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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

An Introduction to RSS

In case you’re impatient, here’s the link I’m going to tell you about at the bottom of the post:

Now let me get there by the scenic route:
Just a few days ago I was talking to a friend of mine about the barriers to entry regarding technology adoption and understanding—basically all the ways that computer geeks neglect late adopters and how they (we?) do a bad job at involving them in the conversation.

My friend pointed out that those on the leading edge of technology trends tend to talk to people as advanced or more advanced (we get excited; we’re obsessed; we want to know more; we don’t understand why other people don’t get it, we think they’re so 1997). I grudgingly agreed that that may be true because early adopters are often running so fast to keep up with those at the front of the pack that they forget to look behind them.

The big question of the night was “for those interested-but-not-obsessed folks (the majority of the population), how do they catch up?”

Where are the on-ramps to the conversation?

Where are the primers and introductions?

In my case, my coworkers are only indifferent to search engine optimization, RSS feeds, blogs, wikis, podcasts—whatever—when they don’t understand the value or benefit of the technology to their lives, how it affects their workflow, their business ... But once they get it, watch out.

The same is true for new media courses, technology articles, and web strategy websites. Often the “target audiences” don’t recognize themselves as the intended audience. So how do we change that?

First off, smart people like Alexandra Sameul, CEO of SocialSignal.com create the primers and introductions to the key topics. Second, people like me catch you off guard and earnestly suggest that instead of reading a book review on this site you go off and read about RSS. (Even if you’re a computer whiz, read the article to get an idea of how to present a technical piece of information in a personable way.)

Here is THE BEST explanation of RSS I’ve ever read.
It’s a one page overview of RSS and how to get started. What is RSS, Why RSS, and How to Start Using RSS.

Totally brilliant. The best 10 minutes you’ll spend today. Don’t delay. Read it now.

It is very good, but I speak here as a former technical writer: if a procedure is 10 steps (12, really), then it’s too complicated.

This isn’t Alex’s fault, it’s the technology’s. You know what I tell most normal people about RSS? What a while longer, and it’ll be native in their browser and operating system, and they’ll never have to learn about the stinkin’ acronym.

I hope that day comes soon (the incorporation of RSS into my browser), but for now, it is reassuring to have someone spell it out clearly—or step it out, in this case—rather than just assuming that we all know instinctively what RSS is and how to use it. I envy web ‘geeks’ for their seemingly innate understanding of these things, but I don’t have this facility. (Talk to me about grammar or punctuation, and I’m on firmer ground). Come to think of it, it sometimes baffles me when people don’t just GET when to use ‘which’ and when to use ‘that.’ I guess we all access different brain cells—and what’s missing in one person is often there in another, and vice versa. Now sing, “We are the world ...”

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