Reflections on RSS

I feel like it wasn't that long ago when I downloaded Net News Wire and started to seriously plug into blogs: it was sometime after the Livejournal friends list stopped being the center of my digital world. It wasn't the same, but it also helped me feel a bit closer to certain communities and people than idly checking through a folder of bookmarks. I think that closeness that the flist created stuck with me and I've never been truly able to shake it. Anyways, I wrote this as part of an email to a friend on all the hubbub around Google Reader (totes freaking out about that, btw):

There's something wonderfully contrarian about RSS these days. It's not so much that it's old or technically confusing to people, it's more about the fact that RSS comes from a different mindset. RSS came from an Internet that centered around passions, it's a peer of the arcane forums and long form blogging that we associate with that Internet. Whereas our tools now focus on filtering — algorithmically, or more implicitly based on time — and the idea that consumption is something I can undertake as I wish, RSS is demanding. RSS displays everything I subscribe to, even if it's a week old or there's thousands of new posts. RSS does so with an impatient little indicator, announcing angrily how many articles are unread, like an inbox for information. But the undertone of that aggressiveness is the expectation of commitment. RSS does away with the laissez faire relationships we have with those we follow and demands more. Relationships span the ugly and the good, the hard and boring and the captivating and interesting. Knowing something involves the mundane details as much as it does the big headlines. We are a culture of dilettantism, and RSS is a commitment that a few nerds made to keep that from seeping into every aspect of our digital lives.