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Reading Content with RSS

Published by on under the IndieWeb category.

I consume a large percentage of my online content using RSS. It was not always this way. For a long time, I relied on algorithms to tell me what to read. I put my faith in social media and believed that if I scrolled long enough I’d eventually find something interesting to read. I did sometimes find good articles. Mostly, I found articles that were popular. I didn’t discover any real gems.

When I quit social media, I started using bookmarks more liberally. Bookmarks help me keep track of what I am reading and what I want to read. I still have a few sites bookmarked that I want to come back to. I like bookmarks because I can go at my own pace. I have two documentaries about coffee in my bookmarks folder which have sat in there for weeks. I’ve not had the time to watch them just yet, but I do intend on viewing the documentaries at some point.

Bookmarks are designed for saving content. They are not designed for discovery. I’d mostly just search through the same IndieWeb sites and blogs to find what to read. I took pleasure in this process because I learned so much about how other people designed their websites. If I was in the mood for something to read, I’d often find that I would take a moment to analyze a website. Every site had its own personality.

A New (Old) Way to Read Online

RSS is an old technology. I am unsure exactly when it was first proposed. RSS has been around since the mid-2000s, at least. I did not let this deter me from looking into RSS further. I like to use technologies that solve the problems I am experiencing. The date on which a technology was invented does not matter.

I’ve seen links to RSS feeds on the internet for years. I never really gave them much thought. All of the RSS feeds I remember were marked up using XML. This was intimidating. I didn’t know what to do with an RSS feed. Feeds looked like a lot of text. It took me reading about the IndieWeb to learn what RSS is and how other people use it.

I discovered that RSS is a way to consume content. RSS feeds store a list of some or all of the posts on a website. These feeds are updated every time a site is updated. This means that I can stay up to date with websites without having to visit them and check if they have any new posts in store for me. I like looking at websites but sometimes I just really want to read something. I don’t want to have to keep searching.

Researching Clients

I spent a few days looking at different RSS clients, with the help of the IndieWeb wiki. I came across a minimal RSS client. It was self-hosted and I didn’t want a self-hosted solution. There was a hosted solution but it was paid. I was not ready to invest money into an RSS reader before sinking my teeth into building a feed. I looked at a few options. I signed up to Feedly but it was too verbose for my needs. I was looking for something simple.

I found what I was looking for in NetNewsWire. I was initially skeptical about its use. NetNewsWire showed me an almost blank screen when I downloaded the app. I hadn’t added any feeds and I was unsure what to do. I closed the app and forgot about it for a few days. RSS was still on my mind and I saw that a lot of people were using NetNewsWire. I decided to give it a go and add a feed.

Building My Feed

RSS has become more useful to me as I have added feeds. I’ve got subscriptions to two online comics. I subscribe to a few blogs and IndieWeb websites. I use RSS as the main way in which I discover content from my friends and from IndieWeb community members whose work I am interested in. I’ve subscribed to a few coffee blogs. I even subscribed to a blog that has not posted in years because if the site ever comes active again I’ll get a notification in my feed.

What I like about RSS is that it is so widely used. Coffee blogs use RSS. IndieWeb blogs use RSS. I am able to build a feed of content that I am really interested in. When I take a look at my feed, I know that I’ll find something that I am interested in. If a post is not interesting, I mark it as read and move on.

I have only subscribed to so many feeds that I see about nine or ten posts in my feed a day. That is enough. My feed may grow in size but for the moment I don’t have any publications I want to add. I can focus on the publications that I follow at the moment. My feed moves at the right pace. I only check my feed a few times a day.

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