“Craft doesn’t come through filling out forms.” Matt 10 Oct 2006

33 comments Latest by Ben Darlow

Greg Storey writes, “Our content is all starting to look the same because of the tools used to manage it and web-two-point-dough has homogenized the Internet.”

Comments ensue:

Jim Renaud: “This is why I hate RSS. People don’t even go to my actual site anymore. I swear my next site will be PNG posts with flattened text. Suck it!”

Beerzie Grouch: “The web has become the Tower of Babel. A million speaking at once and no one listening.”

Greg: “Craft doesn’t come through filling out forms.”

33 comments so far (Jump to latest)

sb 10 Oct 06

a-frickin’-men.

i tried to use a feed reader for a few days but found that i missed finding things on my own. i realized that it was the surfing, and not only the reading, that i enjoyed.

in a similar vein, when my family first got a microwave i was very excited. it seemed like we were the last people on earth to get one. what i found was the while it was convenient, it wasn’t very good at cooking some things. and the results, while faster, were consistently disappointing. i think the microwave experience is dreadfully lacking in craft. (hot pockets.)

Ross Patterson 10 Oct 06

Nonsense. “Craft” comes from writing well about topics that interest people. There’s a reason why written media haven’t changed dramatically in the last 1,000 years. And RSS does a fine job of teasing readers with those words, especially if the lede is enticing. If you want readers to actually visit your site instead of just reading the aggregated stream, do like some writers - only syndicate the lede.

Note to Jim Renaud: She’s a cute baby, but do you really expect anyone besides her grandparents, aunts, and uncles to click through to your blog and look at the pictures?

nate 10 Oct 06

Sounds like Jim is dealing with a case of conflicting interests. People want to consume information in a format that’s convenient for them, and site owners want people to consume their content wrapped in a pretty design, or with ads, or for clicks, etc.

Gayle 10 Oct 06

I do NOT understand why people use RSS feeders. What’s the bloody point? I could see if it was 1993 and we were all using gray-backed Netscape or Mozilla or whatever so that it all looked the same anyway… but now? I just don’t get it.

Maybe I’m too visual.

Paul 10 Oct 06

I do NOT understand why people use RSS feeders. What’s the bloody point?

That’s what I used to think. I enjoyed going site to site and looking at content as well as presentation.

But, to be honest, it’s a lot more convenient for me to have everything in one place and not have to futz around with going from site to site. It works for me and I never thought it would.

Back to the topic, though: maybe the issue here is that there are (at least) two different “crafts” involved: designing a site and writing a site.

matt 10 Oct 06

I use RSS because its convenient and timesaving. It checks for site updates, so I don’t have to. If I surfed to every site for updates, I’d waste half my day.

faith 10 Oct 06

Certain sites I read for my job, to round up news and such. I’m reading for pure content then, and I use a feed reader.

Others that I read for pure fun or pleasure - I’m with Gayle. I like to browse; the surprise of seeing new content on a site is part of the fun.

And in totally off-topic content, anyone tried the “Ruby on Rails cocktail”:http://www.chow.com/recipes/10707 over at Chow?

Nerd Lifestyle 10 Oct 06

All of the free love nonsense around giving people what they want does conflict with the notion that someone has to pay for this stuff, even if it’s just for the bandwidth. That’s the reason I don’t syndicate full text to any of the sites that I run. I’ll give you a tease, but beyond that, I want you to come see my ads, make comments, participate in the forum, etc.

Otherwise, I’m just talking at you instead of talking with you.

Andrew 10 Oct 06

Look at the way Woot.com uses its RSS feed - it’s a perfect marriage of function. Your Bloglines subscription (or whatever you use) feeds you updates as products are added, but to actually buy them, you have to click through to the site. And at that point, I (the customer) need to rely on the design sensibilities of the Wooters to ensure that I can get what I want with ease. Graphic designers and RSS feeders can play together.

Now, this wouldn’t necessarily work on an Amazon-wide scale, but Amazon has a proto-function built in: Notify me when X releases a new album/book/game.

Dan Cederholm 10 Oct 06

RSS killed the blog star.

Mark 10 Oct 06

I click through many RSS posts to read comments or get additional content. The RSS Reader for me is the priority tracker. My Google homepage had too much glut, many posts on many blogs *can* be pleasantly consumed in RSS, and others do merit a click-through.

