I should be able to add/mark the entry so that the entry tells me when there are new comments and all new trackbacks get inserted into my feed as single entries too.

Personally, i’d like to tap into the graph of blogs. Technorati knows the linking structure. Forget blogrolls. We can see who links to who embedded in their blog. We can determine blog topology. Why can’t i have topic-based RSS requests. “Tell me anyone within 3 degrees of my network who is talking about ‘rape’ or ‘domestic violence’.” In theory, Google should help me on this but that’s overload! Plus, i can’t pull out just the blogs (a feature that i’m STARTLED they haven’t implemented after having purchased Blogger).

Finally, every day trusted friends of mine send me URLs. When i surface for air, i have to fish through thousands of emails to find those interesting tidbits. I love getting recommendations from friends. Why can’t they just drag a URL into my RSS feed? Why can’t i have a feed of “every URL that Ronen thinks i should read”? Frankly, this would be so much more efficient to reading things. Plus, my friends know what is of interest to me. Another thing is that it should be possible for me to have a public dump. Anything that people in the public think that i should read.

I don’t want automated recommendation systems. I want tools so that my friends can do what they already do – pass on information that they think is relevant. But i want to make it easy for them. And perhaps have a mechanism to say “THANK YOU!”

As more and more people blog, RSS is going to break on the social/attention level. In many ways, it already has for me. I’ve started interviewing bloggers and i’m fascinated by how hard it is for them to consider adding something to their RSS. Overload. Overload. If anyone wants to know why the early players get all of the attention, it’s because RSS feeds focus on people, not ideas, and the early players are too overloaded with following the other early players to consider new people.

Anyhow, just an idea… Although i’d love anyone’s thoughts on this approach. [Perhaps there are tools out there… So far, i’ve only used Bloglines, Shrook and NetNewsWire]

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55 comments to what i want in an RSS tool

  • Combining RSS, OPML and FOAF for feed searching – who’s going to do it first?

    Yesterday I was reading

  • we have built a software tool that allows anyone to create public or private boards – invite registered users to contribute or to be comment(ators) and then to join either people (get their ideas) and/or join ideas (get comments on ideas too). the things you join get put into your private space and can also be sent to you either as an email or as a text message. adding rss feeds to this isn’t really that hard. we have had the service running as a private trial in a large telco for a while. i love getting things sent to me from people i have joined but their is little or no activity from other users. haven’t worked out the answer yet!

  • we have built a software tool that allows anyone to create public or private boards – invite registered users to contribute or to be comment(ators) and then to join either people (get their ideas) and/or join ideas (get comments on ideas too). the things you join get put into your private space and can also be sent to you either as an email or as a text message. adding rss feeds to this isn’t really that hard. we have had the service running as a private trial in a large telco for a while. i love getting things sent to me from people i have joined but their is little or no activity from other users. haven’t worked out the answer yet!

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