Coffeehouse Thread

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RSS - When you've got a hammer everything looks like a nail...

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  • User profile image
    irascian

    CONTROVERSIAL POST ALERT!

    I feel caught between the hype and common sense where all this blogging and RSS feed hype is concerned.
     
    Part of me is swallowed up by the enthusiasm of those involved with it all. But a large part of me thinks it's "Emporer's New Clothes" being pushed by a few people with a vested self-interest in promoting it, and that maybe the rest of us are being suckered in.

    Let's take the "London Geek Dinner" wiki site as a good example of the sort of approach I'm seeing more and more of in this world of 'agile' programming. I could write a long rant about Wiki's - anybody who thinks the Wiki for Community Server or DasBlog is a better alternative than a few straightforward sheets of documentation in PDF format is clearly living in a different world from me - but let's save that for another day. But we seem to be in a situation where "Add a wiki and while you're at it add an RSS feed too because RSS feeds are good" is the 'hammer' mantra, even if it's an approach that just doesn't work.

    In this scenario, as organiser you're trying to book a restaurant. The Wiki format gets you up and running (sort of) quickly but does it do what it needs to do? Is it usable? Or does it actually waste more time than it could have saved if a proper "app" had been quickly developed in its place? The Wiki format means people are adding their names when they don't even know if they can attend (thinking a comment like 'might not make it' or 'will try to get there' is sufficient to magically sort everything out on the numbers front). There's no incentive (or basic application functionality) to remove your name so that a slot you don't intend using can be taken by someone who really does want to go.

    To me it's a classic example of a Wiki being user unfriendly and causing all sorts of problems (with the restaurant who may get pissed when half the booked number show up) to boot.

    As I sit here getting tens of RSS 'updates' a day for a page that isn't visibly changing at all the fundamental flaw in the 'when you have a hammer everything looks like a nail' RSS approach shines through. What a horrid, hacky, messy solution it is for this sort of scenario. The only thing this functionality does is have me going "Quick - where do I unsubscribe?!"


    Which brings me onto the wider subject of blogging.. ... it occurred to me today I'm wasting far more time than I used to waste on email and forums (before I did some time analysis and cut down) ploughing through endless 'low signal to noise ratio' blogs for little real positive result. Is anybody other than marketing and PR folks (and journalists desperate to find something new to write about) really using this stuff and promoting it? Is there a reason why most of the attendees at the Geek Dinner are marketing/PR folk and journalists? Shouldn't this instead be called a 'luvvie' dinner rather than a 'geek' dinner or have I got my terminology completely wrong?


    What do others think? Am I completely missing the plot or is there some truth in what I'm saying? 

  • User profile image
    Minh

    irascian wrote:

    ... it occurred to me today I'm wasting far more time than I used to waste on email and forums (before I did some time analysis and cut down) ploughing through endless 'low signal to noise ratio' blogs for little real positive result.

    That's good Ian. The 1st step to recovery is to admit you have a problem. No, seriously, it's definitely a time killer. I found myself dropping newsgroups for blogs. Different sort of information organization, but you sort of adapt. I'm pretty good at marking a month's worth of blogs as read without even glancing at it. Smiley

  • User profile image
    eagle

    Your part of the conversation Ian, by reading feeds and creating them we are all learning as we create a community.


    I read my 100 blog feeds like a newspaper, skimming over most posts till something grabs my attention and something always does in this fast paced digital world. 

    XML is wonderful; RSS is the way we all learned to use XML to organize our blog feeds. ATOM will improve the mix <Scobileizer hits me with that hammer> and XML Web Services will make our lives so easy we won’t have to leave our beds.

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    eagle wrote:
    and XML Web Services will make our lives so easy we won’t have to leave our beds.


    What if you need to go to the toilet?

  • User profile image
    rhm

    I do have some beef with Scoble's apparent assertion that every site should have an RSS feed. I guess if the site is intended to be updated regularly and you want people to notice when it's updated then it should have a feed, but otherwise it doesn't seem necessary - certainly it doesn't deserve the scorn it gets from the blog fanatics. It does seem fair though that if you want to call something a blog it should have an RSS feed. I even found myself slipping into Scoble mode the other day and emailing CNBC about their new blog (hosted on MSN!) not having a feed (which they added soon after - I guess it's a checkbox option).

    Blogs have their place but I don't think people should have one unless they've actually got something to say. It does seem that now everyone is encouraged to have a blog, the crumbs of useful information they might have posted to more relevant forums and newsgroups get put in their blog instead and if they're someone who generally doesn't say anything interesting, readers who might have benefitted miss out because they don't subscribe because they don't want to plough through the dross.

    On the whole though RSS has saved me time because there's about 20 sites I visit regularly that I used to constantly reload throughout the day to see if anything had been added and now the RSS reader does that for me. But I do then find myself looking for more sites to read to fill up the time I saved. Parkinson's law at work.

    As for the "blogosphere", I've resisted using this term up to now, but really it is a massive circle-jerk with everyone linking to and quoting each other, trying to create new mini-celebrities as it goes. The networking, self-promotion and personality cults are things that go on in other spheres of course.

    And don't get me started on the subject of wikis. I could write a whole book on how stupid, lazy and inappropriate wikis are for just about every use  except what they were intended for which is collarborative document writing, and they're not even good at that.

  • User profile image
    footballism

    W3bbo wrote:
    eagle wrote: and XML Web Services will make our lives so easy we won’t have to leave our beds.


    What if you need to go to the toilet?

    well,probably he've got something like a pot besides his bed:)Smiley

  • User profile image
    eagle

    Plumbing is a network and "the network is the computer".

