RSS Awareness Day. Thought up by the good folks at DailyBlogTips.com and unknown until this morning to even RSS forefather Dave Winer, RSS Awareness Day is a fantastic idea. May 1st is a lot of things already but what the heck, let's pile another one on. We'd like to take a few minutes to reflect on the world-changing tool that RSS is, and consider how different our lives would be without it.There's just a few hours left in what should be an international holiday -
If this is all new to you, start with the now classic short animation embedded below - called RSS in Plain English.
I hope that those of you who know and love RSS already enjoyed watching that video again. Big thanks to Common Craft for doing such work, it was no surprise that they were later contracted by Google to make product launch videos for them as well.
Now, let's consider how different a place the world is because of RSS. Some of this is said in a spirit of fun, some of it is very serious.
Without RSS, The Blogosphere Would Die
If no one read your blog, you'd probably not write on it very often. At least for many, many bloggers it's the knowledge that there are people reading that motivates them to write consistently and to write as well as they (we) can. Imagine having to visit every blog you were interested in by entering the URL manually and checking to see if there were new articles posted. If that was the only option, blog readership would plummet and the number of blogs actively published would wither.
RSS allows casual readers to become ongoing subscribers, easily receiving new articles in a convenient way when they are available. A world without RSS (or, of course some other simple syndication protocol) would be a very bad world for blogs. A world without blogs would be...well, I'll let you make your own judgement call about that. Thanks for reading and subscribing to this blog though!
RSS Brings Podcasts to Life
By the same logic, without RSS it would hardly be viable to publish a podcast. That may be even more true about podcasts than it is about blogs. RSS subscription is the only thing separating podcasts from total obscurity. You can't tell that to all the millions of dogs around the world that get walked while their people listen to podcasts though. For those dogs, RSS is a miracle.
Gillmor Gang, IT Conversations and Democracy Now. If you like listening to podcasts - ask yourself, would you want to go to each show's website, see if there's a new episode available and then download it each time you wanted to listen to a podcast? No, you wouldn't.What are your favorite podcasts? Mine are the
If any of my favorite podcasts went off the air, I'd suffer serious emotional and occupational distress. If it weren't for RSS - all podcasts would go off the air because almost no one would listen to them.
Other Ways RSS Has Changed My Life
- RSS lets me, and more than 100 other people subscribed, monitor changes on a wiki I helped the Committee to Protect Bloggers set up called BlogSafer.org, where bloggers living under repressive political regimes can read in six different languages about the current best practices for blogging anonymously.
- RSS (scraped in this case) lets me put a box like the one on the right on my personal blog, so my readers and I can keep up with the latest posts from bloggers fighting repression against monks and their allies in Burma. You can add a box just like that to your site using the following code:
- RSS helps me keep in touch with all kinds of information while I'm roaming around town, thanks to Netvibes Mobile.
- RSS gives me writing fodder here at RWW and lets me keep track of new developments on hundreds of company blogs, with ease. (Companies, send your feed to firstname.lastname@example.org please!)
- RSS lets me subscribe to searches, it lets me post shared items to my blog from inside my social bookmarking service and it lets me find out what just the most popular items from blogs I like are.
Here at RWW we've written about Ways to Filter RSS Feeds, we wrote about the RSS highlights in the year 2007 - we use, write about and think about RSS all the time. (If you want a look at a real far out use of RSS, here's a post I made on my personal blog today about a very complex use case.)
Does the US President Read RSS Feeds?
The current US President may be just getting comfortable with "the Google" but you can be sure he's got advisors that are subscribed to plenty of feeds. Right? Here's the best thing Dave Winer wrote today:
Wouldn't it be great if Obama said, in one of his stump speeches today, that it's RSS Awareness Day and I just want y'all to know I'm aware of RSS and you should be too.
Wouldn't that be reassuring? Heck, the state of Washington has declared an official state holiday (in June) to celebrate RSS. The least the Presidential candidates can do is say they know what it is. They should share at least part of their OPML files (subscription lists) publicly! They should all be obligated to read an AideRSS-determined most popular items feed spliced together from the top 10 human rights organizations in each continent around the world, if you ask me. As if.
Give it a Try!
Three cheers for RSS! If you haven't read feeds before, or you if it's been a long time - then I'd encourage you to step right up and do so right here and now in the iframe below. It's totally private, no one will see your passwords or subscriptions - this is a little window into the very popular and relatively easy to use Google Reader embedded in this post.
Log-in if you need to and grab some subscriptions. You can type in any web page and Google Reader will discover its RSS feed if it has one. Subscribe to our feed, subscribe to http://BoingBoing.com, subscribe to http://TreeHugger.com or hell, subscribe to http://michellemalkin.com if you want your eyelashes burnt off. The point is that you can subscribe to them all and receive updates in one place, with ease.
Once you've done that for awhile - then you'll be ready to come back and read our post about making the most of your RSS feed reader. Knock yourself out and enjoy! Once you've given RSS a chance, you'll likely never want to go back. May your next year be rich in high quality feeds!