Information overload sucks and RSS

There seems to be some kind of backlash building up against the widely popularized RSS feed format. Most recently, an article posted by Paul Kedrosky entitled: “RSS Sucks” caught my eye. Ironically, i noticed his article because i was browsing around in my RSS reader. I use SearchFox primarily, and without it i honestly don’t think i would have ever seen his post. I also saw a post by Greg Linden called: “RSS sucks and information overload” which was in response to Kedrosky’s article.

As you may have noticed, the title of this post is a deliberate play on Linden’s title. While i agree with him that Kedrosky seems to have totally missed the point of RSS (ie: you don’t blame a data format), i don’t think that all feed readers are the same. And so, Linden’s title still seems a little misleading to me. We both agree that the problem here is definitely software and i know of at least one feed reader that solves most of the problems described in Kedrosky’s post. Again, i’m talking about SearchFox.

As Linden has pointed out:

“RSS is just a data format after all. The problem is that the current generation of feed readers merely reformat RSS for display. They don’t do anything else, no prioritization, no filtering, no help dealing with the flood of information.”

I’m not going to deny the growing problems posed by information overload. But, in my opinion, SearchFox is a “next generation” feed reader designed with machine learning technology that both prioritized and filters information similar to the way Findory learns to assume what articles you’re going to be most interested in. The difference is, and this is why i hesitate to even compare SearchFox to Findory [see previous comments posted between Greg and I], the latter doesn’t let you choose your sources.

So, to go back to a common analogy that surrounds RSS: “We are drowning in information” [borrowed from Greg's post]. To this i would have to say:

i’d rather be drowning in an ocean of my own design.

oh, or maybe i’d also say:

Nobody forced you to swim over to the deep end of the pool. (that one sounds pretty mean though.)

[ For a more in depth comparison of feed readers (including SearchFox) you can read:"3 week shakedown, 2 RSS readers remain.", which is itself a follow up to an earlier post entitled:1 week comparison: SearchFox, Feedster, Pluck, Bloglines, Rojo, and NewsGator", which is itself a follow up to an earlier post entitled: "So you think you can RSS? How", which is itself a follow up to an even earlier post entitled: "So you think you can RSS? Why". ]

Comments 7

  1. Greg Linden wrote:

    Hi, Elran. Good point on the title of my post.

    By the way, not sure if you’ve seen it, but Findory did launch a feature in Sept 2005 that does let you choose your sources. It is available at

    http://findory.com/s/

    It’s a feed reader integrated into Findory, combining the ability to pick sources with recommendations for other articles and sources.

    Import OPML or choose some sources to get started. Hope you enjoy it!

    Posted 02 Jan 2006 at 6:25 pm
  2. elran wrote:

    hey Greg,

    i’ve actually been using Findory the last couple of months (since the time you mentioned it earlier) -although i still don’t have a registered account. But i’ve been using it more as a sort of news portal. Whenever i’m in the mood to venture out for new information (outside my usual bubble), i’d go to sites like Findory, Tech.Memorandum, Digg.

    as for the ability to add your own feeds to Findory..

    well, i went over to the site just before publishing this post and i definitely saw the feeds/opml import. But i couldn’t tell if the same “learning” technology that went into the news stories applied to your personal feeds as well. My understanding was that the stories you read on Findory are stored and used in this learning process, while RSS feeds that you import are not. Kind of like an bonus feature, there for your convenience but essentially 2 seperate systems and not totally integrated.

    however, it sounds like you’re saying the coolness that applies to the news stories somehow also takes into account your feeds that you can add on your own. Thus, it would definitely qualify as a software that cuts down on information overload. If this is in fact the case, i wonder if you could elaborate on what happens after i add say.. 50 feeds? Is it something like the “X Articles Read” feature in the top right hand side of the Findory page? Or, maybe i’ll just have to sign up and find out for myself. i’d want to be able to confirm this type of feature before updating my post.

    anyway, keep up the good work you’re doing on Geeking.. and stop by any time.

    Posted 02 Jan 2006 at 11:56 pm
  3. Laslo wrote:

    Hey there,
    Months ago, I read your comparison test of SearchFox with Rojo i guess or other RSS Reader.
    anyway today I read an announce that SearchFox is shutting down in jan 25th! :(
    how do we do! I being looking for a replacement but cant make up my mind yet.
    Any ideas?
    I will try Findory in the meantime.
    btw, i dont like Bloglines much.

    Posted 10 Jan 2006 at 9:53 pm
  4. elran wrote:

    hey Laslo,

    thanks for taking the time to read those comparisons between RSS readers.
    i’ll probably be looking for a replacement as well. i will likely test out findory, google rss, and several other new-comers.
    i am waiting to hear an official announcement from Searchfox as i am still wondering what will happen to their machine learning technology. somehow, i feel like there is still another chapter left in this story. i’ll be watching the events unfold over the next few days, waiting until i have all the information before deciding on a replacement.

    keep an eye out for my follow-up article on this subject..

    p.s. Bloglines just upgraded their servers recently and so i might give them another try too.

    Posted 11 Jan 2006 at 1:07 pm
  5. Laslo wrote:

    Well, Yahoo bought SearchFox. We will be using that now =D

    Posted 20 Jan 2006 at 9:53 pm
  6. elran wrote:

    thanks for the update Laslo..

    what a relief. information overload would have sucked.

    Posted 22 Jan 2006 at 11:23 pm
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Trackbacks & Pingbacks 1

  1. From Anne 2.0 » Overloaded by Information on Information Overload on 15 May 2006 at 4:12 pm

    [...] Techblog recommends SearchFox, a feed reader that uses machine learning to aggregate and personalize feeds. It’s in beta, so you either need to be invited to join or you need to make an email request for an account. I’ve requested an account; we’ll see if my yahoo.com email account makes me too unhip to test it out. [...]

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