Greg 10 Oct 06

> Nonsense. “Craft” comes from writing well about topics that interest people.

Agreed, but if you go read the entire post you’ll see that I was not targeting the written word per se.

Dan Boland 10 Oct 06

i tried to use a feed reader for a few days but found that i missed finding things on my own. i realized that it was the surfing, and not only the reading, that i enjoyed.

This was my experience as well. Of the handful of feeds I have in my feed reader these days are job feeds, stuff I wouldn’t feel like actively seeking out anyway.

Peter Cooper 10 Oct 06

It was taking me 90 minutes a day to consume the sites I like before RSS. Now it takes me about 5.

I still get the ‘fun of discovery’ part by visiting pages like http://del.icio.us/popular, Digg, BBC News and Slashdot manually though. For some reason RSS doesn’t click for me on sites like those.

Tom 10 Oct 06

LOL Dan. :) I could *never* find the time in my day to surf around and find all the stuff that interests me that I get through my RSS reader. (In fact, how do you think I got here?)

It would literally take half the day, as someone mentioned. The beauty of RSS is that I get the quick synopsis of stuff I’m following. At that point I choose to go to the site or not (I still end up on the site if I want to read stuff - I know some people don’t). But if it weren’t for this, I would not find 75% or more of what I find and enjoy (or that even helps me in my profession).

And I agree with the statement that it’s the writing and the content that matters. Who cares how smashing your blog looks? Don’t get in the way of my info, man!

However I do agree that there are a million people out there saying absolutely NOTHING. Yeah you blogged about the fact that you walked your dog last night and you saw a cool neon sign. Oh man, who cares?!

All the more reason to have RSS though - just gimme what I need.

Coupled with social stuff like Digg and popurls.com, I have all I need and more at my fingertips.

And I stopped blahging myself too, because I had nothing of real interest to say, and I wasn’t writing on tech enough to make my site worth visiting. Blahg indeed.

Sam 10 Oct 06

i tried to use a feed reader for a few days but found that i missed finding things on my own. i realized that it was the surfing, and not only the reading, that i enjoyed.

Fwiw, I had the same experience. I wonder though, if that’s just because we’re a whole bunch of web geeks here and we like good looking sites or if “real people” enjoy surfing too?

Sam (again, sorry) 10 Oct 06

And I agree with the statement that it’s the writing and the content that matters. Who cares how smashing your blog looks? Don’t get in the way of my info, man!

Arg! *hits head against desk*

“who cares how smashing your blog looks?” I would say almost everyone! Otherwise we would still be using gopher. Can we all agree that a “good” site is a tasty cocktail of content and presentation?

Ryan Irelan 10 Oct 06

I like using a feedreader for the same reason I like subscribing to magazines - it’s nice to have the new stuff delivered to me with minimal effort. Sometimes being lazy is efficient.

Also, don’t assume feedreaders replace the browser for everyone. That’s a whole ‘nother argument. Just because the feed is full content doesn’t mean I won’t click through.

Of course, this wasn’t even the topic of Greg’s post, really. If you want to jump on the bandwagon against something (have energy, need cause), how about the reverse-chronological presentation of content that is scourge of the Internet?

Frederic Brunel 10 Oct 06

That’s why I don’t especially like RSS readers. They give you content outside context…

Actually, I’d rather use a personalized page (like Google, Netvibes or whatever) to see changes on my favorite web sites. If I want to go further, I click to go on the web site.

Generally web sites are full of related information I might be interesting with… It’s too bad to lose it.

Frederic Brunel 10 Oct 06

That’s why I don’t especially like RSS readers. They give you content outside context…

Actually, I’d rather use a personalized page (like Google, Netvibes or whatever) to see changes on my favorite web sites. If I want to go further, I click to go on the web site.

Generally web sites are full of related information I might be interesting with… It’s too bad to lose it.

Michal Migurski 10 Oct 06

“who cares how smashing your blog looks?” I would say almost everyone! Otherwise we would still be using gopher. Can we all agree that a “good” site is a tasty cocktail of content and presentation?

I wouldn’t know anything about that - I find almost everything via RSS, and quickly bail on sites that take liberties with my eyeball-time.

