I am having a hard time believing that he (Sam Diaz at ZDNet) and so many others say they no longer even bother to read feeds. Twitter, Facebook and aggregators like Techmeme or Google News suffice for Sam, he says. He’s far from alone.
Robert Scoble provides a different perspective, mainly focusing on the fact that people like us (Marshall, Louis Gray or me) are not normal. His focus is mostly on breaking news, which he says normally ends up on Twitter:
It’s very rare that I see news in Facebook or FriendFeed that I don’t see in Twitter first. It’s even rarer that I see news in Google Reader. Why? RSS isn’t real time.
Robert does state that you need to follow a select group of people with your interests in order to really follow news. His feeling is that we need better filters. In that respect, I completely agree, but I wanted to talk about the main points people seem to be talking about, RSS, human filters and real time.
First, RSS is a data specification, not a protocol and not an application. RSS is that xml format that defines a “syndication” format for your data. In many cases it is an xml translation of your blog post that an RSS Reader will use. RSS does not deal with timing, RSS Readers do. The ping protocol and things like Weblogs servers definitely deal with timing, and that is where RSS and real time get confused. There is nothing stopping people from hooking up their wordpress blog feed to a PubSubHubbub server and that has already been done by many people. However, no matter how fast the data is pushed around, RSS readers are not real time and typically poll servers on some scheduled basis. Google Reader is slowly moving towards PubSubHubbub, and are posting shares through those real time servers.
However, getting real time access to posts in Google Reader does not matter. What matters is what you are reading and whether it is interesting to you. Aggregators like Techmeme or even Topsy tend to find the most popular, most talked about or most shared articles. Typically, this means they also have the most readers. Granted, sites like TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb and Mashable do post some interesting articles, but they tend to be more focused on breaking news. They will be highlighted on all of the aggregators, but are they interesting to you?
This is where Scoble’s thoughts about human filters becomes important. How do you find the appropriate human filters for what you find interesting? Twitter can be helpful in finding people who share things on Twitter, but that is not the full picture. For most people, meaning not early adopters, you would really need to look at Twitter, Facebook and maybe Google Reader. Google Reader is not really mainstream, but it is an RSS reader and there will be very little noise to deal with. I have previously stated that I could be your filter for much of your technology information. But, how do you find that out? How do you know that Michael Fruchter shares tons of good marketing information?
Disappointingly, I do not have the answer. Some people are using tools like Feedly and LazyFeed, and maybe they will figure out the discovery problem. Maybe Google Reader’s new social push will use your connections to aid discovery. Or maybe you are happy reading Techmeme and do not care about breaking news. The main thing is that we are all trying to find interesting information, and we are having a difficult time doing that.