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RSS Web-Feeds, The Next Big Thing? 360

mi writes "Yahoo! carries an Associated Press editorial about RSS-based news feeds, and how they are pushing the spam-ridden e-mail and advertising-ridden web-pages aside and consolidate information from multiple sites. Slashdot itself is mentioned by the author as one of his sources." We've been exporting our headlines practically since the beginning. (note that RSS link in the footer). I still think the problem with RSS is the name. It sounds stupid. Let's all call it 'Speed Feed'. Cheesy rhyming will help the non techno elite remember it, and this is a technology that needs to be more widely deployed. (It's also worth noting that Slashdot's RSS feed will have more article contents for subscribers in a few weeks)
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RSS Web-Feeds, The Next Big Thing?

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  • God I hope so. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Clemence ( 16887 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:38PM (#8423200)
    Evolution uses them, you can link it into your own web-page. It makes surfing more efficient, and more secure. Formerly CRAYON was, IMHO a great site for quick-surfing only the news you wanted to read, but all the news you wanted to read in one place. Sadly, a lot of (general news) sites have pulled old RSS feeds, or made them far to difficult to find.

    Kudos Slashdot. Hiss to CNN.
    • Re:God I hope so. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by canajin56 ( 660655 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:36PM (#8423531)
      I used to use /.'s RSS, but once I queried twice in one hour, so my IP got banned.
    • Re:God I hope so. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by __past__ ( 542467 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @03:20PM (#8423757)
      I hope not.

      RSS, and indeed the whole WWW (including blog) style of communication is a lot worse than the mail/usenet style in that it is basically one-way. If you get your news as an RSS feed, that's it - you just consume what others prepared, without an easy and effective possibility to reply, without the chance for a fair peer-to-peer discussion, and in particular without the chance to publish such stories yourself (of course, you can technically do that, only that nobody will subscribe to your private RSS feed, so you are basically invisible)

      Spam and worms are not the problem IMHO, they are trivial to handle. Trolls you have anywhere, and they can be dealt with easily as well. The benefits of a fair mode of multi-way communication far outweight these annoyances. It is a general trend to view web-based services as inherently better than other, often older, internet services which is common at least since the start of september [] - take web forums vs. usenet for example, the web stuff tends to have tons of useless gizmos but be less usable for the actual task, communication. And it shows in the quality of the discussions taking place.

      It is a little like the difference between the model of democracy where issues were discussed on the market place of Athens between all citizens (not that many inhabitants of Athens counted as citizens, but that is a different issue...) and the one where the citizens get to vote for a representative every few years. RSS is the TV of online communication.

      • Re:God I hope so. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @04:49PM (#8424261) Journal
        If you get your news as an RSS feed, that's it - you just consume what others prepared, without an easy and effective possibility to reply, without the chance for a fair peer-to-peer discussion, and in particular without the chance to publish such stories yourself

        Completely false. You are free to reply, you are free to publish that reply, and there are sites [] that will help people who care find your reply, even if the original source doesn't ever point to you.

        Your problem is...

        of course, you can technically do that, only that nobody will subscribe to your private RSS feed, so you are basically invisible)

        You seem to think that you have some sort of right to be heard... that if ABC News publishes an article and you have some comment that you have some sort of right to make ABC News distribute your opinion on the same footing as their own. This is flatly false. They may acknowlege your opinion or not as they see fit.

        The true benefit of the RSS-style of communication is that it provides you with a channel of communication that is yours. Your RSS file has no trolls. Your RSS file has no spam. Thus, if people care about your opinions (or whatever you are posting), they can subscribe with confidence to your feed. The technology exists then to bring your content to those who are interesting.

        Odds are, you won't get thousands or millions of subscribers. That's because, odds are, you aren't one out of a million. I say this as someone who has had a feed since Jan. 2000 and have not exactly raked in the fame. However, this is the way it is.

