Open database of RSS feeds

Webrings 2k16
Okay, idea: have a javascript widget you can insert on article pages on your blog. This widget collects basic tracking data, offers the ability to follow the author, and depending on how the author configures it can do a few other things: display related articles the user might want to read, let users fav articles, and let users comment on articles (using Twitter OAuth, maybe with Medium's highlighting UI.)

Basically it's Medium for the decentralized web, or an up-to-date version of webrings. To replicate Medium's success there would have to be editorial judgment applied to who can join the network, but it would be interesting to have an "unlimited class" version of the widget where the only control exercised is what's necessary to avoid malicious activity (easier said than done, I know.)

If you have all this stuff you can create a site to serve as a front door, or several front doors for different topics. You can also create composite RSS streams, a social layer (mention other users in comments, or even in the main body of an article - the crawler could look for twitter handles or links to in-network sites in article text.) Oh, and you're well-placed to create a boutique ad network, assuming you sign up the right people.

The tracking data would be anonymized, of course, despite the impact on ad revenue. I want to make the tracking data fully public, as well, to emphasize how non-creepy it is.

Like Medium, it could turn into a drug if the traffic angle works out, but that would be a good problem to have. And you can drop out any time, the only thing you lose is the comment history (and the service could offer an export feature for that.)

Someone's gotta have tried this, right?

"a format for syndicating social activities around the web"

I had no idea this existed. Or maybe I just didn't care when I heard about it the first time. Supported by Facebook, Google, MySpace; not used by LinkedIn.

From the rationale:
And if I haven’t made it clear what I’m talking about, well, we’re starting with an assumption that activities (like the ones in Facebook’s newsfeed and that make up the bulk of FriendFeed’s content) are kind of like the synaptic electrical impulses that make social networking work. Consider that people probably read more Twitter content these days than they do conventional blog posts — if only because, with so much more content out there, we need more smaller bite-sized chunks of information in order to cope.

So starting there, we need to look at what it would take to recreate efficient and compelling interfaces for activity streams like we’re used to on FriendFeed and Facebook, but without the benefit of having ever seen any of the services before.
In other words, how can we make the user the center of gravity again, instead of a bunch of applications that want to own the user.


Extending the usefulness of feeds
movieos: "I'd buy a magazine in digital form if it came bundled as an Instapaper-powered list of articles, each of which tracked if I'd read them, and how far down I'd scrolled, synchronized this state with all my other iOS devices, and had associated images cached locally, and offered convenient 'tweet this article' functionality."

It makes sense to have different interfaces for consuming different types of content, I'm not suggesting this should be done in a typical feed reader. But no reason feed readers shouldn't implement these features.

Why I'm still excited about feeds
Since moving to San Francisco and talking to people about joining the tech industry, I've been asked several times "so, what would you find it exciting to work on?" When I answer "feeds - you know, RSS, Atom that kind of thing" I invariably get a blank look. Maybe if I develop my thoughts I'll do a better job communicating my enthusiasm.

I use a feed reader daily. I use it to keep up with blogs that I'm interested in, of course. I've written before about how it changes the definition of a high-value blog, from high-volume to good signal to noise ratio.

That's the canonical geek use case for feeds. It's not going to take the world by storm, even with simpler tools.

But there are other things I use feeds for. I use them for anything that I want to check regularly that has a feed available:

  • My friends' Flickr photos (based on my Flickr contacts)
  • Comments on my Flickr photos
  • Local events (based on my profile)
  • Comments on MetaFilter threads that I care about
  • Trips my friends are taking (through Dopplr)

This is starting to look a lot like Facebook, right? And one way to look at Facebook is a feed reader in a social context. The design is nicer than MySpace's, but what really distinguishes Facebook is that central news feed. "Like" is a really simple method of subscribing to a feed, and becoming friends with someone subscribes you to multiple feeds about their activity.

Facebook's popularity means that hundreds of millions of people are looking at a feed reader every day. Many of the applications built on the platform are only possible because it's such a good interface for consuming feeds. Suffice to say I don't think Facebook is a fad that's going to die out. People's activity online is increasingly going to revolve around subscribing to, consuming and interacting with feeds.

But short of building a Facebook competitor, what are the opportunities for cool new applications? Watch this space.

Google Reader
This must have come out back when I didn't care about RSS, I knew nothing about it. Anyway, it's the first feed reader that works for me (web-based, fast, pretty, keyboard shortcuts.)

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