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September 20, 2007

Unintentional Humor

Bruce Eckel wrote an article about how bad he thinks RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is as a tool for finding out what's new on the net. In "RSS: The Wrong Solution to a Broken Internet", he writes:

What are you, the consumer, trying to accomplish? You want to be notified when something happens. We have a well-known pattern for that problem. It's called publish-subscribe. The publisher keeps a pointer to the subscriber, and when something happens tells the subscriber about it. Maximally efficient.

Why doesn't it work? Because the internet is anonymous. People can behave badly because nobody knows who they really are, and enough people do behave badly that you can't risk giving out a pointer to yourself. So we don't. Instead, we need RSS where our readers are constantly, stupidly asking, "did it change yet?" "Did it change yet?" "Now has it changed?" "Now?"

And indeed that can be a problem, especially for RSS readers that poll far too frequently. Bruce makes the case for a less anonymous Internet, and I can agree with him on a number of points.

What gave me a chuckle was this bit at the end of the article, which, I imagine, is added to any article on the site.

RSS Feed

If you'd like to be notified whenever Bruce Eckel adds a new entry to his weblog, subscribe to his RSS feed.

With "RSS Feed" in big type. I know, gotta use the tools that currently exist, even if you think they're broken, but it got my day off to a good start.

Posted by Doug at September 20, 2007 09:32 AM

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:) heh! Nuthin like starting the day with a heapin helpin of nice, fresh irony!

Posted by: plodon at September 20, 2007 10:31 AM

The unfortunate thing is that, for all his good points, see this, in rather large type, right after the article sorta gives the article less of a punch than it would otherwise. You almost have trouble taking it seriously.

It's all a perception thing, I know. A small, orange RSS icon wouldn't have nearly the ironic impact.

Posted by: Doug Payton at September 20, 2007 11:14 AM

The thing is, the way I use RSS works perfectly for me. I have GreatNews installed on my USB drive. I download my news in the morning (buy the morning paper) onto my drive, and read it when I get a chance during the day. :)

Posted by: Tony at September 21, 2007 03:46 PM