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RSS Feeds Should Be a Thing Again
If you count AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger and Pidgin, I've been using social media since 1998-1999. From micro-blogging to launching a personal website with an allotted space available for free upon account creation, I'm an older millennial who has gone from person-to-person communication to household internet access. As things progressed, along with slowly developing a blueprint on what not to do and/or share online, there are times when we look back at former technological trends where we wonder if we now have the resources to re-create a better variant of it. As a matter of fact, one of the biggest improvements, and suggested features, we have today is the beauty and ease of an RSS feed. Oh, I know, it's not the late nineties, early 2000s anymore, but there are good reasons why this deserves a [second] look.
Mentioning my usage of social media, bigger companies and corporations have adopted the best platforms in reporting and updating fellow fans, customers/clients and the general public. With the attention garnered around politics and social justice, citizens have gone to social media to voice out for, or against, causes as a means to try and influence. Unfortunately, this verbal speak-outs have been met and riled with others who disagree, causing flame wars and arguments among friends, family, as well as complete strangers. As this became a recurring theme, it has capitalized more and more to the point where we likely should stop using social media (I made this executive decision, reported here). Because of controversial content being passed around, shared, re-tweeted and even modified to come off as something else, social media companies injected algorithms to lay out results for the user, presenting them with content or news they may otherwise consider, while quietly deterring certain posts that may "wrongly" influence. All that is based on their profile information, personalized ad settings, and other things they've unknowingly provided "in order to embrace and fully obtain the website's features," which, oddly enough, such platforms having denied asking for. However, things change, people change and our likes and dislikes change, so then comes the needs and wants of a "different paradigm," only for the user to realize that they're not getting the new content they want to take note of. Briefly mentioned, allegations of censorship has come into play, particularly among certain posts promoting information that might "mislead," as they say. With that said, if you're the type to keep up with the news, you will be very disappointed using social media as your platform. No worries because that's where RSS come in, plain and simple.
An acronym for Really Simple Syndication, RSS may be outdated, or old school, technology, but its humble growth has made it such a solid choice for keeping up with your favorite website(s). Since you're here reading this post, you may have noticed the horizontal, FOX Sports-like scrolling ticker on the top of this page (go ahead, take a look). While you could implement such feature and design back in 1999, the advancements in web technologies today has gotten so much better, as it makes sense to feature such thing on a website like this. The links you see above are updates and new posts on this website that perhaps may, or may not, interest you—the reader/fan. What you see on that RSS ticker are seven (7) of the most recent updates and posts on this website. If you ever want to keep in touch, we have an RSS link on the top page as well, enabling you, the opportunity to subscribe using, what's called, a "feed reader" to be notified of any new posts and/or updates. Subscribing to our RSS feed, as with other websites, is 100% free.
Why use RSS when I have social media?
One word: Algorithms. You're not always going to see, nor view, specific, let alone all, posts shared by someone nor a business. During our social media usage, we noticed that Facebook 'shadow banned' posts about The Social Network on the day Mark Zuckerberg showed up in Congress. It may not have happened on platforms like Twitter, but we experienced this first-hand, leaving our DVD review of The Social Network with very little, almost no, viewership and clicks. We even tried to re-post it but was almost flagged for spamming. However, a couple of years later, after sharing our DVD review of The Empire State Building Experience, it was met with many views and a handful of comments. Given how big these social media companies are, they've got enough programs and software to curb almost any loophole you can find when sharing content they don't feel is community friendly. That policy of theirs has been met with so much complaints and lawsuits, it's mind-boggling. Those who are business owners, despite their company model, has faced this controversy at least once during their operations. Even though we all stupidly, and blindly, agree to the terms of service, it still bites us back knowing that something as simple as a hashtag could be blocked/banned from being linked with others who've shared the same. (On Instagram's case, there was a time when the hashtag #sun was banned, due to users posting pictures of the sky in what appeared to be two suns—yes, two.)
