When was the last time you thought about RSS? You know, that wacky XML format for subscribing to blogs?
There are some interesting tech and cultural trends shining a light on RSS. They are making the case that RSS is key to sustaining and growing the web that we all of us want: A thriving and independent aggregation of 1,000,000s of points of light rather than 3 large tech giants feeding us content through algorithms.
Some interesting articles I ran across today
A couple of articles came my way today to nudge me to write this post.
Back to RSS by @email@example.com starts with:
“It’s 2023. Or 1999… Whatever. Personal sites are back. Blogs are back. RSS is back. Owning your data is becoming real…”
Indeed. Owning your data, owning your privacy, and owning your legacy is increasingly interesting and relevant. Turns out RSS might be an important part here.
Then there’s Bring back personal blogging: Twitter is creaking. Social media seems less fun than ever. Maybe it’s time to get a little more personal from The Verge.
“In the beginning, there were blogs, and they were the original social web. We built community. We found our people. We wrote personally. We wrote frequently. We self-policed, and we linked to each other so that newbies could discover new and good blogs.
I want to go back there. "
Turns out I “do” a lot of RSS
RSS is the foundation of podcasting. Publishing a podcast really is just sending out an RSS feed that includes
<enclosure> tags with MP3 links in them.
It’s probably no accident that podcasting is also one of these bastions of 1,000,000’s of small points of light being largely independent and open. Although, companies such as Spotify and others are trying their best to aggregate them. BTW, if it’s all the same to you, please consider listening on an independent player like Overcast or PocketCasts rather than one of these tracking aggregator platforms.
Here are some fun stats from Talk Python’s and Python Bytes’s RSS feeds in December 2022.
That’s over 400,000 people pulling down 0.2 TB of XML monthly. I can only guess how insanely much XML that is when seen uncompressed given how dramatically text can be compressed.
So yeah, RSS is pretty important to me.
There are some pretty great RSS readers
When I hear conversations about RSS, they quickly get to “then Google killed Reader” and that was that. We were all done with RSS.
But recently started using Reeder for macOS and iOS. If you’re in the Apple ecosystem, the desktop and mobile apps work together like hand in glove and sync your feeds and history privately through your own iCloud account. It’s a paid app, but not a subscription and the price is fair.
Remember that The Verge article? Know how I found it? RSS + Reeder:
Yes, Reeder is only for Apple people. I’m sure there are similar excellent ones for Windows and for Android. But I don’t have enough experience recommend any beyond a DuckDuckGo search for popular ones. Feel free to chime in below with recommendations.
In fact, I’ve started to embrace reading sites that have an RSS feed even if they don’t ship the full article (like The Verge one above). And I’ve curtailed reading sites that don’t offer some form of RSS. After all, how much effort is an RSS feed if you’re already a news organization.
While you’re here…
If you are trying out a new RSS reader and looking for feeds, I have one for this site:
Consider adding it to your reader along with the Talk Python and Python Bytes feeds listed above. :)
If you are a developer
Then you have the power to shift the balance towards openness and independence with RSS even if by just a tiny little bit. Add RSS to your things. It’s not particularly hard and you can use template language tools you’re likely familiar with. For example, Jinja2 for Python folks or Razor Pages for .NET.
What can you put an RSS feed over at your org?
If you’re not a developer, just ask. Ask companies and websites that don’t offer some way to subscribe to their content to add an open protocol such as RSS.
One example I was inspired to add
If I’m giving advice, I’d better take it too, right?
As I mentioned above, we are shipping an insane amount of RSS for the podcasts. But what else could I do?
I decided that our courses over at Talk Python Training might be a good candidate for RSSification. So I took an hour or two and put that into place. I present to you:
Another area at Talk Python Training is our free office hours. We offer these to all our students as part of the benefit of learning with us. So we also now have an RSS feed for when those office hours are put on the calendar:
Now it’s your turn!
I’m not a fan of comments on my site. They lead to too many spammers and the platforms to plug them in usually add a bunch of tracking scripts too.
So join the discussion over on my announcement for this article on Mastodon: fosstodon.org/@mkennedy/109624369441214016