Come and sit at my table – RSS and serendipity

One of things about wordpress that is interesting and annoying in equal measure is the dashboard. For those who don’t wordpress: it’s the front page of the admin area.It’s got some useful stuff on there. But it is, for the most part, a feed for WordPress news stories.
Now I often find myself clicking on them as they point to new plugins or bug fixes ( a fact of life with open source software) and one I link I will often click to is Matt Mullenweg who actually created worsdpress.

Why tell you this. Well on his blog he has a syndicate section with all the usual RSS stuff. But he also has the following:

How do I feel about syndication? A long time ago Jeffrey Zeldman said something to this effect:
Q: If you offered an RSS feed, I could read your stuff without visiting your site.
A: If you stored your groceries on the sidewalk, we could eat your food without sitting across the table from you.
I’m not going to force you to, but come sit at my table and we can have jolly good time. There is so much on this site that by its very nature will never be available in syndicated format. Come for the words, stay for the pictures, jazz quotes, and useless contemporia.

Does that make me want to cut my feeds or hack them back so that you need to visit the site to read the full story. No. I know it’s an important way to consume information. But when many MSM organisatiosn are re-positioning themselves as the community hub – the big dinner table- it does make me think. Especially if, as some have predicted, the homepage is dead.

We need to work a little harder at how our RSS feeds work.

Really simple serendipity

One of the joys of a newspaper is the serendipity of news. For every story we want to read we may find one we didn’t know about that is equally interesting.

Feeds aren’t like that. They are usually automated, organised and published with structure in mind. I get a news feed or a specific sports feed.

Perhaps what we need to do is start peppering our news feeds with other content. maybe we just need to syndicate everything ? I’m not sure.

I think our news feeds need to stay organised (that’s how people use them) but maybe they are too much about the contents of our fridge at the moment. Maybe we need to think of them more like menus with free samples (and before the word free is misinterpreted, no that doesn’t mean I support pay walls) to entice people in to sit at our tables.

That means we need to know even more about our audience. After all you don’t want just anyone eating at your table.

3 thoughts on “Come and sit at my table – RSS and serendipity”

  1. Andy – I have you rfeed on my Google home page and had an idea.

    One of my sites RSS feeds – ImmersiveVJ.com is setup so that by using the tag in each post, there is the section above that break that is more of a teaser to the whole blog posting within the RSS feed. Ever thought about using that?

    Not sure where you were going with this posting, but I prefer visiting the actual posting on the site if it interests me – hence the teaser first few sentences.

  2. I can’t speak for everyone, but in my RSS feed reader I nearly always will click to go and read the article on the actual site, for more or less exactly the reasons you listed.

    I want to see if there’s some other media embedded in it, or something interesting in the blogroll, or if the site has a nice design.

    If newspapers are doing their sites right, there should plenty of reasons for users to visit the actual site and not just read the feed.

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