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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I've been online since 1971 and I like to smoothe the way for everyone else. Among other things I co-founded Sympatico, the world's first easy-to-use Internet service (and Canada's largest).

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Making feeds friendly

As usual I am appalled by the inability of the geek world to make its wares accessible to the masses. It’s bothered me for years that the terminology around feeds is so unhelpful.

I think the concept of feeds is perfectly understandable for most Internet users. Instead of having to keep checking back on a page to see whether it’s changed, and then having to figure out what part is new, you can “subscribe” (which is free) to its “newsfeed” (or “feed” for short). Then to read what’s new you use a “feed reader”, which shows you anything that’s new and nothing that isn’t. No more wasting time checking for news that isn’t there.

So why do people keep talking about RSS? What does that stand for? And whats this syndicate stuff I see sometimes on blogs — is it dangerous? Whats an aggregator? Whats XML?

Yeah, well, that’s just us geeks. Never mind us. (Really. If you doubt me, let me just point out that “RSS feeds” sometimes don’t use RSS at all, but Atom instead. There.)

All people need to know is feed, subscribe (and the orange button that means “subscribe to feed”), and that they’ll need to use a feed reader (like Google Reader — yes, Google makes one, so they can quit worrying about whether this is a safe thing to do).

One variation: blog reader is often a useful synonym for feed reader: oh, youre reading a bunch of blogs now? You should make life easier for yourself by using a blog reader. (Today, most people use a reader for blogs only, but I expect that to change as other kinds of useful feeds gain in popularity.) Reader is fine too.

If I’ve missed any terms that need to be included in the feed terminology for the masses, please comment below. Otherwise, this is my call to action to stick to just the terms that are in boldface above.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that I've gotten the hang of this reader thing, can you help me with podcasts? :-)

Sunday, February 11, 2007 at 9:19:00 a.m. EST  
Blogger Rohan Jayasekera said...

Yes I can.

1. Move to Hollywood.
2. Become a star.

(If you meant that you're looking for help with listening to / watching podcasts, rather than making them, what aspects are unclear?)

Monday, February 12, 2007 at 5:55:00 a.m. EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Ok, so, I use iPodderX. I subscribed to a couple podcasts that have since become defunct and when I open ipx, those podcasts have disappeared. Were they ever really there?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 at 12:18:00 p.m. EST  
Blogger Rohan Jayasekera said...

Um, sorry, Christina, I know nothing about iPodderX. But since it's popular there are probably discussion forums for it somewhere on the Web.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 at 2:23:00 p.m. EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That smacks of effort. ;-)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 at 7:34:00 p.m. EST  

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