The agony of de-feeds

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There's an interesting "report" over at the Feedburner weblog, about the changing face of feeds (RSS/Atom), and specifically about the way that feeds are finally (or need to be) decoupling from blogs. Although they remain an incredibly useful way for me to keep up with the 100+ blogs I subscribe to, that's not their only use. The Venn diagram at the top of the entry illustrates this nicely:

RSS/Atom evolving

When I talk about using weblogs with someone who's new to the idea, I almost always also talk about Bloglines (and various other aggregators), because feeds have been so vital to my own ability to manage the incoming information. But as feeds take on a more autonomous role on the Web, one of the things I've been thinking about is what they mean (or could mean) for the academy.

Right now, you can subscribe to a feed for CCC Online, but as a single feed, and one that's only updated 4 times a year, it's not going to save you that much time and effort. But what if more of our journals began to put out feeds, such that we could all keep an aggregator folder that fed us new article information? Or heck, put em all together into a Feedburner, and you'd have a single feed for the field that would notify you of articles as they were published. (and don't even get me started on keyword subscription--sigh.)

This is even more important for those of us who work in fields that aren't purely disciplinary. There are so many journals dealing with technology stuff, for instance, in cognate fields, and it's a lot of work to keep track of them, and to do so at the proper intervals. You can't tell me that it wouldn't be worth our time, for example, to be feeding the tables of contents of Kairos and Computers and Composition to the majority of new media scholars who work in other fields. Crossing the boundaries of disciplines and specializations is a high threshold activity, but feeds would make it a lot more simple.

Problem is that the publishers of our journals need to get on board, and that may take some doing. The operative model, even for the corporate journal oligopolists, is protectionist. Many of them already make the information that would be in a feed freely available, but they are focused heavily on the "search" as their primary form of interaction: come to our site to look at our data. And that's also assuming a level of technical capability that is by no means uniform across the publishers in my discipline.

I still think that the primary obstacle to wider readerships for our journals is ignorance, and this is doubly true for any kind of inter or transdisciplinary work. It's so hard to keep up broadly that most of us only keep up narrowly, with a few journals, trusting ourselves to check the others every once in a while. Investing a little bit of time, distributed across publishers, in feeds would address this obstacle really well, and it would have the potential to really change the way we do things.

And honestly, putting out a feed would involve, beyond initial setup, maybe 30 minutes an issue for copying and pasting. For the most part, it's information that we already have--feeds would simply distribute that information differently, better, and more widely. That's why we're doing it with CCCO.

[tip: Richard MacManus]

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Our friends at FeedBurner released its first market report yesterday in a series called, Feed For Thought. Other then the clever name for a series of reports on the state of RSS and feeds, the first report titled, How feeds Read More


I put report in quotes only because it's the first in a series. Nothing ironic or nefarious about it...

I've been meaning to mention this here but have kept forgetting, but about Academy 2.0, I was wondering, Collin, if you knew that the original inspiration for the name H2O to refer to Harvard's Open CourseWare-style effort was "Harvard 2.0."

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This page contains a single entry by cgbrooke published on November 21, 2005 3:39 PM.

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