RSS readers

Read/WriteWeb has an interesting piece on RSS aggregators, and whether they really matter any more:

One of the interesting trends of 2009 has been the gradual decline of RSS Readers as a way for people to keep up with news and niche topics. Many of us still use them, but less than we used to. I for one still maintain a Google Reader account, however I don’t check it on a daily basis. I check Twitter for news and information multiple times a day, I monitor Twitter lists, and I read a number of blogs across a set of topics of most interest to me.

Ross Mayfield, head honcho of enterprise collaboration platform Socialtext, picks up on it:

We all know that Twitter cannibalized RSS Reader habits with something simpler and social. And innovation happened elsewhere for aggregation with simple focused things like Techmeme. And that enterprise RSS innovation moved away from clients. But iGoogle and Netvibes widgets as Twitter clients were developed by third parties. Perhaps it was innovator’s dilemma on a compressed scale, but the Readers didn’t expand what could be read.

I was thinking about this the other day, when, randomly, I checked into Bloglines for the first time in literally years. Bloglines was the first RSS reader I ever used – it was the RSS reader I used when I didn’t know what an RSS reader was.

It was awful, and hadn’t seemed to have been updated since 2004 when I used it regularly. I use Google Reader these days, like most people I suspect. Well, most of the people who use these things at all.

I like what Dave Winer has to say about this. RSS readers are about news:

News. Stuff that’s new. When you want to find out what’s new you don’t want to know everything, you can’t. The world is too big. There’s too much happening. If you were to get a true readout of the number of stories you didn’t read, just today, it would number in the millions. It’s a pointless number. As if it would mean anything if you got the number to be zero. All it would mean is that you spent every waking moment reading, and you had no idea what any of it meant. It wouldn’t make you smarter, happier, worth more, have more friends, get laid more often, go to heaven or become a saint. Reading every story is a meaningless concept.

It’s like Twitter, or any any other social media stream: You don’t have to read it all.

I check my Google Reader several times a day. When I’m drifting, struggling to concentrate on something, I find it a really good way to tune back in again, to read something thoughtful that gets me thinking.

It’s also a great source of new ideas. Twitter is good for that, but it uses up too much clicking to get through to stuff. People say that Twitter is better because of the trust thing. But I trust the people whose blogs I subscribe to – that’s why I subscribe to them.

Maybe the reason why I’m still a heavy user of an RSS reader – I think blogs matter and like them. I like to have the ones I consider good and useful easily accessible, and the reader does that for me.