I should have published this live day-by-day (but that would count as plagarism with TurnItIn??), anyway as a follow-on from Fieldwork 0 Is Generic Theory a Valid Tool at Cataloguing Websites?; Here is Fieldwork 1: Are RSS Feeds Dead Technology?
Are RSS feeds a dead technology?
Day 1 – Background
I was an early adopter of RSS so to speak, I don’t reacl exactly what year tho I can date a conversation on RSS I had with a tutor here in 2002 where I was advocating the use of RSS to deliver content to the desktop without the need for browsing multiple news sites for stories.
I ditched the desktop reader for Google Reader in 2006 when I found my bandwidth was being chewed on the thousands I feeds I had set to download, as RSS shifted from being text only to having rich-media content.
I have relied on RSS for more their technical simplicity. During the migration of the University of Notre Dame Australia’s old static-HTML website onto an CMS, I used RSS as a method of leaching parts of the sites content, automatically placing it in the database of the new CMS. Additionally, the bushfire alerts on the Department of Parks and Wildlife (formerly DEC) website is managed by RSS as the approval process for the alerts needed to be not just simplified but also immediate.
But then, earlier this year Google sent me a notification that it was going to discontinue its Reader product. I panicked and asked online what Reader alternatives people were using, I had a few answers, but tried this product Feedly… and really haven’t checked my feeds much since.
Day 2 – Opening Feedly
Ok, this kinda looks familiar, theres none of the ads Google use to run, cluttering the screen. First stop XKCD–this should give me a good calculation of how long I haven’t checked my RSS for; 13 unread, I swore it was longer than that, I’ve got time to look at comics later, I want to see some news!. I check an RSS from a Yahoo! Pipe I created a few years ago, its a mash-up from a number of tech sources to filter content related to my particular interests in IT.
I browse over the other feeds I have, all grouped by subject: Drupal, Flex, Joomla!… I want something a bit lighter, the category “funny” should have something to spike interest. Reconfirming I have a bad sense of humor I decide to look back over my list, not being a developer at this time I don’t really want to read about the latest updates to WordPress, or release notes from whatever git repository I was following. I need to find some new feeds. Reader had a way to search and browse for new content, what Is Feedly going to offer me?
Day 3 – Mobile Application
I downloaded the feedly app for my tablet, it has a far prettier UI, but it presents the feeds dissimilar to the web version, which is closer to Reader. I flipped thru the usual feeds… In the early days of mobile app development, when everyone and his proverbial canine absolutely needed an app, the pushed for time web developer would build a simple RSS reader app, plug the clients RSS feed from the corporate homepage or media releases and re-skin the app to fit corporate styling.
Day 4 – Datasets and XML
The inherent beauty of RSS is that most of the time its essentially XML, which is the same markup used in a wide range of applications. In the interests of this excersise I decided to visit data.gov.au and see if I could find some cool XML dataset in RSS format and publish it online, in the end I chose to re-publish ACT FOI applications RSS over the national public toilet registry.
The praising of the XML was facilitated by the CMS itself; WordPress. No actual coding was needed on my part to get the feed to display onto the site, tho filters can be added with additional scripting. This method of aggregating content with RSS is more common on the net than is obvious from the front end.
So what is the point of this? well I have the GitRepo of my WordPress themes RSS their changelog to my site so I dont have to publish changes to the page. This automation is invisible to front end users–but its a crucial time saving tool for me. If RSS were “dead” I would have to find a new way to automate publishing.
Day 5 – Who is JSON?
Facebook are slowly depreciating RSS for their pages, in favor of a newer format called JSON, however the concept behind JSON feeds is much the same as RSS. A cynical interpretation of this move by one of the webs biggest content generators is that it limits the re-publishing of Facebook originating content on extrinsic websites.
Due to the amount of content generated on Facebook, and the associated issues of ownership and privacy, it makes sense from Facebook’s perspective to make it harder to syndicate content.
Conclusion – Are RSS Feeds Dead?
From a users perspective RSS may be a disappearing technology, but as shown with my weeks “research” into the phenomenon, it is clear that RSS feeds are still a vital technology for publishing and syndicating web content–even if the end users are oblivious to said technology. As new media professionals it is highly ignorant to dismiss a technology just because its mainstream use is not as dominant as its esoteric use.
The Pipe itself is not public so there in o URL to link, but the following articles were accessed from that feed:
 http://byronlevene.net/mcc315-rss-demo/ This page is fed by RSS from the URI above and praised by the CMS, then published as to the sites pre-defined CSS.
 http://byronlevene.net/wordpress/greenscreen/ As above.
 http://www.facebook.com/feeds/page.php?id=577571948920771&format=json will return an RSS like feed, structured in a more formal variation of XML.