Monday, January 02, 2006

RSS sucks and information overload

Paul Kedrosky makes a great point in his post "RSS Sucks":
RSS is just a clunky high-volume replacement for web browsing. Rather than making it easier to consume information, it makes it easier to drown in context-free news, inducing that panicked feeling we all eventually learn too well when you see an RSS folder stuffed full with hundreds of unread posts.
If you use a feed reader, there must have been at least a few times you've looked at the overwhelming pile of unread articles with a sigh. So much to read. You have to go in, click on each feed, laboriously skim the articles, and slog on through the pile.

But the issue here isn't so much with RSS. RSS is just a data format after all. The problem is that the current generation of feed readers merely reformat RSS for display. They don't do anything else, no prioritization, no filtering, no help dealing with the flood of information.

I saw a quote a while back that, I think, perfectly captures the problem:
We are drowning in information but are starving for knowledge.
The problem is scaling attention. Readers have limited time. They don't want information. They want knowledge. Our job is to help them, to help them focus, prioritize, and find what they need.

Next-generation feed readers should help people find knowledge. Cut through the undifferentiated glut of information and find focus. Cut through the noise and discover knowledge.

See also my previous posts, "Turning noise to knowledge" and "Organizing chaos and information overload".

6 comments:

Andy said...

That's why I dropped my Findory Feed into my bloglines and then I use 43 people suscriptions to watch my friends. It's still a lot of information but it's well targeted and FAR more manageable.

Shawn Smith said...

Greg, this is exactly the reason why Findory is my primary RSS reader now! Findory manages to promote the most relevant articles to the front page and saves me time when I drill into the individual feeds. Many times now when I go to my favorites list I already find the most interseting articles are read from front page browsing.

Now, if only you could add a bit of AJAX to referesh the front page each time I clicked on a link!

Thanks!
Shawn

Kelley Ritchey said...

Good post. I keep returning to the issue of sorting through the mass of information to gain the knowledge.

Just discovered Findory a few days ago, but the commenters helped alter me to the potential

Easton Ellsworth said...

Greg, thanks for provoking thoughts in my noggin. I'm slashing through hundreds of feeds a day in Newsgator and suffering for it. These ideas are encouraging me to find a more clutter-free solution. It's too bad I can't just ask someone to be my news servant (asking Jeeves doesn't work well enough) - although I suppose I could check eBay to see if anyone wants to sell themselves as a personal RSS reader!

Torbjørn said...

Hi. I've followed some of your posts about RSS and information overload. I hope it is ok that I cite you in my master thesis paper?

(I've also developed a local RSS aggregator that filters and priorotizes feeds based on previously read feed items)

Anonymous said...

RSS does suck - I deleted all my feeds from FireFox so it doesn't have to manage them. I never use it.

Until RSS can be better than going to a web site I can't see the benefit unless used for a special application.