B.L. Ochman discussed why full posts in RSS feeds are a bad idea, and since I don’t totally agree with her reasoning, I thought it best to blog about it (and have this entry come up as a full post in our RSS feed.)
Each part of this entry will be relating to a topic of B.L.’s entry, so here we go.
You Can’t Add Comments To A Post in a Feed Reader
Correct. In fact, this is a main reason why I click-through from full-post entries in a weblog’s RSS feed — because I read the entire post in my RSS reader and I liked it so much I wanted to read the comments and/or comment myself. Commenting functionality is not included inside an RSS reader, because an RSS reader simply aggregates XML data in a way that the user wants, nothing more. It doesn’t take the place of an actual weblog, nor was it meant to, and because of that I don’t see the lack of comment functionality helping or hindering weblogs and their full post RSS feeds.
Feed Readers Aren’t Set Up To Allow Blog Design or Branding
Also correct, but this has nothing to do with full posts or excerpts in a weblog’s RSS feed, it just seems to be an argument against using RSS readers in general. If I want to see a weblog’s design and branding, I’ll click-through and read the blog post from within its nice visuals. The technology of RSS allows you to separate the information from its presentation, so allowing presentation to garble up the cleanliness of an XML feed 1) detracts from its purpose, 2) is a step backward for the medium, and 3) is not what XML nor RSS is intended to do.
XML is a data storage medium that lets you abstract the real, useful information from the way its presented. This is the goal of XML. RSS feeds abstract the weblog’s real content from the design, letting the user decide what they want to do with it. Content is king, and aggregation lets the user have the power over their intake of that content.
Posts That Are Really Long Shouldn’t Be In Feeds
I disagree. What’s the difference between reading a long weblog post in my feed reader as opposed to in someone’s weblog? I’m still reading it on a monitor, which doesn’t do much for my eyesight, so it’s not as though there are real, tangible benefits to clicking through and reading it somewhere else. I want my content, and I want to decide what I do with my content. If I feel like reading a long weblog entry in Bloglines instead of on someone’s site, why should they care? I’m still reading their content — and enjoying it, considering that I’m taking the time to read a long weblog entry in the first place — so where’s the big downfall? It’s benefitting me, a user, because I don’t have to lose context within the rest of my feeds and can read the post I want to as I find it, and it’s benefitting the writer because her content is still being enjoyed by her readers.
Now to support the writing of such long, great, original content, I believe that RSS advertising is the future of the medium. And this brings me to B.L.’s next point:
RSS Advertising Lets People Make A Living Writing Great Content
I agree completely, and the fact that some people have the nerve to unsubscribe to feeds that have advertising in them just makes me sick. Do weblog readers think that producing great content happens with a flick of the wrist and 30 seconds of time? No, time is money, and if I take the time to produce some great content on my weblog then it’s my choice to want compensation for it. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and free content is no exception. Ads in RSS feeds are slowly gaining ground, so expect the next revolution in advertising to be content-based in your aggregator.
We Can’t Read Every Blog
It seems that B.L. is saying that when we come across a full post in our RSS reader, it takes longer to get the jist of the article and therefore we waste more time on articles we don’t want to read. If you think of clicking through to read a full weblog entry as “purchasing it”, then you could also think that feed excerpts are “limited functionality demos”, and full posts in feeds are “full functionality 30-day trials.” I always prefer full-functionality applications when I’m trying them out; I hate being limited just because I haven’t purchased it yet. It’s like trying out a TV but the audio is turned off because that’s a “pay only” feature. If I’m trying to decide whether a post is good enough to read completely, then let me decide on my own. I can scan a weblog entry just as well as anyone else, so a cryptic excerpt just ticks me off.
And B.L. came up with a few bets as well:
Someone Will Come Up With A Feed Reader that Lets You Read The Actual Blog In The Reader
Well my first thought is to say that it’s already been done, and it’s the fantastic technology called bookmarks. You bookmark sites you like to read, and just as often as you check your reader for new content, you can go and check your bookmarked sites to see if they’ve updated. Great solution to a terrible problem.
All sarcasm aside, I don’t really understand what B.L. is getting at. I use Bloglines which lets me see my feeds right inside my browser window, and if I like something enough to read it fully then I just open the link in a new tab and read it when I’m done looking at the rest of my feeds. I can anticipate when a weblog entry is something that I’d like to read in the actual context of where it was written, so in those cases I just read it inside the author’s blog.
80% of Current Blogs Will Die of Fatigue, and We’ll End Up Just Reading The 20% That Are Worth Reading
To agree with this would be to disrespect the authors of blogs I read currently, so I’m inclined to disagree with that statement. The weblogs I read all give different viewpoints on topics I find interesting, and the day I don’t find them interesting I’ll stop subscribing to their feed. I don’t think that 80% of weblogs will simply cease, for when someone without a weblog (or with a weblog that died of fatigue) reads something from the other 20% they wish to comment on, where will this creative outlet go? Well, they’ll start a new weblog, and then the circle continues.
RSS and feed aggregation are a way to empower the reader and let them decide what to do with the information presented to them. That’s what XML is, a way to remove data from how it’s presented so you can do with it as you wish. Feed aggregators aren’t anything revolutionary, they’re simply a way to display data that’s in XML format and keep track of which XML files have already been used. If a weblog author, or any site for that matter, publishes their content as an XML feed then they’re relying on people to use that XML feed the way they want to use it. So, why not let them?