A New Paradigm for Browsing?

I’ve been using various simple RSS readers for sometime now, in particular one called “SlashDock.” It was initially cool just to be able to keep easy access to slashdot and a few other key sites. I started to add more sites to it and it started to run out of steam, which is when I rediscovered NetNewsWire Lite.

An article on Jason Kottke’s site (which I actually read via NNW) got me thinking about this.

So, people access documents written in a markup language that have been published on a Web server with a software application. If this seems familiar to you, it should. It’s called Web browsing and has nothing to do with syndication. RSS readers and newsreaders are just specialized Web browsers, nascent microcontent browsers if you will…

I used to just run down my blog roll on the right hand side of my index page to keep up with things, but in the last few weeks, I’ve only hit a few key sites that don’t syndicate via RSS (or at least, sites on which I cannot find the RSS/XML/RDF feed location).

What happens when content is completely stripped of any design? As a designer, a majority of my day is spent devising the manner in which content is presented to a client’s target market. On one side I hate it, because presentation can make or break content. On the other hand, I absolutely love it. I can, in a matter of minutes, see what’s been updated, if any headlines interest me, and most of the time, at least read an excerpt (in my experience, most sites don’t do full content RSS yet). And as Kottke mentioned, XML feeds have a far stronger hierarchy compared to traditional HTML markup.

So, do any of you read in this manner, and if so, how do you feel about your own sites being presented without the design that you (or others) have created to present the content? How much time do you spend tweaking your XML feed to present properly?

  1. Derek says:

    Auto-discovery, dude.

    <link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="RSS" href="http://www.powazek.com/index.xml">


  2. Derek says:

    Also, I, like many, post only links and summaries. Design ain't going away.

  3. drunkenbatman says:

    Something to think about is that you're just using the stock standard format for movabletype for your RSS/XML (as I am). You can, depending on what your desire is, go much, much further. Include comments. Include html/CSS to be rendered. Use an .atom feed. Whatever. A google can turn up lots of pre-made formats.

    The design doesn't go away, it simply gets translated into a new medium, or, well, size constraint. It's not only going to be limited to newsreaders, but other devices (cell phones, sub-notebooks, etc.) Since you're already abstracting the content from the design via CSS, you're 99% there.

  4. Waldo Jaquith says:

    I had Derek's site in NetNewsWire -- which I just kicked into using when BoingBoing described their bandwidth problems a week or two ago -- but only posting excerpts doesn't give me enough of an idea of the entry to keep reading. Same deal with your site, John -- there just ain't enough. I had to make some minor modifications to my MovableType template to provide reasonable feeds, but I now have <a href="http://www.waldo.net/index.rdf" rel="nofollow">a full feed available</a> as RDF, and if that helps reduce some bandwidth usage for my regular readers, I think that's just swell.

    Incidentally, as an old-old-old-school website developer (over 10 years now, baby :), I damned near lost my shit when I looked at the source of <a href="http://www.atomenabled.org/atom.xml" rel="nofollow">AtomEnabled.org</a> last week. I've read for many years of the promise of XML/XSL, and ignored it, because of old browsers and the inevitable griping client if I dared try such a standard. So that site is, I believe, the first one that I've seen meld XML and XSL. Which is very 2001 of me, I suppose. :)

  5. roboboshi says:

    d to the m to the p - i stand corrected and updated.

    drunken - I'll have to look at more of the HTML/CSS stuff. Do most readers support this? Or is as much fun as dealing with a browser quirk?

    Waldo - I saw Atom, but I've yet to investigate it and figure out how to impelment it. I figure I should learn the basics before trying to fly experimental aircraft.

  6. Waldo Jaquith says:

    Hey, I like your full feed. :)

  7. Leila says:

    Che8re Bibi ,J'espe8re que tu arriveras e0 sounlionter ce proble8me qui nous enquiquine tous, finalement !!!Bon courage et quel joli rouge !A bientf4t j'espe8re (avant le 24/12 en tout cas !),Bises,Massilianana .

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