Thinking about RSS

I’ve been thinking a bit about Traci Gardner’s recent blog post “6 Reasons Blogrolls Are Dying” over at pedablogical. She recently found that “blogrolls are a dying breed” (a phrase that, when read just under her picture of a cinnamon roll, is tempting to read as “a dying bread,” but I don’t even know what that would mean). The post’s comments remind us that lots of folks are using other tools to collect blogs these days that are more fancy than old-fashioned links that don’t aggregate or do anything but sit there and link.

It’s got me thinking about RSS, my own use of Google Reader to read RSS feeds, and attitudes/knowledge about RSS in English studies. I think of how our FYC director regularly suggests RSS as a solution for instructors–say, to make a dashboard using Microsoft SharePoint services and plug in RSS-enabled lists and content from elsewhere on our FYC site. But usually, he’s greeted with blank stares–methinks very few incoming graduate students in English have ever heard of RSS.

And even though I know about RSS, as if it were a secret magic hidden behind the face of a small number of blessed sites, I find I haven’t built it into my daily routine as much as, say, Twitter or Facebook or email. I tend to treat my Go0gle Reader as a bunch of stuff I want to skim over when I get a chance, maybe, and which I have to laboriously scroll through and “select all as read” when I haven’t gotten to it for a while, just to clean up the hundreds of updates. (Boing Boing is my favorite site on the Internet, but I can’t stand it in my feed, since they update so often.)

So I guess I’m saying that RSS seems like it has the exact kind of potential that we need in online tools–flexible and automated–but that I (and most fellow English studies grad students at my university) haven’t found a way to seamlessly integrate it into our regular online lives in ways that feel important and worthwhile. Part of the problem is filtering, since so many different kinds of content end up in my feed: video game news! Scholarly blogs! How to hack your computer! Friends from college talking about their kids! But it feels like something else is missing, too, and I haven’t quite put my finger on what it is. (And honestly, I thought by writing out this post, I would kind of start to realize what that is, but it didn’t work. Sorry.)

Are there any excellent feed readers that I should be using to help with this, to help me think of using RSS in more relevant ways?


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