Tempest in a web feed

Macworld runs a story titled Microsoft exec defends RSS rebranding. I must admit that I'm with those who'd love to have a simple, human-like way to depict feeds to the layman. RSS feeds is as self-explanatory (and appealing) to "normal" people as URL. Plus how do you deal with Atom feeds? I mean the ones that just happen to carry exactly the same purpose.

When I introduce the notion of feeds to people, I call them news feeds. When they ask how to find them, I tell them to look at some rectangular orange button that reads "RSS" or "XML", or "Syndicate this site", or for the lucky ones using Firefox or Safari for the special icon that marks the presence of a feed. Speak about simplicity! I don't even try to mention Atom. "Call ’em what you bloody well want" says Tim Bray.

Geeks tend to despise marketing, but sometimes they should learn about the importance of describing something in a simple manner, and how to market it to the public.

How do you call feeds when you describe them?

5 Comments

When I try to encourage people to use feeds I have a different attitude according to the level of web understanding of the person.

Basically I tell non-tech savvy folks they can "subscribe" to several sites and have the "news" come to their news reader, all in one place (I recommend Bloglines, although it still has problems with Atom 1.0). I bring up the word "feed" in the end on the off chance they remember it.
I wouldn't imagine bringing up the difference between Atom and RSS (what? PAL, SECAM? it's TV!). I just show them how to do it once and like you I point them to those ridiculous icons branded XML, RSS or Syndicate. I'm talking about people who don't know what the address bar is on their browser (they don't have a browser btw, they have "internet").

To people who show some interest for the technology I say that there is basically no difference but they should choose RSS2.0 or Atom if they can (these are the people who differenciate between the address bar and Google). I call these "feeds" or "syndication" (or "fil d'information" in French) and then proceed to explain that it's like subscribing to a newspaper only usually it's free.

To developpers I say support RSS 2.0 AND Atom 1.0, because Atom 1.0 must prevail otherwise we'll be stuck with this mess that is RSS.

The problem is that "Web feeds" is Englsih only and if it is to have international success it will need graphical appeal, like a logo or something, and that's not gonna happen so I wager it'll just add more confusion once IE7 becomes widespread in 2 years.

Exactly the problem I have here! "RSS"... juste another IT acronym for most people.

I find also difficult to explain just that movement: "the site goes to you via a dedicated application... you go to the site if the news from the feed interests you"... Man, that's so simple, but I cannot manage to explain that correctly.

And that's becoming urgent since we are starting to promote RSS in my company....

There are two separate issues:

- Explaining: Education and outreach of the format
- Using

Most of the people who are using Web sites don't know that there's a language behind which is called XHTML or HTML, even less CSS and I don't talk about HTTP. People are most of the time not using URL as you say, but Web address or address of this site.

The name in fact doesn't matter at all, they use at best the Web and most of the time Internet, even for their mail. Their Mail = Web.

So the question in the community is really a geeky question and not even a marketing question.

I would say that applications have to make it transparent. After when you want to tell someone, why not Web feeds, or feeds when the Web context is already understood. ;)

Very geeky debate.

"Very geeky debate" > yes and no. Yes for the intestine fights between RSS and Atom, or Winer against Microsoft and the world. No when those geeks push their geeky talk to the end user. The ugly names and orange buttons that you see in every blog tool around is an example of that, and that's what I'm talking about, the user interfaces we end with, when produced by geeks.

François,

You misunderstood what I was saying. I said you are still too geeky in analyzing the problem. :)

I agree with you on that. I'm saying that all this pseudo UI thingy should not exist at all. Orange buttons, and all the things around, the links to RSS feeds in Web pages, etc. All of that should not be here at all.

The autodiscovery link is the right thing to do. The rest is about application and protocols.

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