Monday, June 13, 2005

RSS today: just the tip of the iceburg?

Every once in a while, I'll go out on a limb and present an original thought. Not often, because apparently my brain has a limited number of thoughts, but every once in a while nonetheless. Here's today's: are we really just beginning to see the value of RSS?

As a blogger and podcaster, RSS is a tremendous timesaver. In fact, I'm basically done with my RSS roundup and I'm opting for Onfolio having personally used and compared it to several other RSS readers. On any given day, I'll see 1,500 or more feed updates on my limited RSS subscription list. I've timed myself and I can generally browse through all 1,500 posts in about 45 minutes; less if I'm really judicious and review by post title alone. If I were to actually hit every one of the web pages and blogs for those 1,500 posts today, well...let's just say I'd still be reading those posts instead of writing this one! ;)

There's more to RSS than just saving time, however. I forsee a real push past the "techie" crowd and see RSS permeating the general consumer populace. There's an example or two after the "Read More" jump.

Let's take a look some areas where personalized data could be used quickly and easily from a consumer point of view. Just today, Engadget pointed out a new Sirius initiative to rollout recievers that are capable of displaying custom data. Granted, there are no details on what data format or method will be used, but wouldn't an XML based approach make sense?

How about some of today's (and tomorrow's) digital music devices? I'm thinking of the one's with a small display that currently are capable of providing data about the music that's playing. The Roku Soundbridge and the SlimDevices Squeezebox come to mind. Perhaps today it's data from the ID3 tags of the audio file like Artist, Album, Lyrics and more? What would prevent these devices from playing one song, but also scanning new podcasts via RSS feeds? As you're listening to one file, the show notes of a podcast that you subscribe to scroll across the unit's display which provides you an opportunity to hit a "Download in background" button. Better yet, you do nothing because the show notes don't show you anything of interest in this particular episode. Hey, even broadband bandwidth can be stressed; why download something you don't want?

How about everyone's favorite: the "TV Crawl". You know what I mean: the data that the news wants you to see so they can tease you for the full story later. ;) What if you could customize and subscribe to the crawl(s) that YOU want, not what THEY want? I'd do it in a heartbeat. After all, data is everywhere at this point. Using a tool like RSS helps me get the data I want to the place that I want. Isn't that the point of all of this information?

Given the lightweight nature and customization of RSS, I have to wonder what impact it may have on the consumer electronic devices of tomorrow. The day of e-mail newsletters and updates is coming to close and the "RSS Age" is just beginning. I would expect that we see devices to match. What do you think? Should I just keep the original thoughts to myself or is the future of RSS just on the horizon?

Special thanks to Dave Ciccone. The basis of this thought came about during a Skype chat as Dave was co-hosting the Computer Outlook radio show with John Iasiuolo last week. Thanks for making me think, Dave! :)

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