Okay, so what does have to do with jumping onto the RSS feed bandwagon? My experience with RSS feeds, to this day, has been positive. I've yet to miss a post from the websites I keep in touch with, and if I do, the app notifies me on the number of unread posts I currently have. Had I relied on social media, say, with sports, I wouldn't have known about Julius Randle's commentary on wanting and wishing to re-connect with the late, great Kobe Bryant. Yeah, social media would assume that's not relevant to me, thinking I log in just to keep up with live scores. When it comes to needs and wants, technological features ought to present themselves, even if software developers think it's something the user/fan may not attend to often. Sometimes, algorithms over-analyze or purportedly cross the line, causing unnecessary flagging, taking down specific, non-controversial posts and visual content like images and videos. With RSS feeds, I don't miss a beat and no algorithms are integrated—at least none that I know of—affecting my subscriptions in being notified of new posts the website has uploaded and shared. Whether the post is relevant to me or not, I can choose which one to read and which one to skip; Furthermore, I can click the RSS' title to view and read the entire post, if I need to, although sometimes the article is already fully written on the feed itself. Either way, it's the modern-day newspaper reading.
Ditch the stupid algorithms and go RSS. Less trouble, less stress, and best of all, less drama. ALL webmasters and bloggers everywhere, and for those in every industry today who are reading this: Please add an RSS feed to your website, so that I may happily subscribe. (By the way, a high subscriber count doesn't necessarily mean more revenue for the creator/producer, but depending on your advertising partnership, you can monetize your subscription counts if you want to, especially if you have a podcast. Nevertheless, as mentioned before, RSS subscriptions are completely free, just like ours is.) Some may feel this is another hassle, as it may not garner as much usage, but I beg to differ. Like I said, things change, and what wasn't considered "cool" could eventually become so. While I can see the popularity and use of social media not dwindling any time soon, this move could re-consider the way followers/fans would be notified of the content they keep up with. Adding to that, many businesses, big and small, have integrated a comment filter to automatically remove responses that contain derogatory words, ad hominem, trolling, or complaints that otherwise would shatter services/products the company offers. I mean, if all that concerns you, along with many others mentioned earlier, why not settle for a simple RSS-based feed and let the users subscribe without all that hassle? Whether you enable, or add, a comments section on the pages you post and share is up to you, but I'd suggest considering options for a more efficient, yet cleaner, way to reach out to readers and fans be prioritized. The decision for us to completely leave social media may not bring a slight sign of envy from other company owners who wish to do the same, since it's all about capitalizing on reaching as much people as possible, but we like to lead in our own way, and not follow where the crowd is, and attract fans naturally (to those who have subscribed to our feeds, and/or follow our website, we want to humbly thank you!).
The talk could continue on, but it's time we introduce RSS readers that we've happily been using: Inoreader and Feedly. Both are available for download on mobile devices.
Mind you, this isn't a comparison review, but here's a quick view of Feedly and its layout:
Isn't this how it should be when keeping up with a website? Sleek, simple and presented to you without any distractions. This may be new to some people, unaware of such feature, but you get a peace of mind knowing that new and incoming posts can be accessed without knowing what Karen and her daughter are whining about on social media. (Heck, even if you are entertained by such posts, you don't need all that trouble in your life.)
Another alternative is Inoreader which looks like this:
Once again, this isn't a comparison review, but I find myself using Inoreader a lot. Reason I kept Feedly is the ability to follow specific section(s) of a website, even if it doesn't have an RSS feed to go with it. Different features from both, but they all track and keep up with websites quite well. In terms of space on your smartphone or tablet, it's very lightweight and doesn't hog up your device's resources.
Since this blog post almost sounds like I'm doing a sales pitch, and I'm not, it'd be nice to see an enormous shift into a technological break-through that was supposed to be the standard back then, yet was overtaken by social media. As their growth and popularity has been met with controversies of all kinds, from political conjectures and user privacy to broken relationships and scandalous content, it's time to carry on and cater to something that should've been our main choice since the start. Yeah, I, too, followed the herd as did most people, but having been more serious in our website's business and content creation, there's no reason why we can't lead our own way(s). Again, I truly believe that business owners out there, big and small, ought to follow the same suit, although that's another topic of discussion. Anyway, social media does have its benefits, but given to what has happened in the past decade should make you, fellow business owners, re-consider and re-think where to go about enabling a proper reach to your fans, readers, clients and followers in general. It's up to you, of course, but whether you wanted to ask us or not, we recommend RSS.
If one were to consider reaching out to their users and customers via RSS, it may not take off immediately, unless you're already an established brand. However, upon a simple search, people will gradually and promptly flock to your feeds and subscribe. Before you know it, RSS will rise up due to its ease of use, akin to that of downloading apps to your phone/tablet.
BIG thank you to those who have launched and developed the beauty of RSS, namely the RSS Advisory Board, and also thank you to those who have made contributions into making what it is today. Last, but never the least in any way, thank you to the late, great Aaron Swartz. May you be immortalized forever, and many lifetimes afterward.