  • User profile image
    Lazycoder2

    irascian wrote:

    I feel caught between the hype and common sense where all this blogging and RSS feed hype is concerned.
     
    Part of me is swallowed up by the enthusiasm of those involved with it all. But a large part of me thinks it's "Emporer's New Clothes" being pushed by a few people with a vested self-interest in promoting it, and that maybe the rest of us are being suckered in.



    See here's the thing. A while back XML was hyped as the savior of us all. Finally an easy way to structure unstructured data (like the contents of web pages) in a way that could "easily" be read by either humans or machines. (more humans than machines IMO). But no one bothered to standardize the XML schema for web page content until Dave Winer did. So you had lots of XML floating around, but unless you looked at it and made sure you knew what to expect in it, it took some really convoluted (read: brittle) code to read it. Then a few large blog players started using the RSS "schema" (it's not really a schema IMO, it's a set of loose guidelines) and it took off.

    So the biggest plus for RSS is the fact that lots of people know how to use it. There's  nothing inherently great about RSS and it has a few flaws. If Microsoft had been smarter about the Channel Definition Format back in the day, you'd be wondering about CDF instead of RSS today. Smiley

    irascian wrote:

     Is there a reason why most of the attendees at the Geek Dinner are marketing/PR folk and journalists? Shouldn't this instead be called a 'luvvie' dinner rather than a 'geek' dinner or have I got my terminology completely wrong?
     


    I don't know what the geek dinners are like in other parts of the country, but at the geek dinners in Seattle, Scoble is usually the only marketing/press type there.  Sometimes a reporter /blogger from the local paper that covers all things Microsoft will show up. But not often. Mostly it's PM's, SDE's, and people like that from Microsoft. The rest of us are usually either tech enthusiats or active programmers.

    If the UK one is turning into a press dog-and-pony show, you should kick their butts out by keeping the conversation EXTREMELY technical. They'll all be lost in the terms and won't be able to write anything about it the next day other than "I met Robert Scoble last night." Wink

  • User profile image
    Sabot

    Ian, we had these conversation at DeveloperDay and I agreed with you then.

    I would like to think as the technology matures the abstraction level will increase and then we will be able to use better tools to find the information that we are interested in.

    This may create more work for the author, but then so be it.

    One of my ideas to make it all abit easier, was the idea of 'global topics'. Were an author could categorise a post against a standard set of topics. these topics could even have a heirachy.

    So it could go something like this,

    Programming --> .Net --> C# --> IXMLSerializer

    You could then just natigate to the topic of interest and avoid the rest of the noise.

    Obviously you could then select to read the rest of the selected Blog if you wish.

    But cna you already do this with a search engine. No most search engines are really rather random. This way it lets the author do a little thinking which could therefore make searches more precise.

    Plus you can quickly discover topics that haven't been covered and ones that have been over talked about.



  • User profile image
    blowdart

    Lazycoder2 wrote:


    I don't know what the geek dinners are like in other parts of the country, but at the geek dinners in Seattle, Scoble is usually the only marketing/press type there.  Sometimes a reporter /blogger from the local paper that covers all things Microsoft will show up. But not often. Mostly it's PM's, SDE's, and people like that from Microsoft. The rest of us are usually either tech enthusiats or active programmers.


    Yea, it's no longer a geek dinner, it's been hijacked into a bloggers dinner. As much as I like Hugh McLeod's writing he's seemingly pushing  it towards a "Lets talk about blogs, and RSS and marketing".

    Err. NO. HELL NO. There's nothing geeky about it. If it wasn't for the fact that a couple of people I know are going and I want to catch up with them I'd have dropped out, scoble or not.

  • User profile image
    eagle

    He who sleeps with dogs wakes up with fleas.

     

    Robert has been sleeping, eating and linking to PR slimes too much.

     

    TechEd is in two weeks, Robert should be there doing a session on blogging.
  • User profile image
    blowdart

    eagle wrote:
    TechEd is in two weeks, Robert should be there doing a session on blogging.


    Why? What possible relevance does blogging have to a technical conference? Does it increase my knowledge of C#? SQL? Web services? No. Blogging is not a technical topic, it's not a geek topic, unless you're talking about having a nifty blog object that serialises to an RSS feed with 2 lines of code.

  • User profile image
    eagle

    There are not as many Techbloggers this year as there were last year.

    We learn from each other through our blogs. Community and communication are required to keep up with the fast paced digital world.

    Blogging is about learning, solving and growing.

  • User profile image
    scobleizer

    Blowdart, I agree with you. No need for a Blogging session at TechED, unless it's by ScottW teaching people about community server and how to set it up or something like that.

  • User profile image
    eagle

    Scott's not listed, Rob Howard will be doing ASP.Net 2.0 sessions.

    It would have been nice for you to be there if only to recognize the community.


    A Channel9 meetup would have been cool.

  • User profile image
    The Channel 9 Team

    Eagle: agreed, we should have done more around TechED. Our big show is PDC, though. We'll be there in force.

  • User profile image
    eagle

    Good! Let's start planing now, put up a Wiki...

  • User profile image
    Shaded

    I absolutely agree Irascian.  It is emperors new clothes.  It is format of the day, and it is destined to be obseleted by another technology.

    What makes blogging cool is the new sense of community and the ease of participation.  Something that for the most part has been lacking from the internet and only existed in the days of old BBSing and such.

    To me a geek is anyone who can make most of a typical crowd bored to tears by talking about what they are passionate about.

    Firefighters typically arent geeks.

    ah policemen typically arent geeks

    News reporters... accountants... car mechanics... computer engineers.... librarians... we're all geeks really.

    Oh wait... oh wait... I even have a blog entry about this....  What makes a geek a geek.

    ... if that don't prove the point... nothin will.

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