Finding relevance with RSS

Twitter has undoubtedly changed my life. Like many of you it created an entirely new way for me to communicate, converse, and find great content but in turn it is also contributing to an “Attention Crisis”.

Those of us plugged into social media are having to learn new techniques to filter and discover what is important to us. The challenge is once again managing our signal-to-noise ratio (SNR).

The most important signal channel I have in my life is still RSS feeds.

Twitter didn’t replace RSS it improved it and as a publisher it’s crucial you understand how.


Twitter is a stream

I shared my stream mindset back in Feb 2009 and it’s become much more important over time because as I continue to grow my Twitter community my window into Twitter shrinks.

How this works (for me)

If I followed 40 or 50 active users I could see their tweets reaching back for a few days but by following hundreds I only see updates for the past couple of hours. When I log in at 8pm I have no idea what happened in my stream at 1pm.

Does this mean I don’t see everyone single one of your Tweets? Yes, and that’s okay with me. Twitter is a right now network. I jump in, I interact, and move on.

What this means to you?

I’m probably not going to see the tweet where you shared your last amazing blog post.

This is why RSS is so important. If I value your content then the way I continue to read your work is through RSS. It isn’t bound by a timeline and even if I don’t get to it for a week it is still waiting there for me.

You are competing for attention and it’s important to remember that although Social Media is powerful many people still rely on RSS & Email subscriptions to stay connected with your content.

I’m not alone

Many Twitter users have stated that Twitter has replaced their RSS feeds but I find that that the influencers in my network still rely heavily on reading RSS feeds.

I can’t speak for them but I can speak to what I see based on their usage.

  • @ChrisBrogan follows 139,000+ people
  • @Jesse follows 29,000+
  • @LouisGray follows 1200+ (recently trimmed from 14,000+)

I know for a fact their streams and their lives are too busy to see every tweet so how do they keep track of what they find important?

RSS feeds & Google Reader

I know this because I see what they share and many times I see those shared posts linked to in their own articles.

These folks are in the tech/social media community and RSS usage is more prevalent than other audiences but as you grow your social network connections you should also understand how to consistently deliver your content to people and often those solutions are not solely Twitter and Facebook.

A final word on Reader

I live in a world no longer driven by content or popularity, the only thing that matters is relevance.

Google Reader is more than an RSS reader it is a social platform and this is where my social networks have enhanced my signal stream.

Where did I meet Chris, Jesse, Louis, Mahendra and many others? Twitter, Friendfeed, etc…

The connections I’ve made in other social networks have been extended to Google Reader and gives me insight into what they find useful.

I’m hesitant to share this tip because it is one of the biggest shortcuts to discovering relevant content: Find smart people whom you respect that use Google Reader, friend them and watch their shared items. This system is my human-filtered list of what is important. It is my diamond mine recommendation system.

More about the compliment of Google Reader & Social Networks

  • Once I connect with people @ShannonPaul & @TacAnderson I’m able browse the backlogs of VeryOfficialBlog & NewCommBiz and learn from their excellent archive. I can’t do that with Twitter.
  • Ironically, I even watch Scoble’s favorite tweets via RSS

Combating the “Attention Crisis” with Relevance

“More people are creating more content of more types and sharing it with more connections in more places than ever before”.  – Louis Gray

This is the problem in social media and it is the catalyst for the next generation of Content Discovery & Relevance technologies that seek to answer, What is important to you.

For now, Google Reader & great folks are my answer.

Follow me on Google Reader and don’t forget to subscribe to my posts via RSS or Email 😉

For more interesting reading on relevance I suggest:

17 responses to “Finding relevance with RSS”

  1. Louis Gray says:

    RSS is a major player in my information discovery space. Always will be. That I have trimmed the 14,000+ I once followed on Twitter to 1,200+ has made the site a lot more useful for me, but the noise ratio continues to be high. That’s a major reason I first used, then advised and later joined my6sense. There’s no question that my6sense is built to help attack the information and relevance crisis head-on, no matter where the noise comes from.