Chris H 10 Oct 06

To me, an RSS feed is like a fast food meal. Sure, it’s fast and sometimes tasty. But i’d much rather sit down to a good healthy meal that is presented well and relax and have a good conversation while I’m eating it.

I’m sure there are holes in my analogy, but hopefully you get my point.

I think it’s all situational. If you’re in a hurry - use RSS and get auto-filtered content. If you’re not. Use your browser, enjoy the context as well as the content and filter with your own eyes and brain.

To each his own.

Mark 10 Oct 06

It just occurred to me while catching up on the comments here…RSS isn’t the content; it’s a tool. RSS feeds aren’t blocking people from the design, their habits and RSS readers are. The point of RSS is to have a standardized, portable format that can be consumed without a web browser. If you want people to see your design, or you want every page to be different, that’s cool. RSS isn’t your problem, your use of RSS is. Throw in a catchy abstract and a clickable title and harness RSS to lure people into your (well) designed blog while allowing them to subscribe to updates quickly and easily. You’ll do a lot better on retention then.

I agree with Greg’s article for a number of reason as I was lamenting to a friend just this morning, before this post, that the digg effect is making the Internet boring. I just finished reading an article in The New Yorker, and found the cited YouTube video on the magazine’s web site. That was cool. Telling a friend about the article and video, and asking if he checked out the link, and being told that he saw it on Digg weeks ago, not so much fun. Yeah, it sucks when context is stripped from content.

The web’s evolving. Nice designs and graphics and page-to-page variety are becoming a smaller fraction of the Internet experience. We can’t say that the experience as a whole is eroding, though, at a time when we have podcasts, vidcasts, mapping capabilities et al on the rise.

Alex Rawlins 10 Oct 06

I like using an RSS reader. It keeps me up to date on a large variety of sites quickly. If I didn’t use RSS I would probably see content from some of those sites only once a month or even forget about them. Of course I prefer full featured RSS feeds, ones that include images and the full text of the article and that display nicely. I really don’t like the headline only RSS, it just isn’t enough of a teader to get me to go to the site. I expect my RSS to be a bland condensation of the content because it is quick to use. Then when I go to the site for the experience I enjoy it.

Design(Artistic) wise it may not be good, but Design(User-Experience, marketing) it can be great. My favorite webcomic uses one to let people know when the site is updated. So instead of going to the site daily to pick up the two updates per week, I just wait until my RSS pops up and I click on it to go the latest comic. So RSS doesn’t need to have to content if it has the tickler and reminder to keep people comming back (and the right type of content, cause this wouldn’t work for some sites).

I have tons of bookmarks of good sites, but those I have in my RSS reader get more of my traffic. Unless a site updates frequently and with content I want (most sites only have an article a month I am interested in) I will forget about it quickly, unless something reminds me. And if it reminds me and gives me two paragraphs at least to get my interest I will go to that site where without RSS I would not. Design is the use of elements to serve a purpose, maximize that purpose and you improve design. Design to produce emotion should do so, Design that should drive traffic and sales should do so. The two may overlap but dont forget the goal of your design.

Britt 10 Oct 06

Back in the late 90s, I religiously visited K10k and other design sites just to click on links and check out the lastest cool sites, for the design only. Now, I don’t care.

I have about 30 tabs open in Firefox and none of the sites has a design that I find interesting. They’re open for the content. While I appreciate a well-designed site that I need for information or shopping, they are rare.

That’s why I use RSS. Most blogs look the same (as has been pointed out here previously). I love great design, but I’m fulfilling that need outside the internet these days.

Jim Renaud 10 Oct 06

While it’s true that I’m not a huge RSS fan because I actually do enjoy visiting people’s websites, I still use Netvibes to see when my sites are updated and go their site to read their entry. So it is very handy.

However, if everyone is just gonna use cookie-cutter themes and the limiting CMS’s why not just do everything in an RSS reader?

NOTE: I also wrote my comment after someone hacked my Wordpress Config file and threw my site off-line and it was 2am while I was trying to figure out the damage, so at the time, I was very anti-CMS, anti-Google Labs for showing folks Wordpress Sql passwords and the like.

awardtour 10 Oct 06

“The web has become the Tower of Babel. A million speaking at once and no one listening.”

