sábado, 23 de marzo de 2013

RSS readers and self-congratulation

RSS were a great idea. An open standard based off XML so that web sites can easily share latest updates.

What they did great was allow you or a program or other web site to quickly list the updates and provide links/summaries/copy pastes of them.

Less trivial was the management of many multiple RSS feeds a user may have in order to keep track of her favorite web sites. When you have many feeds, you wonder which you have already read. When websites provide only the 10 or so latest updates in their RSS feeds, there is also the risk of missing some updates if updates are not done regularly/automatically. The RSS software client was born.

A small problem with the RSS clients is that users are consistently less and less likely to use the same computer device all the time. Devices now come in all sizes , shapes and purposes. Each with the ability to browse the web. A less common issue is that some people actually use multiple different operating systems in the same device, which unfortunately tend to work the same as if they were different devices.

The 2000s were a fun time for everyone. And when I was testing my first Red Hat and Ubuntu versions alternating with windows and cyber cafe computers, I eventually gave up on the RSS Bandits, the Lifereas and the Kaggregators. I learned about a great little service called Bloglines. It did everything those RSS readers did, but it was a website. Think about it. I could use it in any computer/OS that had a web connection, it was practical.

History is full of disappointment though. The RSS reading business is apparently difficult to profit from. A web service whose main utility is to direct users to updates in other sites? Bloglines eventually broke, was sold to a company whose main objective was apparently to completely ruin it with awful interface changes. I had to be directed to google reader. And for a couple of months it was great. Actually even better than bloglines because you could create your own RSS feed with things you would share from other feeds (and add comments even). Too bad google decided to kill this too. By first ruining it with awful interface changes of its own, and crippling google reader by replacing the sharing feature with google+ trash. This was a great way to scare away users, which then allowed them to announce that they are shutting it down because of lack of users...

Life goes on, and there are google reader alternatives. It seems most people are jumping ship to feedly, which means that feedly is next in the line to be ruined absurdly by a sale, or company decision.

You all might be wondering what Linux.com has to say about this... Goodbye Google Reader, Linux Has Its Own RSS Aggregators... I got a bit of a problem with this. I think Linux evangelism is great. But not when it provides non-solutions to people. The kind of people that are going to miss google reader most likely have already heard of local software RSS clients and they did not find them to be a complete solution to the RSS aggregation problem. A google reader alternative has to be online or be at least barely on-line based, using a server's database to keep track of whatever you already read. I just think that this sort of forced evangelism ultimately does not really help improve the image of Linux or open source.

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