Do We Need a Simpler RSS?
I was impressed with how the presentation in my last post was able to simply explain social media. The thing that remains less than simple, however, is RSS (which stands for, oddly enough, “Really Simple Syndication”). Simple it is not. RSS is one of the technical bits of glue that makes social media run behind the scenes. We may know it most commonly as a news feed or a feed from a blog that we can read via a feed reader (or aggregator) such a Google Reader, but really these are not easy for the average person to understand or fully implement without some explanation. Without that basic understanding it is difficult to go beyond this to understanding other uses of RSS and help to explain them.
This issue is raised in the video below from the Vascellari Media Channel, in which the prolific Andrea Vascellari interviews Hessu Järvinen and Erkka Piirainen of Finland about how to get started in social media. They point out that at one time people didn’t understand what use instant messaging (or IM) had when we already have telephones and email, and it is just a matter of time for us to come to understand the use RSS holds for us.
I like how they sum things up: Hessu says “be open minded” and Erkka says to “demand more of the developers”. If you don’t understand how to use something, it may not be your fault; it may be a design flaw. Thus the importance of user experience (or UX) professionals!
One person who is particularly good at explaining RSS is my friend Steve Matthews over at Stem Legal Consulting (full disclosure: I sometimes do work for Stem Legal). I try to follow all he posts on his Law Firm Web Strategy blog about RSS and am trying to learn as much as I can from him.
But, aside from all of us explaining RSS to the uninitiated and creating webpages, widgets and other things using RSS without identifying it as such, is there a way to make RSS easier?