        It's not like the alternatives are any better. Do you actually read the feedback forums on ABC News? Sure, I do intermittently, but there's just no way around the fact that when you create that "right of reply", it's flooded and you can't help but be uninterested in it.

        Fundamentally, you see this "one-way communication", but what you don't see is that (nearly) all communication is one way. You are not allowed to modify this message, but you can post a reply. You are not allowed to modify somebody else's RSS feed, but you can post a reply. The fact that I don't have to read every last schmoe's reply to some article, but only get the ones from the people I care about, is a feature, not a bug.

        The ideal communication technology is a compromise between the readers and the writers. RSS feeds are one of the best we've created so far, with low binding on both the writer's and the reader's side. (Even posted an unpopular opinion and been deluged in hate mail? Unless you're a sociopath it gets old. RSS is one of the few ways for a writer to be able to deal with that, because they are not forced to read the flames in the same forum they themselves are posting in.) In the end, RSS-based communities are one of the best matches to the real principles of free speech: That you can say whatever you like, and people are free to read whatever they like, and there is no binding between the two: You do not have the right to be heard, and you do not have the right to censor anyone else, even by "shouting them down". In this way, RSS feeds surpass even real-world communication.

        Practically speaking, it is undeniable that this plays out as I've described, and not as you've described. I've participated in many conversations via RSS, so I have empirical proof they exist, no matter how you might theorize that they don't. And plenty of people comment on all sort of things, many of whom I find interesting and many of whom I don't. You obviously don't use it, if you have so many misconceptions.

        RSS is the exact opposite of TV on the web. Everybody gets to compete on a level playing ground for attention, and is rewarded according to their social merits. Some people don't like this and prefer forums where they (falsely) think this doesn't apply. Even the big networks and newspapers don't have much adv
      • Re:God I hope so. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ChaosDiscord ( 4913 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @04:53PM (#8424278) Homepage Journal
        RSS is the TV of online communication.

        So what?

        I get lots of entertainment and useful information from my television. That we have two-way communication systems doesn't invalidate the use for one-way communication systems. For certain areas (news reporting, entertainment), on the whole I'd rather that the content creators spent more time creating better information (better news, better entertainment), than engaging in two way communication with their audience.

        As a replacement for email and usenet, RSS is clearly inferior. But as a replacement for checking the dozen or so news, commentary, and comic sites I visit almost daily, RSS is clearly superior.

    • Re:God I hope so. (Score:4, Informative)

      by glinden ( 56181 ) * on Sunday February 29, 2004 @06:31PM (#8424837) Homepage Journal
      • Formerly CRAYON was, IMHO a great site for quick-surfing only the news you wanted to read
      You might also take a look at Findory News []. It's a personalized news site pulling from hundreds of news sources. The site learns from the articles you read and helps you find the news you want.
  • RSS Readers (Score:4, Interesting)

    by necrogram ( 675897 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:39PM (#8423205)
    Any recomendations for a good RSS reader for Win32
  • Speed Read? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by levell ( 538346 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:39PM (#8423208) Homepage
    It /must/ be the name that is harming adoption, that HTML thing never really caught on either did it?. Actually speed-read sounds kind of catchy and gives the uninitiated a good idea of what it does so ignore me...
  • by NSash ( 711724 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:40PM (#8423209) Journal
    If I were able to read the news ten times more quickly, I'd just have to get back to work ten times faster!
  • by Space cowboy ( 13680 ) * on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:40PM (#8423212) Journal
    It's a shame that my first thoughts on this are: as soon as it becomes popular, it'll be used commercially, and start to lose its appeal. It's easy to see the commercialism of the web in the same light as the agents viewed humanity, in the Matrix - a plague.

