Why can't my RSS play with your email?

December 8, 2006

Over at Signal vs. Noise, Matt talks about taming the RSS beast:

Is keeping up with RSS feeds a challenge for you? If so, what solution would you like to see? Are there blogs or software tools out there that are already doing some/all of the above well? Let’s hear about it.

I probably subscribe to fewer RSS feeds than most people — I’ve got 16 in there right now, and less than half of those publish even a post per day. And still, I find it to be an annoyance sometimes. It’s just oh so compelling to click on those Bold Headlines (56).

In the comments to the SvN article, several people suggest that you should only subscribe to feeds that you can’t miss, and the rest you should keep as bookmarks in your browser. What if I don’t keep bookmarks in my browser? I work on several different computers during the day, and one of the things I love about subscribing to RSS feeds in Bloglines is that everything I want to read is in one place, and accessible from any computer.

Jeff raises a good point:

I don’t have any answer, but this post got me wondering: is there really a fundamental difference between managing your RSS feeds versus managing your email inbox. Of course there are differences, but basically you just need a way to prioritize and quickly evaluate what you want/need to deal with now versus later. How do you manage your inbox? Why can’t you use a similar approach to feeds?

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. We deal with all kinds of information on a daily basis, in many different formats: email, blog postings, rss feeds, documents, bookmarks, etc. Each one of these formats has is managed by a different application, each one with its own features and quirks. Every application you have to be familiar with adds a little bit more to your cognitive load. Why do we insist on segregating our data based on its format? Couldn’t a single application be able to deal with different data formats?

This is something I will be writing about a lot more on this blog — the problems with current information managment software, and what can be done to fix them. Stay tuned.