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Sunday, January 26, 2003

Fries With That

JD Lasica's recent OJR article (News That Comes To You) is thorough and informative, and helps explain not only why the currently available RSS aggregators are compelling, but why the next stage is going to be even more critical. Integration into browser and email clients seems inevitable and key:
Among the developments already under way: The open-source Mozilla browser and Netscape 7 come with sidebars that can display RSS feeds. ... Suggests [freelance software developer Roger] Turner: "The perfect news reader won't be a 'news reader' -- it'll be an agent that mediates our interaction with personalized bulletins: aggregating, filtering, and prioritizing many sources of changing information."
Personally, I haven't found a tool available today that I've fallen utterly in love with (the app I find myself liking most consistently is Web-based BlogHog, and it could benefit from a feature infusion), but there is no question I'd rather view and select headlines from tailored feeds in an aggregator than sift through and delete email, even with the most sophisticated rules and folder structures aiding the process. The latter is bound to be more time consuming and invasive. By way of illustration, compare the following two restaurant scenarios. In the first, a diner is presented with a categorized menu and permitted to order what she wants. In the second, the kitchen's entire output is heaped on the table, and the diner must decide what to send back. In the latter case, it doesn't matter that this is the diner's favorite restaurant, or that the food as arrayed is well organized. Ordering off the menu inevitably will be faster and require less of the diner's energy and participation. There may of course be diners who prefer to have everything brought to the table, but those individuals will have more time, and/or more desire to make case-by-case decisions about what is appetizing, than those who prefer the menu route. Be sure to check out the follow-ups to JD's article as listed on his blog, Tom Matrullo's observation that "technical newsreading mastery brings with it a richly expanded and imaginatively transformed reading of the news," and the discussion going on at Ernie's about what people are trying and using. [Update] Tom clarifies. Ah. I guess in response to Tom's suggestion I would offer the fact I know I access a wider variety of information, from diverse sources such as his wonderful blog, than I did before I had the help of RSS and aggregation. For me, it has expanded the sources I rely on for news and made me a more critical and sophisticated parser of what I read.

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