RSS Sucks! Where's my discussion aggregator?

February 4, 2003

As I was writing the previous post about how sites without RSS feeds don't lend themselves to regular reading, I realized that RSS is only half of the equation. While RSS makes it easier to read many feeds, it needs an equivalent to let us manage discussions. If the Internet is about communication and conversation, RSS on its own isn't enough. RSS is one way, from writer to reader. It makes blogs, news sites and announcements more convenient and accessible than the web browser.

Online, people do communicate with others. One-on-one conversations happen over email and IM. Many-to-many conversation occurs on email listservs, usenet groups and in web forums (including blog comment systems and message boards.) What we need is the equivalent of RSS and the news aggregator for discussions. For this post, I'll make up an acronym and call it RSC (for Really Simply Conversations), just because I like making up acronyms. For all I know, there may be some acronym that serves this purpose already.

Web-based forums, e-mail listservs and usenet groups are all imperfect. Web-based forums, bulletin boards and blog comment systems have no passive notification system. They all require users to visit them actively to check for new posts. Listservs either clog up email inboxes, force subscribers to write filters to keep list messages separate from personal messages or require multiple email accounts. While Usenet is meant for discussions, I don't know if it would have grown and survived even if it hadn't been raped and pillaged by spam. Usenet worked well when the internet was smaller, but has largely been replaced by mailing lists and web boards.

An RSC client would allow one to subscribe to both entire sites and individual discussions. It will give users the option to thread discussions, ignore some users. In general, it will make it easy for people to participate in conversations with groups of people online and for users to manage a number of those conversations, just like RSS makes it easy to manage reading a number of web sites. Instead of just a news aggregator, I'd like to have a news & discussion aggregator.

Posted by Andrew Raff at February 4, 2003 06:54 PM
Trackback URL for this entry: Aggregation post processing.
Excerpt: Does this solution solve this problem? Probably not, but it's fun to think of the possibilities surrounding NetNewsWire and the platform it's built on, OSX. It certainly seems that RSS 2.0, and insertion of comment
Weblog: In My Experience
Tracked: February 5, 2003 08:07 PM Others interested in syndicated messaging
Excerpt: I see that Andrew Raff is thinking along the same lines as myself about the concept of using RSS, or
Weblog: Jesse Lawrence's Weblog
Tracked: February 6, 2003 02:00 AM

Hello there, I've been thinking about this exact topic as of late.

Here's the article:

I started a messaging system based completely on RSS. While rss is "roughly" capable of handling this method of "distributed messaging" (textinput tags can be used to "post" and "reply"), I too had been thinking that a new syndication method was needed for messaging. Also a big problem is the fact that currently, RSS aggregators ignore the textInput tags for the most part.

Any thoughts or ideas? I'm going to continue working on this whole idea. I'd like to develop an xml language for syndicated messaging (perhaps RSC ;) ), as well as create a number of applications which use and exploit this idea, such as a news reader which also handles messaging, and a standalone message board app, etc.

Posted by: Jesse Lawrence on February 6, 2003 01:48 AM

(through the magic of copy & paste I can continue a conversation on 2 servers...)
IMHO the starting point for solving this kind of problem lies in the semantics used, and although it may be possible to dangle stuff onto RSS 2.0 comments, I think it really needs something a bit better defined. Using an RDF vocabulary like IBIS -
could facilitate the joining up of conversations - my post in reply to your post will contain an statement saying that it is. If it was on a different server, presumably it would also send a trackback ping, to make itself known. Then all that is necessary is for the newsreader to filter according to the thread, and bingo! a conversation.

Posted by: Danny on February 6, 2003 04:03 AM

Check out the thread at re: comments in RSS

Posted by: Kevin on February 6, 2003 03:04 PM