Posts with tag "web"

Social Technology and the Catch-22 of why it won’t happen

change Back at the beginning of January I wrote the first of my thoughts about Social Technology, the idea, what it isn’t and why I don’t think we will see that dream in our lifetimes. That post can give you a solid understanding of my thinking on this idea I call social Technology and I suggest maybe reading it first (if you already haven’t) before continuing here.

My idea about the why’s and wherefore’s of this concept of Social Technology is still very much just a series of thoughts in my own head that I have elected to make public here as they come to me. In my thinking there are many different facets of this Social Technology idea that are open for discussion but because there are so many I don’t believe there is any sequential way to present them.

As such my writing on this idea will probably range across that spectrum of possible parts of the whole idea. So in that spirit the part I want to look at here in many ways could be considered the closing section of my thoughts, but I think is important to talk about now because it does affect any discussion of Social Technology.

Why RSS feed adoption sucks doesn’t get any simpler than this

Back on October 20th I wrote a post at The Inquisitr about the slowing adoption rate of RSS feeds called RSS Adoption Stalling Because It Isn’t Joe Six Pack Enough which was a response to a study by the Forrester Group. The study was about how they believed that RSS feed adoption was stalling because as Steve Rubel put it RSS too geeky.

While this discussion was going on Svetlana Gladkova joined in the fray with her post on Profy.com titled Low RSS Adoption: Is It About Tools or Needs? I joined the comments that started up around her post and as result I am still getting notifications as people still occasionally stop by Svetlana’s post and are good enough to leave their thoughts in the comments. Not long ago a new comment came to me via email from that post on Profy that had been left by R. Phipps and I think more than anything this comment exactly typifies what the problem is with RSS not being more widely adopted; and us smart asses running all these blogs are partly to blame

I love RSS feeds but I find it difficult in a lot of instances to add Web sites with RSS. I’ll find a Web page that says RSS on it and when I click on the RSS icon it gives me the HTML code of the Web page so then I can’t subscribe to it. Even when a Web page has actually said click here to subscribe to our RSS feed, I still get the HTML page. I read somewhere that a lot of Web sites don’t know how to provide RSS feeds to visitors. In a very few instances the link to the RSS feed subscribes me without any trouble at all… but that’s the exception rather than the rule. I think that is your answer as to why most people haven’t embraced with great tool.

Now take a minute and make sure you have really read what R. Phipps wrote. If the usability problem doesn’t jump right out at you re-read it because in one simple paragraph R. has pointed out the problem that I bet stalls 95% of newcomers to RSS.

Just to make sure we are clear on this let me re-interate the excruciately painful key point here

I’ll find a Web page that says RSS on it and when I click on the RSS icon it gives me the HTML code of the Web page so then I can’t subscribe to it.

Now I would bet that the larger majority of readers here at WinExtra are old hands at RSS feeds, RSS clients; whether they be one’s like GReader or FeedDemon, and they know exactly what to do when they land on a site with an RSS feed. I would bet that the number is a little smaller at Profy.com (but only a little) and still smaller (possibly much) at The Inquisitr. That is primarily due to the target market of those blogs; but it would also apply the same to most blogs that have RSS feeds – the more they aim to get their traffic from the regular web surfer the more likely that they will see a smaller adoption of their RSS feed.

This is directly related to R. Phipps point. The fact is that unless you know what you are doing RSS feed subscription is totally confusing. I even remember back to when I first started using RSS feed and how in the beginning I did exactly what R. Phipps did and couldn’t understand what the hell I was doing wrong. People don’t like being made to feel stupid and trying to subscribe to RSS feeds for the first time if you don’t have anyone who understands the process close by can do exactly that – make a person feel stupid.

Sure once you even subscribe to your first couple of feeds you’ve got the problem licked and you’re on your way but you ask any usability expert and they’ll tell you that by making that very first subscription so difficult you are turning away millions of possible readers. I’m not sure exactly what the answer is for that one click subscription; regardless of client, but until we get that figured out RSS will never reach the mass mainstream.

