I’d like to think I can consider myself reasonably well-versed when it comes to RSS. I used to teach classes on subscribing to RSS feeds back in “the noughties” when they first started becoming commonplace. We’d help people set up a Google Reader account, show them how to get journal contents, database search and citation tracker RSS feeds. It was a great tool for researchers (academics more so than students, but maybe PhDs) to just set and forget as long as they checked their Reader once in a while.
Not this sort of feed…
Another thing we used to show people, and a tool I quite liked myself, was the variety of programs that used to convert RSS feeds to emails and send you a daily digest. I used one (Feedburner from memory?) myself for a while and it was great. Even easier for the set-and-forgetters as it’s coming in to something they check all the time, no need to go to another site.
I used RSS feeds quite a lot – used to get the feed from the XCKD webcomic and it’d give me a smile every morning when I came into work. I used to get feeds from a few library and tech blogs, so I could do a browse through for professional reading quickly (there was always a lot of duplication). I used to be involved in the Blog Every Day of June challenges many Australian library professionals did annually, and my reader was a great way to amalgamate all those blogs together for reading, commenting, being part of the community.
Google Reader has since been, um, “euthanized” by Google (what were they thinking? Did they not look at usage stats at all? Surely it could have just sat there without any developer having to lift a finger to update it or anything? *sobs*) Feedburner also suffered tragic abandonment and assisted death. All my RSS tools were decommissioned in the space of about 6 months, and I tried a few other services but they were so buggy I gave up and looked for alternatives.
What does that mean? Does it mean RSS is dead? Maybe not – maybe it’s just changing where it lives and how we get to it. Building LibGuides, I’ve put an RSS feed widget into every single one. It feeds in new release news stories on the given topic and adds meaningful content to my LibGuide without me having to lift a finger. Lots of people are using things like TwitterFeed and similar to get the RSS from their blogs into their twitter accounts. I must say, many of the personal blogs I’d previously followed on GR have gone down that route and I still see all their content, just via Twitter now.
So maybe microblogging and widgets are the way we get push-out content now. Maybe readers are (were?) a second-tier tool in a tech toolbox so full these days that the second we could get our other tools to do that for us, we didn’t need them any more. But the more a tool gets subsumed into a larger do-it-all tool, the more it gets missed in the minutiae of everything else that tool gets used for.
If you do still use a reader, I’d love to know why and which one! I could be tempted back, I think, given the right tool…
(P.S – I still miss GR and Feedburner a bit every day…)