    Consider what you use the internet for, and how it's changed:
    • email was once a useful tool, now it's a spamfest. Still useful to me, but going downhill rapidly.
    • Webpages used to be information sources - can you believe there was an argument once over whether markup tags should be for pixel-perfect layout or for meta-information like TeX ? How naive is that ? As for the intrusive adverts that take over your screen, the less said the better. I will never buy anything from anyone who does this - I will seek out a more expensive competitor if necessary...

    The more-successful protocols - those that actually deliver information are those left commercially-free. FTP is pretty basic, but you get what you want and nothing else. Usenet news has flamewars galore, but the limitations on what can be posted in non-binary groups actually seem to work well.

    When I first started using the web, I set up a website for my image-processing postgrad group. We emailed CERN to let them know there was another website on the net :-) Imagine that today [grin]. The point is that I've seen the degeneration of the net into what it's become, and it's a sad story. Let's just hope that with this medium (the content being provided by lots of people rather than a concentrated few) we can buck the trend...


  • RSSSSS Feed (Score:4, Funny)

    by elid ( 672471 ) <> on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:41PM (#8423216)
    We've been exporting our headlines practically since the beginning. (note that RSSS link in the footer).

    we wantssss it...
    RSSSS feed...our precioussss....

  • RSS acronym (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ( 562495 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:42PM (#8423224) Homepage
    1) RDF Site Syndication; or
    2) Really Simple Syndication????
    Which one is correct?
    • Re:RSS acronym (Score:5, Informative)

      by spydir31 ( 312329 ) * <hastur@h[ ] ['ast' in gap]> on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:17PM (#8423433) Homepage
      Google is your friend,
      the specs [] say
      Its name is an acronym for Really Simple Syndication.
      • Re:RSS acronym (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The specs [] also state that it stands for RDF Site Summary.

        What you need to remember is that RSS 1.0 and RSS 2.0 are two different formats, with a shared heritage (RSS 2.0 isn't the successor to RSS 1.0), it's more like how Netscape and Internet Explorer were both based upon Mosaic).

    • Re:RSS acronym (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:36PM (#8423534)
      It depends which version you are talking about. RSS 1.0 is RDF, RSS 2.0 is Simple.

      Basically, the format was developed by Netscape, simplified for a quick release, abandoned by Netscape, UserLand/Dave Winer released their own version (Simple), and everyone else released another version (RDF).

      RSS 2.0 is not a successor to RSS 1.0; Dave Winer merely leapfrogged them in versioning to try and co-opt the format. Tricks like that caused a massive chunk of the RSS developers to abandon the format and create something much more technically sound, Atom.

      RSS 1.0 is much more closely aligned with the original aims of RSS, RSS 2.0 more closely resembles the simplified format the was released in a hurry to get to market.

      My advice is to publish RSS 1.0 and RSS 2.0 feeds, and as soon as Atom gets to 1.0 and the majority of readers support that, switch to that and drop RSS. RSS is too prone to game-playing by Dave Winer and bitchiness by the whole community. Switching to Atom won't rid you of this entirely, Dave has recently been stating that as far as he is concerned, Atom is a "type of" RSS.
      • Re:RSS acronym (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 29, 2004 @03:24PM (#8423781)
        Uh-oh, I smell some propaganda and Winer-hating.

        I don't like Winer either, but Atom is a dead-end. It may have some technical merit (but it also has flaws, it uses HTTP methods besides simple GET/POST, which means it is a huge PITA to implement), but mostly it lives in it's own little world.

        Stepping back, it's a shame that there are 7+ flavors of RSS and now Atom which is basically the same concept. Neither Winer nor any Atom developer has the power to solve this problem.

        It means Microsoft gets to define the standard when they start pushing "MS-RSS", which we will all have to implement anyway. All the infighting between RSS and Atom will look pretty pointless at that point.
    • Re:RSS acronym (Score:4, Informative)

      by ubernostrum ( 219442 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @03:05PM (#8423685) Homepage
      As the AC mentioned, it really depends on which version you're using. RSS 0.9x versions and RSS 2.0 are "Really Simple Syndication" and RSS 1.0 is "RDF Site Syndication." Sometimes you'll see it referred to as "RSS/RDF" in that incarnation. Mark Pilgrim's "History of the RSS Fork" [] is a good, quick summary of how that came to be.

