I’ve been a fan of RSS for many, many years now, but it was only quite recently that I realised just how much web “browsing” I do via RSS.
The simplicity of RSS
For the last few years, my RSS reader has been my go-to software if I want something to read (which isn’t a book).
It’s amazing in its simplicity: I open it and, there before me, is a list of articles written by people chosen by me. My own personalised “timeline” or “newsfeed”, but of full text writing by (and only by) people I’ve picked.
It makes reading a pleasure:
no dynamic adverts
less (no?) intrusive tracking
(So a bit like browsing the web, but with the browser’s “Reader” view enabled.)
And, since I use a hosted RSS system (FreshRSS), and link my RSS clients to that or just use the web interface, everything is kept up to date across multiple devices, with articles I’ve read marked as such, and so on.
Curation and finding new writers / sites
I do miss out on “curation”, or having things I might like promoted to me, since I see only the feeds that I have chosen to read, and that has both pros and cons.
If someone I read has written about someone else’s writing and I want to “follow” or “subscribe” to them to, it’s trivial for me to drop their website into my RSS feed gatherer, and equally trivial for me to remove them if it doesn’t work out.
But, in practice, my list of feeds hasn’t changed much in the past year, other than dropping the US-centric lawyer-related sites, and adding LINux on MOBile’s excellent newsletter and Quinn Rhodes’ “[Genderbent](https://genderbent.co.uk]”, so perhaps I need to do more to broaden my reading.
I use Twitter and Mastodon quite a lot (probably more than I should, tbh), and I often follow new people on there, but that doesn’t often translate to being added to my RSS reader.
Fixing excerpt-only RSS
Some people / sites configure their RSS feed to be little more than a headline and an excerpt of the article.
I get why people configure their site’s RSS this way, but it doesn’t work for me. I prefer having the full article there in my RSS reader, so, when I notice a site doing that, I tinker with FreshRSS to ensure it grabs the full article from the website for me.
(This isn’t bypassing a paywall, or a subscriber-only section, or anything like that - it’s just using a different web browser!)
Sites which don’t have RSS
Most sites (well, their content management system) seem to have RSS feeds, which is great. It’s one of those invisible, background, didn’t-even-know-I-had-this, features.
But, for sites which don’t, it’s often possible to create a pseudo-RSS system for them anyway. I’ve yet to tinker with FreshRSS’s latest feature, but it looks good:
“New Web scraping feature HTML+XPath for Web pages without any RSS/ATOM feed "
No email newsletters, thanks!
I get more than enough email as it is, and I don’t really like reading longform articles in my email client either.
I also like the sort-of-but-not-really anonymity of the web: I can browse, and read, and not have to hand over an email address, or set up a subscription.
So, again, while I see why sites, and some readers, might prefer email newsletter subscriptions, I’d much rather subscribe to their site’s RSS feed.
Future project: RSS on my eReader?
One thing I’ve often thought about doing, yet have not done, is hooking up RSS to my eReader, so that I have an automatically-refreshed set of reading on my Kobo.
I love reading on the eInk screen, and having what is, in effect, a customised magazine delivered directly to my eReader would be neat.
I suspect it is quite readily do-able, but I’ve yet to do it.