I don’t understand why the kids all love RSS news aggregators. (No links for explanation, because if you aren’t dorky enough to t know what one is, it’s probably not worth reading this. Also, good for you, you are not a total web nerd geeko.)
Anyway, RSS aggregators don’t just suck down headlines, they suck all the life and vigor out of pages. I’ve been trying to find a way to communicate my concerns with aggregators, and this is the best “metaphor” I can come up with.
Tim likes to read news. He’s a very, very important businessman and so he has the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, a number of industry publications whose names are not important, and mostly out of nostalgia the Republican pal he grew up with, The Chicago Tribune.
He begins his day by paging through the papers, and he reads the periodicals when he gets a chance.
One day, as Tim was quietly reading the New York Times, his colorful but excitable pal Don storms into his office with a stack of papers.
“Tim! Look at this!” he screams as he flashes his papers around and dances around Tim’s office.
“Ummm, calm down, Don. What’s up?”
“Well, I’ve found this company, and they do this great thing, look! Look!” He waves the papers around again, some go flying around the room. Don finally drops them on Tim’s desk. Tim puts down his newspaper and picks up the printouts.
The printouts, all on white 8.5x11 paper with smeared black ink, have headline after headline from a large number of newspapers and lesser known periodicals in small single spaced type. Some have the story lede under the headline, some don’t.
“So, what exactly do I do with this, Don?”
“Well, look, you can read all the headlines! Quickly!” Tim glances at the paper.
“Right. But the articles aren’t here. There’s just things like ‘see Austin American Statesman, page 18, column 3.’”
“But you can read a lot more headlines than you would normally! Faster!”
“I can, just, look at the headlines here in my newspapers. And you know, then read the article. And those pages don’t make my eyes bleed.”
“But these headlines are in reverse chronological order!”
“So? What good is that?”
“Well, I get faxes of pages with new story headlines as soon as they’re written. Every ten minutes! That’s what makes this service so super great!”
“I just want to read the news once a day, Don. I don’t want to get faxes every ten minutes, that’s pretty annoying.”
“Well… I guess I’m the only one who want to go zoom.”
Ok, that metaphor really didn’t go where I wanted it to go.
Anyway, I tried using some desktop news aggregators a few days ago and I was just really struck by how lifeless it makes reading and scanning headlines feel. If that’s the future of news reading, I’ll happily stay retro.
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