      And if you don't feel like reading that, just think of Emacs and XEmacs, but replace RMS with Dave Winer.

  • by James A. G. Joyce ( 755532 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:43PM (#8423234) Journal

    Slashdot's RSS feed is really useful. Apart from the fact that:

    • The feed is only updated once every hour.
    • Viewing the feed any more frequently, even by mistake or for just a day or two, bans your RSS reader permanently.
    • It misses out much of the information from the story (and only around 0.2% of Slashdot's readers are subscribers, so your proposal doesn't help).
    • It requires your RSS reader to use the Slash RSS module.

    All in all, this makes it pretty damn useless. Way to go, dipshit.

    • by rsmith-mac ( 639075 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:03PM (#8423364)
      Ya, the ban thing really is anoying, especially when you considering the website itself has no equivilent. I ended up banning myself once when I updated the refresh time on Slashdot to 30 minutes; it took me forever to figure out what the heck was wrong with it. Frankly, I'd just like to see the ban go unless there's some reason why it should stay.
      • by myov ( 177946 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @03:06PM (#8423691)
        Many other sites simply return a HTTP header (I forget which one) which basically says "nothing has changed since the last time you were here", rather than sending the entire RSS down each time.

        I got myself banned a little while ago when I discovered that each section of /. has RSS feeds. What's the point if you get banned reading them all?
    • by znu ( 31198 ) <> on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:04PM (#8423369)
      I've been reading a lot of RSS feeds through my Nokia 3650 lately, using Bloggo []. This is really nice, but it's only practical for feeds which provide full text, because trying to view real web sites on a cell phone is a major exercise in frustration.

      I've noticed that over the last few months, full-text feeds have become more common. Slashdot should really join the fun.
    • by kekoap ( 37035 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:30PM (#8423510)
      Viewing the feed any more frequently, even by mistake or for just a day or two, bans your RSS reader permanently.

      Huh. But you get instantaneous feedback that you are reading too quickly in the form of a link to a page explaining the situation. In my experience, banning is temporary, at least if you heed the warning page. I agree that this is inconvenient (Slashdot is the only site I know that does this kind of thing) but I can see the other side of things also. RSS is a privilege, and it's up to Slashdot to decide how to deploy the technology on its site. If you get the warning, back the fuck off! It's about that simple.

      It misses out much of the information from the story.

      I dunno, I just click the links I'm interested in, and that gets me straight to the full story. And, at no extra cost, that same page lets me read comments from people like you, and respond to them!!! Woo!

      It requires your RSS reader to use the Slash RSS module.

      Huh? I read the feed just fine, and I've never heard of "the Slash RSS module." I just use a Perl script that wraps LWP::UserAgent and XML::RSS. What am I missing?

    • and no exclusion whatsoever, nor do I need a Slash module in my reader.

      The feed is also updated more than once per hour, so I think your info is a little out of touch with reality.
    • by chickenwing ( 28429 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @04:53PM (#8424281) Homepage
      What happens when you have an office full of Slashdot readers behind a NAT? I thought for a minute that I might be less distracted at work if I was not constantly checking the Slashdot page, but after seeing the limitation on use, I realized that RSS just wouldn't be practical.

      I wonder what it means in the FAQ about "pounding our servers". I don't understand how serving RSS is more stressful than serving the main page. The actual content of that page is generated periodically and then the static version is sent out?
  • by pgrote ( 68235 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:52PM (#8423292) Homepage
    If you're looking for a stable, well performing reader that is host based, meaning you don't have to move your config files and pointers, check out Bloglines [].

    Developed by the same person who started Egroups, Bloglines offers the ability to manage your feeds through a simple interface available anywhere.

