June 25th, 2003
Six months ago this wouldn't have mattered to me one bit, but my move to OS X has opened my eyes to how handy RSS feeds can be. On my PC I used Feedreader, which was a decent enough program except that once I went offline it would stop checking for refreshed feeds completely until I manually closed down and restarted the program. Since the whole point of a desktop RSS aggregator is that it does all the work and just brings stories to my attention as they appear, this was less than satisfactory. NetNewsWire running under OS X has shown me just how useful RSS feeds can really be. It's not perfect – most notably, it doesn't allow me to set refresh intervals for individual subscriptions – but it's pretty damn usable and very stable.
Which, getting back to the point I started out with, is why I'm so happy to see the BBC expend on their initial limited release of feeds last year. An RSS aggregator with a good selection of newsfeeds comes about as close as anything I've seen so far to the ideal of the personalised newspaper we were all promised as part of the communications revolution, so the ability to read BBC News Online (and The Guardian) as RSS feeds is highly gratifying.
Oddly enough, I find reading weblogs via RSS feeds deeply unsatisfying. There are a couple of factors at work here. First, I find it much more comfortable to read weblog entries in context. I like seeing an individual's entries for a day or week in sequence, rubbing up against one another the way the writer intended them. Second, it seems a shame to miss out on some of the spiffy site designs people with some actual design talent come up with. (And yes, I do realise that nobody reading this site's RSS feed would be missing much design-wise.) The third factor is that RSS feeds, while common, are by no means universal: I'd be somewhat more attracted to using an RSS reader for weblog reading if it would completely cut out my daily journey through the Weblogs section of my bookmarks. If I'm going to go through that folder anyway, I might as well see my favourite sites in all their glory.
[Pointer to Matt Jones' announcement via Something ~ better than nothing]