Understanding Media: RSS feeds

December 3, 2006 at 11:21 am | Posted in Web 2.0 | 4 Comments
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Today is the day that I want to find out what the fuss is all about with RSS feeds. They’ve been around for a couple of years now, and as the average dummy user seems to be beginning to use them (blog feeds, pod feeds, what have you), I suppose it’s time to devote some attention to them. I’ve ignored them in the same way as I have ignored news readers in the past. When it comes to push technology, an email newsletter seems to be as far as I’m willing to go (I installed a newsreader I think in 1998 and subsribed to the university of Cologne news and to a postmodern news group – no trace of anything newsworthy in the former, and nothing but intellectual flatulations in the latter.)

Ever since Lenina announced that she’d add me to her feeds if I sustained a one post per day output I’ve begun to look into this RSS feed thingy. I first added feed widgets to my blog, not really knowing what I was doing or what anybody else would be able to do with them.

One day later, I looked at my feed stats for the first time: Apparently 16 people had ‘read my feed’:
Feed stats

I’m putting this in quotation marks as I honestly have no clue what that is supposed to indicate. What happened on these people’s computer when they ‘read my feed’? Did they get some type of notification, a little email saying “Jana has posted something new”? Or how did they find out? And why on earth should anybody be interested in getting a notification about the soliloquious jabberings of mine? To be honest, I actually found the thought a bit disconcerting. I wondered who these people were. Would I know them? Would I be able to come up with a total of 16 names of people I know that might be interested? Quite frankly not.

Then again, this was probably one of the famous Web 2.0 effects – stick a tag on your content, and someone interested will find it (yet again, as mentioned earlier, my most employed tag is ‘F***ing Vorarlberg’ – who’d be looking for that tag?)

Nevertheless, some people must have been looking at this blog (that I think of as a diary software rather than an online publication), as it has had some 800 visits so far, 49 visits alone on its best day:
Blog stats

That was the day I wrote about the antifascist demonstration here in f***ing ole Dornburn. I know these numbers are NOTHING in comparison to Lenina’s blog, yet I still keep wondering where all those people come from.

Anyhow, to draw this first investigation into RSS feeds to a close: On my computer, I don’t seem to be able to use them, maybe because Mac OS X 10.3.9. (no, I still don’t have the 10.4 version) or rather the browsers for this OS don’t support feeds sufficiently. If I open feed URLs in one of my (three) browser, I get this:

Safari (still my favourite, though probably no longer the best for Mac – but like many Mac users, I feel slavishly indebted to Apple’s own software):

Internet Explorer for Mac (I think Microsoft has stopped the support for this browser completely):


And this is probably already my best bet on the browsers that I have: The post headings can be fed into a Firefox favourites menu:

But can the whole RSS fuss really be about a drop down menu that updates itself? Is this Web 2.0? If not, is this persuading push technology at least?

Dunno, I am not convinced. Will have to look into one of this RSS feed readers (but yet another browser on my lappy? gnarl….)


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  1. A few comments:

    (1) when you use your browser to view a feed, you can’t open it with the browser itself as it won’t display correctly. The browser needs to have a built-in ‘reader’ for feeds. E.g. Firefoxy has had it for a while. On the other hand, IE I think only has it with its latest version (7). note to self: must remember to uninstall IE7 as it’s shit. With regard to Safari: it says on the Apple website that it does support feeds:
    “Safari in Tiger lets you view RSS (Really Simple Syndication) article feeds (kind of like viewing the “breaking news” ticker at the bottom of a news or sports broadcast, but all at once) in the browser window to keep you updated.”
    from: http://www.apple.com/support/mac101/work/20/

    (I’ll try not to include another link as it’ll only put my comment into moderation…)

    Your screenshots look as if you might have tried that? Maybe not.

    (2) With regard to your traffic and your tags: I’d suggest that you change the tags to ‘Vorarlberg’ instead of ‘Fucking Vorarlberg’ and ‘Web 2.0’ instead of ‘Web 2.0 So what’, unless you _don’t_ want to be found ;). When clicking on teh tags at the bottom of your posts, people will be taken to the WP page with all posts across WP using the same tag. If you click on ‘F’in Vorarlberg’ you’ll notice that the only person using that tag, is you! I.e. no one is going to find the tags since no one else is using them.

    The same is true in my blog with the tag ‘PhD Viva’. I’m the only one currently using the tag, though I’m hoping that will change over time. With all the other tags, I’ve over time tried to reduce them and also align them with existing tags across WordPress. That makes it easier to become part of ‘networks using the same tags’, i.e., so that people clicking on a tag in someone else’s blog are taken to the WP page where my blog is listed as it uses the same tag. Kinda like context-surfing.

    For instance, I often surf along following the tag ‘thesis’ and ‘PhD’, as I’m interested in what other people are doing and how they are coping.

    Incidentally, I found automatthias or rather, he found me, via the ‘thesis’ tag I think.

    with regard to RSS readers, try Google Reader. If you’re using Gmail to access your mail anyway, you can simply add Google reader to your list of Google services, and access it at the same time while accessing your mail. It’s not ideal – I prefer my browser feeds as they are more instantly accessible.

    PS: the only reason my traffic is high is because I ran a story about the Imogen (Big Brother) sex tape by accident, which hugely increased my traffic. To this day I occasionally get traffic relating to the sex tape. Using tags effectively will definitely help increase your traffic, if that’s what you want πŸ˜›

  2. (1) I don’t have Tiger, I got one version before Tiger (10.3.9)

    (2) Right, but I am not going to change the tag to “Vorarlberg” as the point is not to synergize with all thise Vorarlbergian (as mentioned earlier: I am also not going to submit my blog to vorarlblog.at). I now that is very much against the grain of web 2.0, yet only pointing to it limitations.

    To me, ‘F***ing Vorarlberg’ is a minimal, inseparable term. Of course it would not make sense to use two tags: ‘F***ing’ and ‘Vorarlberg’ in separate tags would probably get me in touch with a rather unpleasant crowd πŸ™‚

    As you know from Tuscany – those swingers are everywhere but they dwell in the countryside in particular…

    So I do not want to increase my traffic… certainly not my local traffic πŸ˜€

  3. This is actually the only blog of someone I do not know that I found interesting for a while. Would probably still find it interesting if I didn’t always forget the URL (I know how to retrieve it though). And it feels kind of inappropriate to me to bookmark a blog of someone I do not know.

    Automatthias is different, as I know his blog through your blog.

  4. Let’s say, you like to read one blog post per day. You know one blog, but (let’s say) there’s only 1 post a week. So you find 6 other blogs and achieve 1 post per day in average.

    The problem is, that each time you want to read just one post, you need to visit 3 or 4 blogs per average, or even visit all 7. Just to read one post. Wouldn’t you like be pointed at the new post straight away instead? I bet you would.

    This is where RSS can help. You can subscribe all 7 feeds with an RSS reader (or agregator?). Now, you can learn about new posts from all the 7 blogs by a single look at your reader. Yummy! πŸ™‚

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