    The power also includes:

    1) Disposable email addresses.
    2) Sharing of your feeds.
    3) Exporting of feeds.
    4) Routing email to your account.

    A great, free service.
  • by botzi ( 673768 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:53PM (#8423296)
    Alas, you'll not find the tools for handling RSS in your Microsoft Windows operating system. Not yet, anyway.

    How bad is it to have become accostumed to the monopole of a single software??? What's wrong with having to surfe & choose the application you prefer???

  • by costas ( 38724 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:57PM (#8423331) Homepage
    I run an "intelligent" newsbot, memigo []. Memigo is a kinda hard to explain; sort of like Google News with TiVo functionality. One of memigo's most popular features are customized XML feeds for pretty much everything: recommended articles, reading and recommending history etc. The site serves thousands and thousands of custom XML feeds a day.

    XML syndication is great but there are several drawbacks:

    The standards wars: RSS 0.9 vs RSS 1.0 vs RSS 2.0 vs Atom. As a provider if I want to reach as many people as possible I will have to provide 4 different formats! (RSS 2.0 should be readable by RSS 0.9 readers but you never know).

    The bad client implementations: repeat after me: 304 Modified. If you consume XML/RSS, make sure your client supports 304 Modified responses, and provides Last Modified and ETags. Otherwise, you're wasting my bandwidth, and I'll have to ban your customers (which I don't want to do!).

    RSS is less two-way than HTML: a lot (not all definitely) of the RSS clients make it hard to interact with the authoring site, much more so than plain HTML and a browser. Fortunately, this is changing.

    IMHO, RSS is a good first attempt at a truly automated, interactive Web experience. But the killer apps will have to wait for better technology and infrastructure...

  • by Mr. Darl McBride ( 704524 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:58PM (#8423335)
    Slashdot offers an RSS feed, but there's still no feed containing all the stories. Anything that's not front-paged isn't available through the RSS feed. That means about 1/4 of Slashdot's content is unavailable without visiting the site and either browsing sections or turning on all stories in user preferences.
    • by johnjay ( 230559 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:39PM (#8423547)
      "Anything that's not front-paged isn't available through the RSS feed."

      I don't think this is correct. I just loaded the Science page .rss feed. Just click on the science section, and click "rss" link at the bottom of the Science page.

      I don't know if viewing the "slashdot" rss feed and then the "slashdot - science" rss feed counts as 2 refreshes for the "banned from RSS" rule. At this point, I've only had an RSS reader for about 10 minutes. Still not banned from /.!
  • by cmacb ( 547347 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:00PM (#8423345) Homepage Journal
    I actually don't get what's so revolutionary about RSS. I continually see references to it as an example of "PUSH" technology. To me that means the server initiates the transfer of data to the client. I've never seen an example of RSS working this way. At best, I hit a web page, which has some RSS scripting which then goes and hits dozens of other pages with RSS feeds. This could all be done on the client, and in fact, I may not only be grabbing Slashdot headlines by visiting another server, but I may also be grabbing them at the same time by opening up Evolution, or any of dozens of other programs. I can't remember the last time I looked at Slashdot headlines using Evolution, but its right there on my summary page just the same.

    It basically serves up headlines. It's pretty useless without conventional HTML/CSS behind it.

    My concern is that once it REALLY takes off there are going to be millions of people running RSS harvesting programs 24 hours a day. That means servers having to respond to all these behind the scenes inquiries for data that is almost NEVER going to be looked at.

    This sounds like something that could be done a lot more efficiently by the likes of Google. They scan everything anyway, no reason they can't summarize much of it too (and they are starting to do this).

    And I still don't see how RSS will end Spam. Most legitimate advertisers have stopped using Spam already. The con artists who still Spam know that there are an endless supply of suckers. The only thing that will end e-mail Spam will be to either end e-mail, or create laws that will make e-mail useless.
    • by costas ( 38724 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:18PM (#8423443) Homepage
      The site in my sig provides tons of XML. Technically, I agree with you that RSS is way to simple:

      The original standard was so lenient (on purpose) that the quality of feeds is inconsistent at best.

