Andrew Travers Andrew Travers is an interaction designer and researcher. He’s the author of Interviewing for research.

Andrew Travers


Ideas of March

The announcement of Google Reader’s impending demise has brought RSS into focus for the first time in an age. Just like many of my fellow designers, I lean pretty heavily on Twitter as a source of links to longer-form reading, but RSS still has an important place, particularly in gathering a sense of what’s happening in my field.

It’s what I typically reach for on my commute or over lunch, reading, skimming, favouriting articles, adding them to Pocket. I’m careful about what I subscribe to, carefree about what I unsubscribe from, avoid link aggregators and online ‘magazines’. I ignore unread counts and liberally ‘mark as read’ when content has sat unread for a while. My subscriptions these days are dominated by the blogs of designers, cyclists, designers who are cyclists and cyclists who know a thing or two about design.

Unlike Twitter’s timeline, RSS posts are less immediate, less constrained by time, but I think in a way it’s the lack of intimacy in RSS that I’ve come to appreciate most. It’s an admirably limited form of engagement (side note: I wonder if it could ever have come after something like Twitter?). Blog posts take only what a particular writer has taken the time and care to write, negotiate the not inconsiderable obstacle of a content management system, and hit ‘publish’. There’s a number of people I’ve followed at some point on Twitter only to find I didn’t care for them so much when exposed to them unfiltered. RSS and blog posts are a pretty good quality and relevance filter. It’s often where you’ll find those people at their best.

I find myself agreeing with Marco Arment that Google’s exit opens the doors for others to enter the RSS space and start doing something interesting with it, but it’s going to take a while for new services to emerge and build an audience. In the meantime, I’ll be returning to self-hosting my RSS feeds, just like I used to, with Fever. I’ve already decided not to export my Google Reader feeds, but to start afresh and refreshed too, finding a slightly different perspective through the sites I subscribe to in future.

Postscript: this post is one small contribution to Ideas of March, Chris Shiflett’s initiative encouraging a revival in the blogging. Read more about it on Chris’s site, or find other posts post via Twitter: #ideasofmarch.