Confessions of an RSS

By Steve Gillmor  |  Posted 2004-02-23 Print this article Print

Addict"> OK, heres the deal. My name is Steve Gillmor. I am an RSS addict. I have 4,624 unread items in NetNewsWire. Why so many? Because I have 400 separate feeds and some of them (the New York Times, Yahoo, Scobleizer) emit hundreds of items a day. Why so many unread? Because what I dont read wont get deleted. Why is that important? What I really want is a persistent, controllable store of RSS data. Not just the abstract, or summary, data, but the full text and graphics, even scripting data, executables, and enclosures. Couple that with embedded browser rendering (Safari on the Mac) and add the ability to cache the Web pages of RSS feeds that dont support full-text.
Now add authoring system services with WYSIWYG features for dragging and dropping quotes, URLs, graphics and formatting. Safari doesnt support XML yet, but Mozilla does—and its cross-platform. Heres where Jon Udells vision suddenly crystallizes. If we have the full text, we can convert the HTML to XHTML and use XPath and XQuery to create whatever view is most appropriate to the consumer.
For me, the view thats most important is the one that reflects my interests—and the interests of those I consider most important. Some of that data already exists in NetNewsWire in an OPML file called MySubscriptions.xml—what RSS feeds I subscribe to, and in what order. The file could easily be augmented with additional data—what items I read, and in what order. Technoratis Dave Sifry calls just such an extension attention.xml. Once I have the attention of the people I value the most, I can mine that data for insights on what they—and therefore I—most want to read and respond to. Its not the number of unread messages thats important; its the order in which I read them. Come to think of it, using Udells XHTML strategy could render a dynamic attention-based view without touching the client code at all. That view could be exported as an RSS feed or even encapsulated as part of the current feed. And the same feed can be saved and viewed on the client when disconnected from the network. So youre right, Brent. Generalizing about NetNewsWire based on Steve Gillmors use of it isnt fair. Its essential. As John Edwards reminded us, objects in the rear-view mirror may be closer than it seems. Or to paraphrase comedienne Carol Liefer, enough about me; what do you think about what I just read? Discuss This in the eWEEK Forum Messaging & Collaboration Center Editor Steve Gillmor can be reached at Check out eWEEK.coms Messaging and Collaboration Center at for more on micro-content and collaboration technologies. Be sure to add our Messaging and Collaboration feed to your RSS newsreader:

Steve Gillmor is editor of's Messaging & Collaboration Center. As a principal reviewer at Byte magazine, Gillmor covered areas including Visual Basic, NT open systems, Lotus Notes and other collaborative software systems. After stints as a contributing editor at InformationWeek Labs, editor in chief at Enterprise Development Magazine, editor in chief and editorial director at XML and Java Pro Magazines, he joined InfoWorld as test center director and columnist.

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