      RSS also piggy-backs on HTTP for authentication, modifications (304s), etc. This is great in theory, but in practice it has meant that every RSS client author has thrown together their homebrewed RSS client from an HTTP library without doing authentication, modification-checking, gzip compression, charset encodings, etc, etc, etc. It literally would have been preferrable for an HTSP (HyperText Syndication Protocol) to come out, just to force developers to use well-thought-out and well-behaved syndication libraries.

      RSS is not NNTP (unfortunately): there is no interactivity, unless you provide additional controls to the subscribers somehow (memigo uses a frame-over) which is not consistent from site to site. Hacks like TrackBack are only half-way measures...

      Related to the above: RSS provides meta-data only from the publisher side, NOT the reader side. Well, the vast majority of people are readers, not writers, and their meta-data vanish into clickthrus... sites like memigo try to fix that (by using implict ratings, page-read trackers, etc) but those are still kludges around the underlying technology...

      In short, RSS is a good 1.0 technology, gopher waiting for HTTP...

    • Many RSS readers are intelligent enough to simply request the http header first. If the feed hasn't been updated since it was last retrieved, then they don't bother to retrieve it. So it's not as extreme as you make it sound. Also, if you compare the front page of slashdot to the RSS feed, the main page is currently 28572 bytes (including images) while the RSS feed is 2599 bytes. So I could download the RSS feed 11 times before I use as much bandwidth as you do by viewing the front page of slashdot. An
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I actually don't get what's so revolutionary about RSS.

      It's nothing about the technology, and everything about the human side of things.

      RSS lets me keep track of ten times as many news sites as I would be able to by visiting each of them individually.

      From a website's perspective, it makes it much more likely that your visitors won't drop you due to lack of time.

      It basically serves up headlines. It's pretty useless without conventional HTML/CSS behind it.

      It can contain the whole article, not

    • by GeorgeH ( 5469 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:50PM (#8423595) Homepage Journal
      You must be reading the wrong stories about RSS. It doesn't basically serve up headlines, it basically serves up a diff of the web since you last looked at it. That's probably the best way of describing just how powerful it really is.

      Take my Bloglines feeds [] for example. There's no way I could keep track of 100+ sites continuously without RSS. It gives me full text of updates for most sites (Slashdot, of course, is broken) that I read when I want to know what's new.

      And most RSS readers support HTML/CSS. Images too. Just so you know, so the next time you bash RSS you can do it with a little information behind you.

      Also, the bandwidth concerns are minimal for RSS aggregators that support 304 Modified headers, ETags, and If-Modified-Since headers. And I predict that by the end of the year the community will make a common practice of banning those aggregators that don't support them.

      As for the Spam angle, I think you mis-read the article. RSS won't end Spam, it will provide people who use email for legitimate broadcast reasons (email newsletters, etc) to get around Spam blockers. And people will prefer this method because they know they can unsubscribe at any time.

      Seriously though, RSS is like TiVo for the web. You hear a lot of zealots talk about how cool it is, when it's obvious from their description that it's nothing special. Then, when you try it (like with Bloglines [], the free aggregator I use) you realize just how powerful and revolutionary it is.
  • But for the discussion. If I want stories I go to El Reg. And then I end up reading every single story anyhow.
  • by wehe ( 135130 ) <<wehe> <at> <>> on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:17PM (#8423435) Homepage Journal
    Setting up the TuxMobil News [] RSS feed , which features daily news for mobile geeks using laptops, PDAs and mobile cell phones with Linux, I have also made a survey of RSS news readers, tickers and aggregators for Linux (available at the link above). The survey contains tools for Gnome , KDE, text console, HTML and your favorite X11 window manager.
  • RSS Could Cure Spam (Score:3, Interesting)

    by philipkd ( 528838 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:18PM (#8423447) Homepage
    The only problem with penny e-mail postage stamps is when you need to send a newsletter to 100,000 subscribers.