    • Keith says:

      I think any true relevance engine must include multiple inbound content
      streams. This was one of the primary reasons I was attracted to Friendfeed
      and why I use and watch my6sense. I think this space is going to explode
      over the next year.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment and for tweeting the post. I
      appreciate it (PS: Is there an award for mentioning Louis Gray in a post the
      most times? If so I think I may have won it.)

  2. Mahendra says:

    As I’ve noted even on my blog, Twitter will never replace RSS for me. The geographical nature of our 24-hour day/night cycle puts limitations on real-time information consumption.

    RSS continues to be my main vehicle for catching up with news in the morning.

    Thanks for the mention, Keith!

    • Keith says:

      You know Mahendra I didn’t even consider the internationalization component.
      As our networks begin to cross more timelines and datelines then realtime
      will always have limitations. Thanks for adding your thoughts.

    • Louis Gray says:

      I think they both have their place. RSS is high quality content for me. Twitter can be, but the noise ratio is too high.

  3. robdiana says:

    Google Reader really needs tighter integration with Buzz in order for people to understand what you mean. Twitter is not an RSS reader. Digg tried the stream/RSS integration, but forgot that their users really control the site. If Google tried the stream/RSS integration with Reader and Buzz they could have a very interesting product. If they throw relevance into that mix, it would be awesome.

    • Keith says:

      Agreed. I was conflicted how to link to myself (Buzz vs Reader) but I’m
      hoping those that use them will figure it out. I think your analysis of Digg
      is dead on and I’d add the “community” that Digg built didn’t lend itself to
      being useful to the larger public.

      I’ve always said that Google is sitting on the gold mine of information but
      they’ve yet to prove they understand how to present it in a useful way. From
      latitude to wave the only social innovation Google has done well is the
      features they added to Reader.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and for leaving me a comment. I
      appreciate it Rob.

  4. Mark Essel says:

    I concur with the RSS heavy weights Louis and Mahendra.

    While I rely on twitter for socially filtering posts and articles, even with a narrow follow stream (<200) I can still miss important updates from friends and influencers. That's where RSS readers come in. I can check in periodically and rapidly scan my own posts, then shared posts.

    • Keith says:

      Mark I think this is exactly what I hope to convey that RSS is an excellent
      compliment to Twitter.

      The ability to scan posts in a list view makes scanning efficient and
      grouping makes it effective.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting Mark.

  5. Thank you for writing this post! I’m one of the Twitter users you referenced, who left RSS behind. I too had trouble managing my “signal-to-noise” ratio. As a result I turned to Twitter clients and blog apps, and slowly stopped using Google Reader.

    You make some great points. You say “Twitter didn’t replace RSS, it improved it” and talk about how you’ve extended your connections from other social networks to the Google Reader platform. I love this.

    Your post has inspired me to give RSS feeds a second chance. Hope to bring my RSS reader back to life quickly.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and your diamond mine recommendation system. 🙂

    • Keith says:

      Wow. Thank you Anne.

      If it helps I had an RSS crisis myself because I was overwhelmed and
      struggling to keep up. My Eureka moment was when I realized I didn’t have to
      read 2000+ blogs to keep up, if it was really important than I would see the
      post through my social network communities. I really trimmed the number of
      feeds I was reading and now it’s a daily part of my routine.

      I think RSS and Twitter are a perfect compliment.

      Your comment made this post completely worth writing. Thank you.

  6. Luke Morris says:

    I’m in the same boat as you on missing 8-ish hours of Tweets while at work.

    But my list of sites on Google Reader has drastically changed since I really got in to Twitter. Most of the news orgs I used to follow are now dumped. But I’ve found my new Google Reader items through links someone posted on Twitter. Pretty much if it got to the point where I kept clicking on so many links to a certain site, I just added it to my RSS.

    Instead of a crap-ton of news orgs, my RSS is mainly local blogs as well as a bunch of media-analysis and industry news blogs and Establishment-clause tacking blogs (con law nerd alert).

    • Luke Morris says:

      Forgot to mention I’ve dumped those news orgs because I find the articles I actually want to read them on Twitter beforehand anyway.

    • Keith says:

      Luke my approach made the very same shift. I don’t pay close attention to
      major web/media blogs because I usually see their best stuff through my
      social networks. I pay attention primarily to thought leaders in social
      media and friends.

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