Welcome to RSS Club

15 Apr 2018

RSS is the most exciting technology of 2018.

I don't it's that much hyperbole. A decade after its heydey, RSS embodies some of the best parts of the Web.

Dave Rupert coined the idea, and is collecting sites with RSS-exclusive content here. You should join. It's fun.

I presume you've already got an RSS setup you like. I recommend NewsBlur. I'm happy to pay for it.

Why RSS Can Save The World

From Wired's It's Time For an RSS Revival:

"There are multiple approaches to connecting to news. Social felt pretty interesting at first, but when you mix social and algorithmic, you can easily get into these noise bubbles, or areas where you don't necessarily feel 100 percent in control of the algorithm," says Edwin Khodabakchian, cofounder and CEO of popular RSS reader Feedly. "A tool like Feedly gives you a more transparent and controllable way to connect to the information you need."

I really like this sentiment. Most RSS feeds operate on a "pull" model, compared to social media's algorithmic "push" approach. And push approaches are designed to maximize engagement by constantly recommending new, "interesting content".

This is dangerous. From Maciej Cegłowski:

One problem is that any system trying to maximize engagement will try to push users towards the fringes. You can prove this to yourself by opening YouTube in an incognito browser (so that you start with a blank slate), and clicking recommended links on any video with political content. When I tried this experiment last night, within five clicks I went from a news item about demonstrators clashing in Berkeley to a conspiracy site claiming Trump was planning WWIII with North Korea, and another exposing FEMA’s plans for genocide.

RSS has technical defects, but social media is defective by design.

Lately, folks have been recommending "hacks" to make Twitter friendlier and less damaging. Most of these, like "demetricating" or disabling retweets, are built into RSS. So why not just use the better tool?

Join The Club

As Dave mentioned, there are only a few rules to RSS Club:

  • 1st rule of RSS Club is “Don’t Talk About RSS Club”.
  • 2nd rule of RSS Club is “Don’t Share on Social Media”.
  • 3rd rule of RSS Club is “Provide Value”.

I use Jekyll, with essentially the same setup as Dave. Put rss_only: true in a post's front matter, and filter it from your main page.