16 December 2004

The RSS honeymoon is over

Summary

Overall, I'm not impressed with feeds, RSS, or the development efforts. The feed-community has had too long to get this right and we're still hearing it will take years to get things done. I think they've exhausted their bridge-financing patience. RSS is not new. A few more months is not going to make a difference. Caution!

Overview

IMO, RSS and feeds are a pass. High risk, insufficient progress, poor coordination, highly political nature of the development cycle, and insufficient outside visibility to the software development cycles relative to requirements and emerging innovations.

There are islands of innovation and great work, but the XML backbone is despised by the developers. Despite this flaw [call it a major one], I see little credible public statements that there's any coordinated industry effort to develop something else. Granted, there is SOAP, but here we are going into 2005 and all we hear is RSS, not SOAP. Perhaps OPML might offer some light.

Until then IMO, feeds are simply repackaged stuff that would have otherwise failed in dot.com bubble I. Feed community is still struggling with the basics, much less developing the next generation of tools. Much like a jr-high-school dance: Alot of hype, not much really happens, but the hype about 'what might be happening' has longer legs than reality.

Demand, but is it profitable demand?

Bandwidth demand exceeding supply is misleading. This simply means that the existing plans are not sufficient. But demand for bandwidth does not mean that bandwidth, when supplied and supported with advertising, will be profitable.

Ref This RSS-feed stuff is overblown, analogous to saying, in 1905, "all this airplane stuff is really overblown." Then again, it was the car, not the plane, that really changed the world.

Feeds are more suited to content-providers, not consumers. Moreover, feeds do little to corroborate research. Either the feed-search confirms other efforts, or there is nothing. Why start when someone is already done; and when there's "nothing" this is no help.

More problematic is that to review RSS-feeds, need to use non-RSS tools. Too keep your feeds pruned, need bookmarks, independent searches through search engines, and constant monitoring of the feeds.

This is backwards. The purpose of having access to a variety of feed, IMO, is to make more informed decision; not to create a pool of data that requires constant-tinkering. Google does the tinkering for you.

Feed tools are wanting

There's poor visibility on the pipeline, the tools do not facilitate notetaking, and to keep one's aggregator "tuned up" need to constantly prune it like a gardener chases bugs. Oh, did I say that? The more feeds you have, the more work you have to keep your feeds "relevant".

The user is hardpresesed to come up with a good basis for selection or de-selection of feeds. Clearly, there's little legacy-data related to feed quality, content, or robustness.

Ease of use vs payoffs

Low marks. The start-up time relative to the payoffs: I'm not convinced its worth it. Given the low volume of validation hits on a particular site relative to the "high volume of e-mail" I'm not convinced the "net change in user content and consumption" warrants much hope.

The surprising thing is that "despite the well supported RSS" system, we have very few personnel in a position to both provide timely assistance, and ensure that the "identified problems" are actually related to something that can be repaired, much less are significant. Even the RSS users group got disbanded!

Searches

Poor. Searching through the aggregators is hit or miss. RSS aggregators do not facilitate searching well; and "new searches" don't need the "old feeds." A

t best, have to already know the scope of the answer and parameters to evaluate the responses before starting the search. RSS feeds are more suited to news blurbs, not deeply intellectually-stimulating information like caselaw.

Searching isn't static and fixed as feeds support. Researchers focus on questions today, and these generate specific search criteria. Tomorrow, the search strings are different.

It doesn't make sense to celebrate a fixed-RSS-search, when tomorrows searches are going to be new, different. Thus, I defer back to google.

Content

Poor. Have yet to see some credible standards and criteria or research results that demonstrate feed-supplied information is superior. We have yet to have a good demonstration that RSS-feed content is superior to that found in books, google-news, etc. Timely information is not necessarily accurate.

I have yet to read a "can't miss this" article from any RSS feed. Feeds lack depth, corroboration, and supporting material to justify confidence in the decision-support system.

Not seeing much to justify the added time. Most of the questions that I ask I tend to have to answer myself. At worst, I have to already know the 'bounds of the answer' in order to evaluate the response. That's a waste of time.

Skimming

More volume to skim. I'd like to see some better numbers on RSS-feed-content users, how the use it, and whether they are actually taking it all in. The incorrect assumption behind feeds is that "feeds are to be reviewed." Content and feeds are not the same: Can have great feeds with lousy content, and vise versa.

All my research suggests people simply have "too much to read" to get to all their feeds. This means advertisers are being told the number of eye-balls is higher than are actually going to "take in the content" much less notice the add.

Timing

To suggest, "Can't miss this" implies need "instant access" for decision making. I don't agree. If, for example, one were making an "am I in an inferior position" [in re buy-hold-sell decision based on "do I have feeds/RSS or not"], I would tend to run. RSS feeds that are "so critical" to a decision, implies the decision is more speculation.

Going forward

Wanting. Need to see some better searching and aggregators. Things that are stand-alone like Google in that content is pre-packaged and better organized in the display for quick overviews.

Uncoordinated efforts. Current products require the user to do all the work, and the output value is marginal. Timely, but not sufficiently important to justify the investment of time. Something the developers have completely missed.

Current search-strings are too short. RSS-content is related more to news-events, not serious academic research or scholarly work.

Update

Need better return on advertising data. That many are advertising is meaningless. Advertisers will not forever provide dollars for ads, regardless their placement, if there are not profitable sales and positive operating cashflows from those cash-infusions.

Yes, feed advertising might be good for the platforms or for google, but the bottom line metric is whether those feeds are translating into profitable sales at a level to more than justify the alternatives to feeds.