In response to some of the feedback I have gotten over my recent posts about RSS feeds and the confusion that newcomers can about about them I have put together two dedicated pages about RSS. They are available in the sidebar area in the Subscription section or you can select them from here:

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Without Links The Web Would Be Bankrupt

There is a re-occurring discussion that rears its head every so often about how links are the economy of the Internet. Usually when these discussions start it revolves around the idea that this base part which is the glue that holds the world wide web together is breaking down because people are linking more and more to stuff within their own sites.

Such was the case with a post yesterday by Mathew Ingram; a fellow blogger, journalist and (hopefully) a friend, where he suggest that when this happens these sites become no different than the mainstream media.

This post was followed up with one from Alexander van Elsas who feels that Mathew nailed the problem but also points out that even people who supposedly believe in the Open Web aren’t immune from the MSM disease. He points to Tim O’Reilly where he says

I have a lot of respect for Tim too, but it’s a bit ironic that the O’Reilly blog tends to link internally too. They use a tagging system below every post that leads to O’Reilly articles only. It’s just a variation of the same theme. It seems that as soon as a blog becomes monetized or written by more than one author linking to the outside world is under pressure.

While we can have this type of esoteric discussion until the end of time it means nothing if we don’t understand why this type of linking is bad and really why considering links as an economy isn’t. To do this though we have to understand that while we use the term Internet to describe everything we do online the fact is that the Internet was around before the world wide web. What the majority of people are use to; and what all of Web 2.0 is based on is the world wide web as invented by Tim Berners-Lee some time after the Internet was invented.

The reason Tim’s work is so important is because he was the first one to understand the immensity of the Internet; and that without some way to connect all the information that was available on the Internet in an easy way that everyone could understand the Internet would forever be an abstraction. The information would still be there but within silos that were only accessible via cryptic methods most people would never be able to understand let alone be able to remember how they got to those individual silos. His invention of HTML and the ability of linking data between silos forever changed the world wide web.

Let’s look at it this way using some real world examples.

The Bookstore

So you’re standing in a bookstore looking over the books on display. Now let’s think of those book titles as hyperlinks that you can press and when you do you could find yourself at any one of the following places

  • at the library where you could look up other books on the same related idea or other books by the same author
  • at another bookstore which has other books by the author that the first bookstore doesn’t have
  • in the living room of the author’s home where you can talk with them about their books or thoughts that they are having
  • or still within the same bookstore and their limited selection of related books by that author or others like them.

From the first two examples you could literally keep going for a very long time by pressing on the book titles and learning more and more as you go. With the third you could end up visiting other authors like the current one and again learning as you go. However with the fourth option you find yourself traveling in a smaller and smaller circle as your options become less and less.

The Newspaper

In this case you’re sitting in a cafe somewhere reading a newspaper and each of the headlines or sections of the article can be pressed on. In this case you could find yourself in any of the following places

  • at the library where you can read more about the background of what the article was talking about
  • picking up another publication that is also talking about the same thing but with a different perspective
  • with the journalist who wrote the article talking about their reasons for writing about what is in the article and what they might be writing about next
  • on older issue of the same newspaper

The first two options allow you to learn more about what is being talked about and lets you go as deep into the subject as you want to. The third option lets you gain a better understand of the person and could let you continue on to read about the people that they find interesting. With the last option though you find yourself
slowly travelling down a narrowing tunnel of less and less information.

In the first three options of each example this ability to travel beyond where you currently are allows you to learn – to add value to what came before. These outward links are the ties that provide the roadway by which we can travel and learn. For the author of the book or the journalist writing the article it can bring them more and more readers adding to their own personal value. For the bookstore and the newspaper they gain by both the increased popularity of the author or journalist as well as the increasing number of people coming down those roadways.

In both examples though where the links are roads only travels inwards they both lose because less and less people will be coming as the number of roads become fewer and fewer. Without the links that tie together all those different locations we slowly return to an Internet full of silos and nobody makes money standing alone staring at the walls of a silo.