Dare Obasanjo believes that RSS readers which are modeled after email clients are broken:
“…it seems to me that the way we think of RSS readers needs to fundamentally change. Presenting information as a news feed where the user isn’t pressured to read every item or feel like a failure is one way to move the needle on the user experience here.”
I couldn’t agree more. The fact that FeedDemon’s Panic Button is one of its most popular features is a clear sign that information overload resulting from “RSS as email” is a problem among my customers.
It’s no secret that I regret designing the first version of FeedDemon to work like an email client, and every version since then has been an attempt to drag myself and my customers (some of them screaming and kicking) away from that model. It’s been such a slow crawl out of that hole that I’ve often considered building something brand new instead of trying to morph FeedDemon into a tool that doesn’t make information consumption a chore.
But then I come to my senses, realize that I love being able to focus on FeedDemon, and get back to making it into the application it should be :)
So what do I think it should be? I think an RSS reader should enable you to read individual feeds if that’s what you’re into, but at the same time it should sift through the noise and find the articles that interest you.
Many services attempt to do that by aggregating the most popular articles around the web, but I’m not a fan of that approach since it brings you too much stuff you don’t care about (you might not, for example, care about Britney Spears regardless of whether everyone else does). Instead, my approach has been to have FeedDemon pay attention to the stuff you’re paying attention to, and use that to locate the stuff that’s most relevant.
You can see this most clearly in features like “Popular Topics” (which shows you the most popular articles across all your feeds), and the new dashboard-like start page in FeedDemon 3.0. If you’re unfamiliar with FeedDemon, or you’re not using the FeedDemon 3.0 Beta, here’s what they look like (click to enlarge):
These are the kinds of features I want to focus much more on in FeedDemon. I want to eventually build a tool that automatically brings you the stuff that’s important to both you and the people you “follow” with as little effort from you as possible and without violating your privacy in the process.
In my mind the “RSS as email” approach has been dead for quite some time, and it’s been a while since I invested in email-like features. The real question is whether long-time users of RSS readers are ready to give up how they’re used to consuming their feeds (?).