A call to action on RSS

OK, I’ve done my complaining and moaning over the universal RSS icon that Microsoft and Mozilla have agreed upon.  I’ve stated my belief that what’s needed is not a shiny package but better education on the whats, whys and wherefores of RSS.  So instead of just being a 30-year old internet version of Andy Rooney on the subject let’s figure out what we can do better.

I’m going to start an open-source project with the goal of making RSS simple and easy to understand and use by the masses.  Anyone want in?  The thought behind it is to make it so simple that a stay-at-home mom could get it and be using RSS within a day.

(By the way, there’s no assumption of intelligence behind that statment.  I simply use it because stay-at-home moms have pressures and distractions that don’t make for a lot of time to sit down and spend 20 hours figuring out what something is.  They want the equivalant of plug-and-play.)

I’m willing to setup and maintain a Writeboard for the community to write this.  We need a document that can present to the world as the single most succinct and useful reference on RSS usability that can be found.  Email me (cthilk-at-bacons-dot-com) if you would be interested in contributing to this.  I’ll admit I’m not the smartest guy in the world but a lot of you out there come awfully close so I think we can do this.

Why the word blog no longer matters

I just visited the website for The Food Channel.  The outlet originated as a mailed newsletter to foodies and eventually branched out to the web, as did most publications in some form or another.  Well now they’ve switched what was a standard website to one driven off a blogging platform (not sure which one but it kind of looks like TypePad or MoveableType).

What has changed about the content?  Nothing, really.  They’re still putting out the same material only doing it dynamically instead of on static pages.  And that’s why I think the term blog is no longer relevant, at least not to anyone looking for or contributing good information to the internet world.  Blogging used to be something the elite few did for any of a variety of reasons.  But if you’re creating a website that, for all intents and purposes, looks and feels just like those sites of olden years (1998) but you’re doing so via a blogging platform, what do you call it?

Calling it a blog isn’t quite right since it’s just a new publishing vehicle for the same website.  But mainstream media, mostly because they don’t dive any deeper into definitions, will likely refer to anything that shares any traits with a blog as a blog.  But it’s not.  But it uses blogging software.  But it’s not a blog.

Do you see why we need a new term for this?  Actually that’s not quite right.  We need an old term.  We need the term “website.”  Calling something a “blog” automatically devalues it in the eyes of some people.  So I propose we stop using the term “blog” when referring to internet media that is driven off a blogging platform.  Since the line is so dotted and faded to begin with I don’t think we’ll lose much by dropping it from our vocabulary.  We may even open some people’s eyes to outlets they might have ignored in the past.

Of course I realize that this very site is called “Bacon’s Blog” and that I just created a ton of work for myself, but that’s what I do: make my own life harder.

More on that darn icon

Both Neville Hobson and Steve Rubel jump on the RSS icon bandwagon, saying that it’s incumbent on blog and website publishers to get the icon that Mozille and Microsoft teams agreed upon on their blogs.  I’ll think I’ll just stay right I am and not jump into action right now, thank you.

As Tom Biro and I both said icons are all well and good and having a standard icon for RSS could certainly help with mass-adoption of the technology, but the main factor that will influence usage is education.  If people have time they devote to creating standards, how about creating a standard “how-to” guide for visitors to your site to read that will explain to them in simple, easy to understand terms, how to subscribe to the feed.

When someone asks me how to use RSS here’s what usually follows:

ME: “When you see that orange chicklet – or text that says ‘subscribe to this feed’ – then right click and copy the link…”

THEM: “What do you mean copy the link?”

ME: You should have the option when you right-click to ‘copy link location.’ Select that.  Then go to your aggregator…”

THEM: Could you explain the aggregator again?”

ME: (ponders public suicide)

The company that takes the lead on this public education program could very well be seen as the Jonas Salk of the information age.  Allowing everyone to choose a technology that lets them select content that can be viewed on their schedule in an easy to skim and read format would be a huge step forward.

The two ideas actually need to be combined.  Everyone sign on to a standard icon but have that icon point to a standard definition/usage guide.  Within that the publication can list their RSS feeds.  That way both goals are accomplished.

Failure to Launch trailer

God, this looks awful. Matthew McConahaeyeetyee plays a 35-year old who still lives with his parents (the one inspired part of the movie is casting Terry Bradshaw as his father. That’s perfect). Sarah Jessica Parker is the “Professional Motivator” who, while she’s simulating a relationship with him, actually does fall in love with him. Just awful.

You, Me & Dupree trailer

Owen Wilson, Matt Dillon and Kate Hudson star in You, Me & Dupree. Dillon and Hudson play newlyweds who wind up taking in Wilson, the best man at their wedding, after he has some difficulties. Seems to be the latest in the recent trend of adult-oriented comedies and looks pretty funny, especially when Wilson explains that he’s going to need some matches. Nothing too overly original but that’s alright sometimes, as you can see in the trailer.

Date Movie trailers

In the tradition of, and from some of the writers of, Scary Movie and others comes Date Movie starring Alyson Hannigan. As you can see from the teaser and full theatrical trailers it’s one of these that feels the more references and situations from other movies you throw in the funnier it will be. Poor Alyson, she really should know better.