I was suprised no one was commenting on this. Forget the state of dialogue!, someone is reading my blog post about “how I love apple computers more than you” on a feed reader and missing the whole meaning of it because they’re not seeing it in some rounded-corner-gradient-div (which i stole from basecamp).

Anyways, I think Paul Simon said it best when he summed up the blogosphere back in 1986…

“Staccato signals of constant information
A loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires, and baby”

Scott Meade 10 Oct 06

Greg’s article is not just about design, but also about how everyone is saying the same things and pointing in circles to each other.

“Everyday brings more blogs and more links to the same content found through the same feeds and social network.” “Quantity over quality has taken over and instead of getting the best out of people we’re getting the watered down product published in hopes of being popular for a day, maybe only minutes, but enough to increase links-in, links-out, page views, click-throughs, and ad revenue.”

Amen to that! If you run a blog, the next time you feel like posting a link to something you found interesting, think twice about it. Are you doing so because you need to post something - anything - and have nothing original yourself? Or do you truely feel your readers would benefit and probably have not seen it elsewhere?

I personally don’t understand the value to me as a reader of popularity sites like digg. Being dugg can be a great for authors that want tons of readers, but as a reader it just steers me to get on the band-wagon of others. Why would a bunch of strangers have an idea what I should like or not like?

Give me something orginal and of value, not optimized for digging or adsense!

Scott Meade 10 Oct 06

Though I called for restraint in linking to content, I ironically have little issue with svn commonly linking to articles because the comments of others on the link and the dialogue that ensues here is usually interesting. On most other blogs, that dialogue does not happen.

Watts 10 Oct 06

There’s something of a false dichotomy (which other people have noted) — using an RSS reader is not mutually exclusive with visiting a web site.

Sure, as a(n amateur) designer I want people to appreciate the work I put into my layout and site design, but as a reader, I have three dozen sites I’m monitoring with NetNewsWire. I’m sure some (although by no means not all) of those people would prefer I visit their web sites each and every time I wanted to see if they’d updated it, but the simple truth is that if I had to do that, I wouldn’t be reading some of them at all and wouldn’t be checking others except once in a blue moon. And, by extension, my actual click-throughs to their web sites would drop, too.

I don’t think this is any dramatic sea change in the way the web is used and consumed. The number of people who do all, or even the majority, of their browsing entirely through news readers—never seeing the web sites they’re getting the data from—represent a very small percentage of the internet-using population. Don’t fall into the “echo chamber” trap; the people who read 37signals’ blog by and large represent the leading edge of web users, and are not a representative sample of the net at large. Hell, I live in Silicon Valley, all my friends are in the tech industry, and I’m still the only person I know in my “offline” group who uses RSS.

(And, I’ll be honest—there are some sites I’d rather be reading with my own custom style sheet in NNW.)

Robert Simplicio 10 Oct 06

I’ve tried FeedDemon and others, but I found that I like Google’s personalized homepage, because the stuff that’s important to me is on that page, I don’t get full text, so I need to make a decision as to whether or not each text link is worth my click. I keep up with my GMail, SvN, host issues, software updates, blog, and forum announcements, and the weather. That’s it. And I like it that way. RSS gives me a way to know when there’s actually content I want to consume.

elv 10 Oct 06

I use Sage extension in Firefox, and always display the real site, not an plain text view. Simply put, I use feeds as new content notifications.
I tried reading feed in a text view but I felt I missed the website’s interface, Iit felt like the tone was just not set. But hey I’m a webdesigner…

Ben Darlow 11 Oct 06

Decrying RSS is asinine. If people would rather read your RSS feed than visit your site, then clearly they go there for your written content. If your site is primarily about visual communication then you wouldn’t be using RSS for that, would you?

For what it’s worth, when I use both Thunderbird and NetNewsWire (my primary feed readers), I end up viewing the ‘page’ as if I’d visited the site anyway. Except with certain sites where they only put an excerpt or the full body of the HTML in the feed, at which point I’ll usually click the link to open the page in my default browser.

Jim’s comments sound a little ill-informed about how RSS is used, frankly.

Post a comment

(Basic HTML is allowed)

NOTE: We'd rather not moderate, but off-topic, blatantly inflammatory, or otherwise inappropriate or vapid comments may be removed. Repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. Let's add value. Thank you.