    RSS solves that by creating a new medium for opt-in mass e-mailings, allowing e-mail to diverge into pay-per-play e-mails.

    Plus RSS and regular e-mail can appear in the same inbox, thus making the transition seamless.
  • by Otis_INF ( 130595 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:21PM (#8423466) Homepage
    Don't get me wrong, I like feeds in RSS formats, use them a lot, however RSS has a problem: bandwith.

    If a site exposes an RSS feed, and 50,000 people subscribe to that feed and refresh that feed every 10 minutes, you get 3mil requests for that feed per hour, you can do the math yourself how much bandwith that consumes if the feed is larger than a couple of bytes.

    If you crank out an email with the headlines each day to these 50,000 subscribers, you save bandwith in most cases.

    What should be done is that the RSS client first asks the rss feed server if the feed has changed past a given date/time. If not, no fetch is done. Correct me if this is already the case, but I fear it isn't (most rss feeds are dynamically produced, (perhaps with cached contents) so a simple HTTP poll won't do.)
    • This is already the case. Consider yourself corrected. Well-behaved clients support 304 Modified headers, ETags and other caching mechanisms. Also, as for the dynamically produced feeds (how do you know most are?) they can impliment 304 headers et all, if they don't they can't really complain, can they?
    • by ubernostrum ( 219442 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @03:30PM (#8423808) Homepage
      There are problems with aggregators that check every 10 minutes or so, but that's far less of an issue than it used to be; most of the "big-name" aggregators finally started doing sensible things like looking to see if the feed has been modified, and prominent sites like Slashdot started banning aggregators that poll too often (try getting Slashdot's feed more than once an hour if you want an example...).

      Plus, quite a few aggregators coming out these days are based on Mark Pilgrim's Universal Feed Parser [], which is one of the most well-behaved aggregator backends out there.

      And finally, for aggregators which understand certain of the namespaced extensions developed for RSS 1.0, there are the <sy:updatePeriod> and <sy:updateFrequency> elements from the syndication module [], which allow you to tell the aggregator how often it should poll your feed.

  • by Eric_Cartman_South_P ( 594330 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:23PM (#8423477)
    I browse EVERYTHING, including Slashdot, via the PDA links, on my PC. I beg of you to do the same.

    Even though I have a 3.2 GHz box with 2 gigs of RAM and a ATI 9800 TX with 256 mb RAM... yes, Battlefield is awesome at 6xAA, 1200x1000, at ~110 FPS :) back on topic... I will always browse the web using the PDA links if available.

    IT'S NOTHING SHORT OF AWESOME. All my sites load instantly, no adverts or maybe just one, and everything is plain text with links underlined, and only a picture or two of whats really relevant. And when I do browse the web on my Treo 600, I see the exact same thing. Lean and mean and consistent.

    Here are some links... enjoy!

    Slashdot: no special link, just change your settings!


    C|Net (for the M$ fanboyz):



    New York Post:

    Google (yes, even leaner!!!):

  • Top 100 Feeds (Score:5, Informative)

    by GeorgeH ( 5469 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @03:11PM (#8423713) Homepage Journal
    If you're interested in the types of content that are available in RSS check out's Top 100 RSS Feeds []. They generate their statistics from the users who upload their RSS feed list (called an OPML file) to the site.
  • eventwatcher (Score:3, Informative)

    by srussell ( 39342 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @03:16PM (#8423743) Homepage Journal
    My big recent find (WRT RSS) was eventwatcher [].

