Keeping the RSS Fires Burning

Gondor Calling from the Return of the King
Beacon fire light on a mountaintop

update: Switched Uniform Resource Locator (URL đź“–) of takeonrules.github.io to takeonrules.com.

Google shutdown Reader on July 15, 2013. Even though I hopped over to feedly.com straight away, it took over a year to stop reflexively going to reader.google.com.

Google Reader was a publication consumer. Google+ looked to be both consume and produce publication, without exposing an open publication standard for others to consume. While Google+ thrashed to find its eventual grave, blogs continued chugging along, publishing content. They were the producers in the equation. Google+ provided enough ways to push content from producers into it’s closed ecosystem. Some of what we, the heavy users of Google+, see in the collapse is an absence of a Google provided consumer of blogs end point.

This past week, Google announced it will be shuttering Google+; a place in which the game community initially flocked to, and from which great game collaborations developed. As Google+ goes through it’s death throws, those remaining are looking for safe harbor.

Proprietary platforms have risks. They exist at the whim of their owner. This is doubly true if you aren’t paying for use of that platform. Hint: You’re attention and concentration is their payment. For Google Reader, the platform leveraged an open standard (RSS and Atom feeds). Google+ did no such thing.

It is great to see that many game blogs survived the loss of Google Reader (a consumer of content) and the threat of Google+ (a somewhat self-contained consumer and producer of content). It appears to have reinvigorated blogging (a producer of content). I am a bit nervous about so many great blogs over on Blogger. Were Google to shut down Blogger, we’d lose a tremendous amount of content. There is an export option, but that requires active involvement. Hopefully we’ll get a heads up and can plan a life raft if this apocalypse occurred.

As blogs resurge, they’ll continue exposing their Rich Site Summary (RSS 📖) and Atom feeds for others to consume through a common and open publication standard. And the heirs to the shattered Google Reader kingdom will keep the RSS consumers fed (Feedly, The Old Reader, and Inoreader).

Personally, I’ve used Feedly for years. But the “Subscribe to an Outline Processor Markup Language (OPML 📖) file” feature of Inoreader is perhaps a killer feature; Allowing a centralized OPML file that groups of people could share . I recommend subscribing to Save vs. Total Party Kill’s OPML feed for lots of OSR blogs.

Inoreader provides a Save to Drive feature, allowing a quick snapshot of a blog post. Feedly defers to the IFTTT integration hub for such things.

As it stands, I’m testing Inoreader in parallel with Feedly. Thusfar, Inoreader’s edging out Feedly.

An Analogue

I see analogues to Google’s efforts in Wizards of the Coasts licensing of D&D editions.

Dungeons and Dragons: Third Edition (3E 📖) created an open system via the Open Game License (OGL 📖). As Wizards of the Coast looked to pivot from 3E to Dungeons and Dragons: Fourth Edition (4E 📖), they looked to tighten up the license. Paizo’s Pathfinder became a rallying cry for many D&D players, while numerous other systems popped up around the open game license. A healthy ecosystem of games developed because of an open standard.

And D&D 4E floundered in part because of its mangled license. It is hard to go from an open standard to a closed standard.

Wizards of the Coast recognized the thriving ecosystem built from their previous open standard. They chose to release Dungeons and Dragons: Fifth Edition (5E 📖) under the OGL. And gaming has never been better.

A Late Aside

I’ve also been reassessing my dependence on Wordpress. I pay a bit of money each year for them to manage the hassle. This is their business model, so I know they have an interest in improving my experience. Yet, I want more freedom.

My thought is that I want to have strong ownership in what I write as well as how that is distributed.

I’ve exported my content out of Wordpress into a static site (see takeonrules.com) generated by Jekyll and hosted on Github). I now have extreme portability in all of my content, control of its presentation, and multi-site backups (thanks to Git). Go visit Technical Grimoire for a tutorial on Jekyll and the related technologies.

I have yet to flip the switch as I’m weighing the value of comments. I’d need to use something like Disqus to provide comments for my static site. I’m not very thrilled about that. I’d prefer someone write up a response and contact me with a link to their response.

For now, I first write to takeonrules.com, then massage the output Hypertext Markup Language (HTML 📖) into something for my Wordpress site.

update

I found Why I Still Use RSS from atthis.link to add some add more to this conversation.

However it wasn’t until I began working from home and everything in my life moved online that I really began to notice how beneficial RSS could be with relation to Digital Wellbeing. By selecting only the sites, blogs, creators etc. that I had a serious interest in, I could effectively remove the negative effects of social media and excessive online usage from my life. It was easier to get involved in serious Deep Work as I had no social feeds to endlessly scroll through. It was easier to stay informed as I could only see the latest items rather than being given an algorithmic infinite feed of supposedly “breaking news.” I could open my reader maybe twice a day, skim through the latest items and continue on with my work, a process that could be over and done with in under 5 minutes - a far cry from opening Twitter and suddenly 2 hours have passed…

Having only the content I want to see only be shown when I want to see it with the freedom to jump between readers as I please, all with no ads? For me, no other service comes close to the flexibility, robustness, and overall ease-of-use that RSS offers.