I talk about RSS feeds quite a bit — they’ve been around for decades and are one of the easiest (and best) ways to keep up with your favorite blogs.
However, in the zeal of my love for it, I sometimes forget that not everyone knows what RSS feeds are, much less how to use them in the first place.
Derek Kedziora (an Ukrainian blogger, no less!) beat me to the punch with his “gentle” missive on RSS and its purpose:
RSS stands for really simple syndication, and that’s precisely what it does. RSS turns content into a feed. An RSS reader then checks feeds to see if there is new content.
Let’s say I subscribe to 100 RSS feeds: a mix of blogs, newspapers, YouTube channels and forums. Each day I open up my RSS reader to see all of the new content from each of these feeds in one place. It’s a morning newspaper for the internet.
He brings up a great point how RSS feeds are a very patient (and quiet) form of keeping up:
There’s no FOMO. If I take a week off from my RSS reader, I don’t get any notifications begging me to come back. All of the content is sitting there waiting.
The solitude of an RSS reader is a fresh relief from the unrelenting firehoses of social media.
And you are free from the yoke of algorithms because *you* get to decide what to read.
For more, including Derek’s recommended RSS readers and such, mosey on over to: A gentle intro to RSS
“Beware the awful avalanche.” ~ Longfellow
By now you’ve probably heard Google’s testing an RSS follow button in Chrome that lets readers follow blogs, etc. and read those articles in a new “Following” tab in the browser.
At first glance it’s great news — anything that helps readers follow blogs can only help, right?
The problem is this is Google we’re talking about… The same hegemonic tech company who killed off the extremely popular Google (RSS) Reader in a failed effort to herd us towards their doomed Google+ social network.
This is the same Google that tried to shove their ignoble AMP crap down our throats in the guise of furthering their search engine dominance. It’s also the same Google who is trying to monopolize email delivery through their Gmail service by forcing us to dance around their promotions folder and filters to get in touch with our very own readers.
So while I love the idea of making it as frictionless as possible for readers to follow our blogs, I’m wary of Google’s past of luring people in and then sinking their monopolistic claws into us, forcing sites to do things their way or lose followers (or relevance or SEO juice or what not).
You know the saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!”?
Exactly how I feel.
☞ UPDATE: After I finished writing this, I see that Scott Nesbitt opined with his excellent (and more reasoned than mine, for sure) thoughts on Google’s RSS follow button:
Unlike some of the doomsayers, I don’t believe that the Follow button will kill RSS, either. The Follow button in Chrome has little or anything to do with RSS. In some ways, it seems to be an attempt by Google to replace or supplant RSS rather than being a direct existential threat to RSS.
That’s not to say that the Follow button is innocuous. It has the potential to be very dangerous. [ … ] when you tap the button, an algorithm is also making suggestions. That can quickly build a filter bubble around you, pushing misinformation and the like your way. [ … ] Worse, you don’t have any control over what’s pushed your way unlike the control that you have with RSS.
Amidst the strangeness of the past 15 months or so, I’ve been struggling to maintain a consistent approach both with publishing new blog posts, and responding to comments.
Despite only setting myself a target of a new post every three days, little has changed since then, and I still feel most of the time I’m scrabbling to have a new post ready in time.
He says he’s responsible for setting a pace:
Now, it’s important to note that the only one who ultimately sets the pace of a personal blog, is its owner.
And ponders thus…
However, then the dilemma is, if I publish less, would readers lose interest and drift away anyway, so there’d be a dwindling amount of comments anyway?
My thoughts for Dan:
You have it in your head that you must maintain some kind of specific balance of pace in order to keep your audience (ala readers). When this happens you’re not writing for yourself; you’re writing for Mr. Pace.
Hence the struggle within.
The secret sauce to a happy blog is to write when you feel like it and throw everything else outta the window. Your readers will figure it out (or you can tell ’em you write with the flow).
In other words, screw pace. Make your blog truly yours in all ways. Otherwise it’s not yours. Think of your blog as your own journal (that you happen to have open to others). True journals are immune from the vagaries of time and pace.
Don’t worry about the number of comments you get, either. If you do then you’re writing for comments. Write only and uniquely for you and be free, whether you get 0 comments or 100.
It is when you are truly free that your best writing flows forth.
Personally, I love your blog and I follow it religiously via my RSS reader. I get your stories whether you blog once a month or thrice a week.
I don’t care how often you do it. I care that you do it when you feel like it so it’s not forced. If it’s forced I’ll know it and that’s when you start to lose me as a reader.
Write for yourself, pace be damned. You’ll be happier and so will we.
Following up from Blogging from insecurity into authenticity, where the gist is to be authentic and simply write for yourself:
While you are worrying about everyone else’s opinions on the correct way to do things, you’re not writing.
Just write and publish however you want to. Sit in the chair and do it.
. . . the most important part about writing isn’t where you’re doing it, the tools [you’re] using, or the look of your blog, it’s the process of writing itself.
Greg and Chris are excellent bloggers, both whom I have been following for quite some time via their RSS feeds. They know what they’re talking about and their advice is sound.
I recommend you follow them, too.
That tweet you blasted out with a massively embarrassing typo in it? Or the email newsletter that went out with a gaffe of epidemic proportions? Too bad. It’s like that late night fling you can’t take back and your wife leaves you.
You’re utterly unforgiven.
But that blog post? You can correct it anytime. Your constant refinements can mushroom it into a finely tuned piece of literature. You can even rewind time to edit out the aforementioned fling.
You are forever forgiven.
Long time blogger artist Austin Kleon writes on blogging as a forgiving medium compared to others:
The ability to “move it around for a long time” is what I’m looking for in a writing medium — I want words and images to be movable, I want to switch them out, copy and cut and paste them, let them mutate.
But most importantly, I want to be able to be wrong. I want to change my mind! I want to evolve.
. . .blogging feels to me like a world of endless drafting, endless revisioning.
It’s a beautiful thing to be able to re-create over and over again.
(Now if yer twisting the truth after-the-fact for nefarious purposes, that’s a whole different matter that will bite you in the arse.)
He also makes a excellent point when he says readers need to be forgiving towards bloggers too. After all they’re expending their blood, sweat, and tears without asking for much of anything in return.
To do the exploration that growth and change requires, one needs a forgiving medium… but what one really needs forgiving readers.
While you’re over there, bookmark him and sign up for his newsletter. It’s good sheet.