For the cost, feeds are competing with directing-home snail-mail marketing. Feeds are in the sea of feeds, while direct mail advertising may have more opportunities to get your message heard and differentiated.
Summary

Overall, I'm not impressed with feeds, RSS, or the development efforts. The feed-community has had too long to get this right and we're still hearing it will take years to get things done. I think they've exhausted their bridge-financing patience. RSS is not new. A few more months is not going to make a difference. Caution!

Overview

IMO, RSS and feeds are a pass. High risk, insufficient progress, poor coordination, highly political nature of the development cycle, and insufficient outside visibility to the software development cycles relative to requirements and emerging innovations.

There are islands of innovation and great work, but the XML backbone is despised by the developers. Despite this flaw [call it a major one], I see little credible public statements that there's any coordinated industry effort to develop something else. Granted, there is SOAP, but here we are going into 2005 and all we hear is RSS, not SOAP. Perhaps OPML might offer some light.

Until then IMO, feeds are simply repackaged stuff that would have otherwise failed in dot.com bubble I. Feed community is still struggling with the basics, much less developing the next generation of tools. Much like a jr-high-school dance: Alot of hype, not much really happens, but the hype about 'what might be happening' has longer legs than reality.

Demand, but is it profitable demand?

Bandwidth demand exceeding supply is misleading. This simply means that the existing plans are not sufficient. But demand for bandwidth does not mean that bandwidth, when supplied and supported with advertising, will be profitable.

Ref This RSS-feed stuff is overblown, analogous to saying, in 1905, "all this airplane stuff is really overblown." Then again, it was the car, not the plane, that really changed the world.

Feeds are more suited to content-providers, not consumers. Moreover, feeds do little to corroborate research. Either the feed-search confirms other efforts, or there is nothing. Why start when someone is already done; and when there's "nothing" this is no help.

More problematic is that to review RSS-feeds, need to use non-RSS tools. Too keep your feeds pruned, need bookmarks, independent searches through search engines, and constant monitoring of the feeds.

This is backwards. The purpose of having access to a variety of feed, IMO, is to make more informed decision; not to create a pool of data that requires constant-tinkering. Google does the tinkering for you.

Feed tools are wanting

There's poor visibility on the pipeline, the tools do not facilitate notetaking, and to keep one's aggregator "tuned up" need to constantly prune it like a gardener chases bugs. Oh, did I say that? The more feeds you have, the more work you have to keep your feeds "relevant".

The user is hardpresesed to come up with a good basis for selection or de-selection of feeds. Clearly, there's little legacy-data related to feed quality, content, or robustness.

Ease of use vs payoffs

Low marks. The start-up time relative to the payoffs: I'm not convinced its worth it. Given the low volume of validation hits on a particular site relative to the "high volume of e-mail" I'm not convinced the "net change in user content and consumption" warrants much hope.

The surprising thing is that "despite the well supported RSS" system, we have very few personnel in a position to both provide timely assistance, and ensure that the "identified problems" are actually related to something that can be repaired, much less are significant. Even the RSS users group got disbanded!

Searches

Poor. Searching through the aggregators is hit or miss. RSS aggregators do not facilitate searching well; and "new searches" don't need the "old feeds." A

t best, have to already know the scope of the answer and parameters to evaluate the responses before starting the search. RSS feeds are more suited to news blurbs, not deeply intellectually-stimulating information like caselaw.

Searching isn't static and fixed as feeds support. Researchers focus on questions today, and these generate specific search criteria. Tomorrow, the search strings are different.

It doesn't make sense to celebrate a fixed-RSS-search, when tomorrows searches are going to be new, different. Thus, I defer back to google.

Content

Poor. Have yet to see some credible standards and criteria or research results that demonstrate feed-supplied information is superior. We have yet to have a good demonstration that RSS-feed content is superior to that found in books, google-news, etc. Timely information is not necessarily accurate.

I have yet to read a "can't miss this" article from any RSS feed. Feeds lack depth, corroboration, and supporting material to justify confidence in the decision-support system.

Not seeing much to justify the added time. Most of the questions that I ask I tend to have to answer myself. At worst, I have to already know the 'bounds of the answer' in order to evaluate the response. That's a waste of time.

Skimming

More volume to skim. I'd like to see some better numbers on RSS-feed-content users, how the use it, and whether they are actually taking it all in. The incorrect assumption behind feeds is that "feeds are to be reviewed." Content and feeds are not the same: Can have great feeds with lousy content, and vise versa.

All my research suggests people simply have "too much to read" to get to all their feeds. This means advertisers are being told the number of eye-balls is higher than are actually going to "take in the content" much less notice the add.

Timing

To suggest, "Can't miss this" implies need "instant access" for decision making. I don't agree. If, for example, one were making an "am I in an inferior position" [in re buy-hold-sell decision based on "do I have feeds/RSS or not"], I would tend to run. RSS feeds that are "so critical" to a decision, implies the decision is more speculation.

Going forward

Wanting. Need to see some better searching and aggregators. Things that are stand-alone like Google in that content is pre-packaged and better organized in the display for quick overviews.

Uncoordinated efforts. Current products require the user to do all the work, and the output value is marginal. Timely, but not sufficiently important to justify the investment of time. Something the developers have completely missed.

Current search-strings are too short. RSS-content is related more to news-events, not serious academic research or scholarly work.

Update

Need better return on advertising data. That many are advertising is meaningless. Advertisers will not forever provide dollars for ads, regardless their placement, if there are not profitable sales and positive operating cashflows from those cash-infusions.

Yes, feed advertising might be good for the platforms or for google, but the bottom line metric is whether those feeds are translating into profitable sales at a level to more than justify the alternatives to feeds.

For the cost, feeds are competing with directing-home snail-mail marketing. Feeds are in the sea of feeds, while direct mail advertising may have more opportunities to get your message heard and differentiated.
" />