Go Beyond

Only read if you don't mind being offended.


Really Simple Syndication

Watching the Internet's progression to greater and greater centralization has been both interesting and disappointing. At times, I haven't even recognized this trend, but it is apparent at second glance.

While this is a generalization, here's my take on typical news use over the past decade:

2009

  • Found new sites on Digg, Slashdot. If I liked them, I subscribed to their feed (from the website itself).
  • Lots of blogs, all over. Sure, there was Blogspot but they behaved as fairly independent websites.
  • Occasional people hosting servers in their closet.

2019

  • Find content on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, or Google News. Consume the content there, possibly see the website, then wait for it to pop back up if liked.
  • Very aggregated blog sites, like Medium.com.
  • Probably fewer people hosting servers in their closet.

Elaborating on servers in the closet, that was also the case for many small to large size companies, hosting their own servers. In time, hosting providers got larger and larger and localized hosting shrunk and shrunk. I'm not saying that has never been sensible, but in general I am a fan of owning things outright.

Back to news consumption itself, I remembered I used to use RSS all the time. I added feeds like HackADay into my reader and my reader would poll all of the endpoints and tell me what new content I hadn't seen. Sometimes that content would refer me to other websites, and my sphere of influence would expand.

You didn't need a Reddit and to wait until some content got popular to see it if you already liked it. I realized that I haven't ran an RSS reader in years. My favorite sites, I never know if they come out with something unless I get some kind of non-standardized notification (Youtube notification, Bitchute), or I happen to see it on Voat. The layer allows for lots of possible censorship, especially on Reddit where all kinds of views are regularly surpressed and biased.

On the other hand, one thing I do like from a content perspective is that many more content creators get to participate equally with self posts on Reddit, Voat, or Poal. But also, 4chan/8chan, which are even more interesting in that they don't even have identity associated with them. On Reddit, Voat, and Poal, there's a little bit of reputation which is good and bad. On 4chan and 8chan, everything you post stands on its own merit or lackthereof. On Voat something I say that's wrong might be glossed over or even liked because some people like me on there. On 4chan, there isn't a way in the world, I get insulted, sometimes corrected, and we all move on.

Other than self posts, the Internet is becoming more and more like TV. You tune into "channels" and do what you're told, although progressively with more and move fine tuning of what you like, as long as it fits in a certain box.

So with all of that said, one small step back towards decentralization is RSS. I looked through some of the available RSS readers and settled on picofeed, partly because it's written in Go, partly because it's stateless, and mostly because it just works for me.

Browers used to have an RSS icon in the URL bar if you had some kind of an RSS feed tag in your page's head tag. That's been gone for years, so you have to dig for it or look for some kind of RSS or ATOM button/link. In my case, I should add a more obvious RSS link because my blog does have it.

Here's a few feeds I'm trying out:

https://www.debian.org/News/news
https://www.debian.org/security/dsa
https://www.freebsd.org/news/press-rss.xml
http://mnmlist.com/feed/
https://markmanson.net/feed
https://hackaday.com/blog/feed/

No doubt I could have had many more quality feeds if I had kept doing that over the years.

Anyway, Aaron Swartz had the right idea. RSS was a good thing and still is. I encourage you to give it a try.