On Not | Mo Chit

February 21, 2004

RSS: Readers, Users and Organization John Udell has an interesting article discussing how RSS Readers display feeds and the viewing preferences of users. He makes some recommendations to allow the choice of scannable summaries and a way to aggregate on full-blown posts, which include:
  • Nobody needs to truncate feeds in order to enable front-page views (although some will still want to in order to drive traffic to websites).
  • Authors should think of the first HTML element (normally a paragraph, but could be a list or a block quote or something else) as special: the lead, or deck, that will appear in a front-page view.
  • Feed readers should then offer a front-page view (e.g., just the first HTML element found in each item) as well as a full-content view.
Many aggregators treat RSS feeds like e-mail which really encumbers users, because you have to click on each item you want to read, instead of being able to scan through them quickly. This is synonymous to a webpage just having links off the front page to their content, which is quite annoying and cumbersome to use. Most aggregators also don't have any options for how many items to display at one time, instead of allowing you to page through 30 or 40 items at a time.

When writing the Gush News Reader, we thought long and hard about these issues, and realized that the big problem is the lack of control over feed organization and aggregation. We came up with a tree structure organization of feeds, allowing users to create groups, and groups within groups. This gives the flexibility to see the news items for a particular feed or group(s) of feeds. Imagine having 15 or 20 new items across a group of feeds. Being able to aggregate on a group level with new items sorted to the top is a huge time saver compared to visting each feed individually.

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