Onto RSS – my beautiful, dark, twisted RSS. There’s truly zero urgency here
and relatively few messages (writing blog posts is time-consuming!). Moreover,
returning to our message evaluation framework, an RSS inbox only contains
messages from known senders, since you’ve explicitly had to add their RSS
feeds to your feed-roll. And, since you’ve likely done that because you expect
to value the contents of their messages, you’re likely living in the upper
left quadrant in RSS-land, enjoying that drizzled honey and those
What the essay doesn’t seem to explore is the possibility of giving the user
tools to wrangle incoming feeds. While it certainly gives due time to the value
of automated e-mail filtering.
Gmail, for example, has gotten pretty darn good at spam detection. They’re
“reading your emails” and dropping the bad ones into your “spam folder”
dead-letter queue. Maybe, once in a blue moon, they false-positive something
that you have to go spelunking into that elephant graveyard to find. But I’m
never annoyed by this, because when I see absolute garbage that they’ve
blocked for me day-in and day-out, I’m hashtag grateful again.
This approach, however, isn’t possible with all mediums. There’s no way to
pre-filter on content for an incoming phone-call, for example.
Spam filtering is a must with e-mail, because it’s designed to accept messages
from any possible source. Have to agree with the author that the “blunt approach
of dead-letter queueing” undermines the chance at great, unexpected e-mail from
anyone on Earth.
RSS (and other follows) are an inversion of this: it’s literally an approved
sender list, firewalled against anything else. This implies work on your
part, even if only to add URLs to this list.
So why is there not more focus on giving you layers of control over this list?
It needn’t just be a flat list. Of course it can be categorized, but to
additionally add priorities, search terms, and filters of all stripe.
For example, you could envision following Boing Boing - but only
highlight those posts that other members of your follow network are linking to.
I think I might want to read only the longer essays posted on a given blog. Or
filtering for/against ‘weeknotes’ entries.
And, for sure, the ability to assign importance, so that you can still have
access to less-urgent follows, but they don’t crowd you out day-to-day.
While all of this moves RSS closer to the upper-left of the above quadrant, it
doesn’t eliminate the ‘unexpected’ discoveries. RSS is much more
link-heavy than e-mail and text. There is no trouble expanding your followed
network, because you’re exposed to new links all the time, by way of RSS.
The trouble with RSS is that it doesn’t feel like a cohesive network yet. We
have some plans to improve this in Fraidycat 2. More about this in a few weeks.