August 28, 2020 at 10:19 AM by Dr. Drang
I listened to the recent Mac Power Users episode on RSS while on a long walk the other day, and I really enjoyed it. Partly, of course, because I just like listening to Stephen and David, but mainly because I didn’t feel I had any stake in it.
As I’ve mentioned here several times, I have a homemade system for reading RSS feeds. And although I am willing to switch to a different setup, that different setup would have to be a tremendous improvement. Here are the advantages of what I have:
- On the reader side, it looks the way I want it to look because it’s just an HTML page that I wrote. There are no buttons or toolbars on-screen except the ones I want.
- It always gives me up-to-date articles. In my experience,1 some RSS aggregator services don’t poll sites often enough (or use WebSub) to keep up with edited articles. So what you get from the aggregator may not be what the article currently says. My system updates every 20 minutes, so I don’t miss edits unless they’re very recent.
- I don’t have to think about moving to a new aggregator because the one I’m currently using just went out of business or decided to increase its subscription fee. Or because an aggregator I’m not using just reduced its fee.
- I don’t have to think about switching readers for all those same reasons.
Honestly, it’s the “not thinking” part that’s the best. Over the 35 years I’ve been a computer user, way too much of my time has been spent thinking about the “right” software to buy. Some of this has been forced on me—when an app or service stops working, there’s no way to avoid thinking about the alternatives—but a lot has been self-inflicted. It’s nice to have one part of my computing life that’s stable and should continue to be stable for years to come.2
In some ways, I suppose, listening to Stephen and David talk about RSS was akin to schadenfreude. I could walk along, smug in the knowledge that I wouldn’t be balancing the upsides and downsides. I could just turn off my mind, relax, and float downstream.
My experience is, admittedly, now well out of date, as I haven’t looked into aggregators in several years. I suspect stale articles aren’t much of a problem if you use one of the big, popular aggregators. ↩
Was the time I spent writing my RSS scripts more than the time I would now spend thinking about the “best” RSS aggregator and reader? Doesn’t matter. I enjoyed writing the scripts. I learned new things and got satisfaction out of seeing them run correctly. I get nothing like that out of comparing apps and services. ↩