Friday, October 10, 2008

Counting Chickens

A feed or really simple syndication (RSS), carries a message such as text-based blog entries, audio files, and news.These feeds often result from items that are updated regularly and have subscribers. These feeds are commonly full text in addition to some metadata.
The most obvious benefits to these feeds is that they are free of charge (for the most part, for now), quick and automatic. The fact that this medium is free is highly important. I think about garage sales. Do you ever recall going to a yard sale and there was that big bag on it that said "FREE"? I do. This is like an RSS feed in that we all see it, we are surprised by it, and intrigued; yet, if we take it we usually only like the stuff in the bag for a few days before we realize it is mostly junk. I say all this in both a positive and negative way. It is free (yay!). It is free (all this is mine?) . In addition to being monetarily free, an RSS is quick and somewhat hassle free for the organizations that use them. This means a number of things for those organizations. First, there is very little concern over "will the message go out in time?". Through an RSS, information is sent immediately upon update; thus, outside of the IT individual, no real time is spent in the delivering process. Next, this quickness fits in with the fast paced world that we live in. With everyone always in a hurry, this feed enables those on the go users to get the information they want. Which brings me to my next point.

RSS feeds enable users to get exactly what they want. We live in a country where we choose what type of drink we want, what color we want our hair to be, and what career we want to have. Now, with RSS feeds, we can choose what news we want to read. Although, we've always chosen what news we read, now we get to read ONLY what we find interesting. There is little or no wading through the unwanted stuff (making the assumption the subscriber subscribes only to the info. they want). This is beneficial in that it matches our interests specifically; however, it may create an unvaried makeup. Consider this: if a person continually gets the same information, from the same (hopefully unbiased, but lets be realistic, probably not) source, they may never be exposed to something different from what they believe. From a cognitive dissonance standpoint, this is a comfort, but consider all those times we change our views ( we are undoubtedly fickle). RSS feeds could potentially inhibit new viewpoints in an already very divided and stubborn society. Let's take a look at the other threat that results from that "more of the same" concept.

I think about when I subscribe to a magazine. At first, I am so excited everytime I open the mailbox. However, after about the 5th month or so, that magazine is not so intriguing. The articles begin looking the same and my time is precious, so I sometimes just toss that fun little mag to the side. So I wonder? Do RSS feeds, after time, get tossed to the side? That is, do people really read all those notifications every single time? Here's the issue. Organizations have no way of knowing; therefore, I feel this is the biggest weakness of a feed. When a medium is producing results, yet there is no way to measure them, companies risk counting their chickens before they are hatched.

RSS feeds are free, quick, and automatic; however, those that receive them may become bored or even suffer from information overload. With no precise manner to measure their readership, organizations must be careful not to assume a feed is truly carrying and delivering the message.


keshia said...

I love your analogy about the FREE! bag at garage sales. That's great and an awesome way at looking at blogs. I do agree that after awhile, most of it (the items in the free bag and the RSS items) would become junk. Granted, there will be those things that you really want up-to-the-minute updates on, but other than that, it seems like it could take even more time to sort through the junk that you didn't really want to find the good stuff! :)

I do agree with your comment about RSS feeds playing into our sense of immediate information. Instead of actively searching, the informtion now comes to you within seconds. I wonder what they will come up with next...

Susan333 said...


Excellent work on your blog!


Margaret Orlando said...

you are SO darn good with analogies! You are going to love the persuasion chapters in COM 115 when you teach them


Margaret Orlando said...

and you make a really good points that we may start having 'blinders' on our face if we keep getting only the news we want. I think you may have persuaded me to at least subscribe to multiple news sites and information. If I choose NPR news, I better get Fox as well to see what other stations are talking about. see you tomorrow!