Lately the geekosphere has been buzzing about how RSS is being replaced by the real-time stream. Instead of getting our information from syndicated blog feeds, we’re now getting it via streams from Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, et al.
This isn’t new. The only thing that’s new is that “A-list” bloggers are finally getting wise to it.
Outside the geekosphere, people have long relied on RSS to bring them a real-time stream. But this stream doesn’t flow from Twitter or FriendFeed – it flows from the companies they work for and from the feeds they rely on to do their job.
Since introducing FeedDemon back in 2003, I’ve talked with countless people who are subscribed to feeds which tell them when their company (or a competitor) is mentioned anywhere on the web. They’re subscribed to intranet feeds which let them know when a customer sends a complaint or compliment. They rely on internal feeds to bring them the latest information about other projects going on inside their company, or tell them when an HR policy has changed or when an impromptu company-wide meeting is taking place. More recently, they subscribe to SharePoint feeds which involve them in a real-time conversation with their co-workers. Some of them even have feeds which alert them to the status of their web servers.
These people have relied on RSS-based real-time streams since the first day they used an RSS reader, and I count myself as one of these people. For example, I’m subscribed to several feeds from NewsGator’s FogBugz server which are absolutely critical to me - especially right after a product release – because they bring me error reports that customers send from FeedDemon. If I get several similar error reports, I have to drop everything and focus on figuring out the problem so I can release a fix as soon as possible.
BTW, this is also why the river of news approach doesn’t work for everyone. If you’re subscribed solely to feeds from popular blogs and web sites, a river of news is ideal – you get a flow of information that you can scan for stuff that looks interesting. If you miss a story, no big deal – it’ll float by later if it’s important.
But if you’re also subscribed to feeds critical to your business, this approach is unacceptable. You don’t want a flow of uncategorized, unprioritized information that combines articles from Boing Boing with items from your company’s internal feeds. You need separation between the stuff you read for fun and the stuff you read because it’s critical to your job.