I pointedly haven’t read any of the recent posts predicting the death of RSS.
And I’m pointedly not linking to any of them here.
Because, whatever those posts say, they’re talking bollocks.
Google Reader is my favourite piece of social technology. The probability of it delivering something that I’ll find interesting and/or useful is much higher than that for Twitter for instance.
RSS subscriptions and Twitter follows are both opt-in approaches to accessing content.
But, whereas a Twitter follow is a casual opt-in, an RSS subscription represents commitment.
That’s a commitment to check out and read on a regular basis. It’s also a commitment to comment and therefore “commune”. At least it is for me. The only digital-specific resolution that I’ve made for 2011 is to find time to comment more on other people’s work. It is always rewarding for both parties. And, in my eyes, it makes RSS the highest form of “social”.
In Meet The Parents, the obsessive, ex-CIA father-in-law played by Robert de Niro has his immediate family over-protected inside “the circle of trust”.
I view the contents of my RSS feed in much the same way.
If you haven’t already, you really should read this excellent presentation by Paul Adams of Google on how social networks work in real life. It looks long at 224 slides but it’s an easy read, helped by the fact that Paul has added explanatory notes at the base of each one.
Even aiming off for the fact that it’s in Google’s interest to take a side-swipe at Facebook, this is a thought-provoking analysis of why online social networks are blunt instruments in comparison to the way that humans organise their connections in real life.
The most pertinent slide for the purposes of this post is that shown below, which highlights that the amorphous group that Facebook calls friends is actually segmented not just by lifestage, geography and interests, but also by the strength of connection with individuals.
RSS is a “strong tie” channel. And that’s why, for me at least, it would be the last social technology out of the balloon basket, not the first as other people seem to be suggesting.