    The problem I've had with most of the RSS browsers is that they don't distinguish between what you've read, and what you haven't. They either create a web page (which is sort of tedious to browse), or they ticker-tape the N most recent events. If you're off-line for a while, and N+1 events come through, you miss that first one, and in any case, you have to constantly scan the ticker for new events.

    eventwatcher queues messages, and alerts you when any of your feeds has a new event. When you read events, you can trash them, or save them. If you save them, they go into a different queue which you can browse later; if you trash them, they're marked as "read", and don't show up in your queue.

    eventwatcher is a KDE app, and it sits in the system tray, alerting you via a tooltip when a new event comes in (and telling you how many events you have in the queue). For an early release of the app, it is amazingly useful; I only have a couple of feature requests, and I highly recommend it.

    I'm not affiliated with the project and have had no contact with the author yet.

  • by Second_Derivative ( 257815 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @03:17PM (#8423748)
    Is this suggesting that RSS won't be bogged down in commercialised distraction? I dunno if it's just me or not but every time I think of a spammer I imagine a red faced overweight gent screaming "Who the fuck are you to tell me what I can't fill your screen with!?" whilst spittle is flying out of his mouth.

    These people believe that it is their god given right to fill the Internet with their... content, and they get incredibly angry and retaliative when someone dares to challenge this.

    They will find a way.
  • by ThisIsFred ( 705426 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @03:21PM (#8423762) Journal
    If you think Slashdot is a "speed feed", try setting your RSS utility to update from /. every five minutes and see what happens.
  • When installing Karamba (KDE tool for putting dynamic content on the desktop), i noticed a perl script on the karamba homepage that would read a rss feed and display it on the desktop. I hacked it a little, to do nicer formating, read multiple feeds and handle different versions of rss, and now i have the headlines from /., kuro5hin, wired, the register and a few more on my desktop. Nice!

    The i missed a way to klick on those headlines and open a browser -- karamba does not support stuff like that. So i hacked the script some more to write html to a file that i have open in my browser, updating automatically. In fact, i found this /. story this way....
  • by softwarezman ( 567220 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @03:23PM (#8423773)
    Interesting how they think RSS feeds are new. I'm in the military and we are actually implementing that for quite a few unclass and class websites! But I always thought we were 10 years behind everybody else... something MUST BE WRONG! ACK!
  • er.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by jimmyCarter ( 56088 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @04:03PM (#8424003) Journal
    I still think the problem with RSS is the name. It sounds stupid. Let's all call it 'Speed Feed'. Cheesy rhyming will help the non techno elite remember it, and this is a technology that needs to be more widely deployed.

    Taco, you're right.. millions have been struggling with the acronym of HTML for years now b/c it's just not "catchy" enough..
  • by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @04:43PM (#8424233) Homepage Journal
    Yahoo and Google recently embraced Web feeds, and Microsoft is expected to incorporate tools for managing them in its next-generation operating system, code-named Longhorn.

    Funny how Microsoft tried this in 1998 (remember the original Active Desktop?) and everyone hated it. Now that RSS is here, Microsoft has to get on the bandwagon, because the open world did it right.

    So much for Microsoft's assertions that our side does not innovate.
  • by samael ( 12612 ) <> on Sunday February 29, 2004 @06:56PM (#8424953) Homepage
    Not only are all users automatically RSS producers: /rss/ []
    but you can take any RSS feed and produce a 'user' from it.

    I get all my news on: []
    which aggregates various news sources into one place.
  • PointCast (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nbvb ( 32836 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @08:25PM (#8425417) Journal
    Does anyone remember PointCast?

    Here we go, "push" technology all over again.

    Except this time, it isn't the stock feeds, but purported "geek news" sites.

    Yeah, that's gonna fly. :-)
  • by mabu ( 178417 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @10:00PM (#8425861)
    Sure, you can infect RSS feeds with advertisements. Feel free. RSS is a whitelisted service where sites choose which sources they want to feature. You put ads in your feed, you get blacklisted. Feel free. It will help us separate the sleazebags from the honorable sources of information.

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."