My ecosystem is dying

Nearly everyone in my online world is in a tizzy about Google reader going away. So much of my online work an cliff is tied up in google reader, I’m not sure how I’ll replace it. The larger issue is not reader itself, but RSS, which reader is built on. My dissertation focused on rss as a technology that binds the web together. RSS enabled me to forgo the tedious task of bookmarking things and checking them periodically for new stuff. I started with bloglines and moved to reader a couple of years later, mostly because the rest of my stuff was going Google. Through reader, I could easily read and share the blogs and other items I read. There’s nothing else out there that I’ve yet seen that does this so cleanly and seamlessly.

The argument has been that everyone is reading and sharing through Facebook and Twitter. Well, yes. And I use those, too, but those are like moseying up to the display table at a bookstore and seeing what the staff has picked out. Reader is like perusing a shelf of books in the library. There was order to it.

When blogs first came on the scene, I jumped in, reading and then writing. RSS was built for blogs, to capture an audience where none yet existed. Thanks to RSS, I had some 300 readers a day. friends of mine had more than that. we built a community around the connections we made. Newspapers and other online media were late to the rss game. I remember when the NYTimes finally got an RSS feed. But now, now there are those little buttons to like and tweet and pin, so no one needs rss anymore, or reader. I think maybe I know what the dawn of the automobile just have been like. One ecosystem faded, but another was built upon its remains. It’s at once sad and exhilarating. In case you’re wondering, I’m lamenting the passing of the old ecosystem. I’m standing around with my thumbs under my suspenders talking about the days when there were no browsers much less RSS. Yep, I’m the get off my lawn, back in my day, kids these days dude of the Internet.

I’m sure I will survive in the new ecosystem. It’s not like I’m totally unfamiliar with what else is out there, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to do the things I used to do with just twitter and Facebook. I’m going to drive my horse and buggy a little while longer.

8 Replies to “My ecosystem is dying”

  1. Hey Laura,

    Long time no see! I’ve been really happily using NewsBlur for rss-reading ever since Reader removed social in late 2011/early 2012. There’s a free version you can try, and a premium version you can pay for ($2/month, or more if you are so inclined) if you decide you really like it. Besides the browser-based site, there are also free iOS and Android apps, both of which I have used, and both of which are great, although the iOS app is a little further along in its development cycle. I’d recommend giving it a look-see if/when you have some time.

    Hope you’re having a great week so far!

  2. I’m holding off on the Reader replacement until things calm a little bit and the various options actually deliver the latest feature sets they’re promising right now.

    I hated when Reader removed the share option because I used it to share things with my daughter and Google Plus just didn’t cut it since they weren’t allowing teens on there for quite a while. I got used to e-mailing her links, but I still like Reader for letting me know when there are updates.

    Facebook and Twitter aren’t as good for me because there are a lot of non-linky things mixed in, so if I ignore a link for now there’s no easy way to go back and find the ones I haven’t actually read. So, I do read things from Facebook and Twitter, but not in the same way.

  3. I’m using Feedly (though since it was just a front end for Google Reader, I’m not sure what it will be like), as of a week or so ago. Before that I used Apple Mail as my RSS reader (it’s gone now, in the new OS). I have never paid attention to the inner workings of these features, and, I am not a big fan of the social aspect of highly linked interactions. I do, however, like having a list of articles along with a marker showing when they are new.

    Feedly is giving me that now, though I haven’t been able to add all of the sites I used to follow; I was able to see when you posted your latest 2 blog posts through Feedly. So, I’m going to give that a shot. I don’t see Twitter or Facebook as at all a replacement for the blogs I read, and the way I read them. Blogs are more like newspapers, especially the ones I read. I don’t know what Twitter & Facebook are, but not that. And, I’m quite frustrated now at the way that Facebook seems to reorder the feeds.

  4. There is no way in which any of the social media sites are anything like RSS. With RSS, I say, “I like these 50 websites, and I want to follow their updates.” Bam. They are aggregated all on one page in an orderly list. For each list, I can pick and choose what I want to read and all I have to do is expand some arrows. There’s no clicking off to another page or scrolling through other garbage to see if, you know, Gothamist happened to post recently. And what if I did follow Gothamist on facebook? They post all day long, so either I’d never see my friends’ updates, or I’d block Gothamist from my feed and have to go directly to their page anyway. That defeats the purpose.

    There is no good solution to RSS that currently exists. And I’m pissed at Google for thinking that Reader isn’t important (and shouldn’t they be listening to the backlash?). But so far no one has said that RSS is going away altogether, so eff Google. I’ll take my business elsewhere. And maybe for some of their other services, too.

  5. ianqui said what I wanted to say: there is NO WAY that Twitter and Facebook could replace RSS for me. Besides the “updates not getting lost in the noise” issue (not to mention the “I don’t use Twitter” issue), there’s also the simple fact that most of my favorite blog-writers were not spending hours on SEO. They barely had time to post to their blogs, let alone go over to their favorite social-media sites to promote their latest posts.

    Really: I cannot express in strong enough terms how absolutely idiotic I think this claim that Twitter can replace RSS truly is.

    And, I’m surprised not to have seen this discussed already, but come on: I have to believe that RSS just isn’t profitable enough, and that Twitter somehow generates more revenue-generating information for Google. Because getting rid of Reader isn’t just a reflection of a changing marketplace of information, it’s an active attempt to change the shape of that marketplace. So the key question is: WHO PROFITS?

    (I also think it’s sad that Google is announcing the death of RSS so soon after Aaron Schwartz’s suicide. Because really, this is an attempt to kill RSS.)

  6. Who knew there was so much passion among my readers for RSS and Reader! I do think RSS will stick around in some form. It’s really just “special HTML”. But what sites will drop having an RSS feed? And I agree about the following friends versus following the big sites. Yes, I like to check in with the bigwigs once in a while, but if I add them to my Twitter and Facebook feeds, as you guys say, they’ll drown out the folks I *really* want to keep up with.

    Newblur looks promising, Ryan, and honestly, I’d rather pay for something and have a few more “rights” than get something for free and have it taken away willy nilly.

  7. Oooh, I forgot to mention: when you pay for NewsBlur you are paying for the increased speed and efficiency that using the centralized servers and their much faster site caching provides, and also taking advantage of the social RSS-sharing community if you choose to do so. But NewsBlur the software is open-source, so if Sam (the lone developer behind the project, this is not a big corporate effort) ever decides to stop developing NB, you could also take the software as-is and run in on your own website. Two thumbs up for portability!

  8. With a little interface tweaking in its settings, Feedly is doing the job just as well or better than Google Reader. They say they are committed to being there after Reader is gone. You can export your OPML file with all your feeds through Google Takeout, so you’ll have it to use elsewhere. I used THAT to try The Old Reader ( I found that to be…well….old looking…. Meh.

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