Sunday, January 08, 2012

Inadvertent Source Deprecation?


NewsSquares is dramatically changing the way I hand-aggregate content for Rational Review News Digest.

I've tried using RSS readers and such in the past, but always ended up abandoning them because they just weren't very intuitive. I was always worried I'd missed something. So I just stuck with the method I've been using for more than a decade now (at RRND and before that at Freedom News Daily): Keeping folders full of bookmarks and making sure I directly visit every site I cover (about 90 of them), every day.

NewsSquares is a Chrome app (at least the version of it I use is) which interacts, I think, with Google Reader. For the sites it works with (which is most of the sites I cover), it seems to work flawlessly. With one glance, I can tell which sites have new content since my last visit. A click pulls up a list of the new stuff, after which I can have a closer look and, if warranted, break it open at the source in a new tab. I haven't been running a stopwatch, but I suspect it's saving me an hour a day or so.

The rub, though, is that "for the sites it works with" part.  There are only a few, but some of them are sites I classify as very important in the "libertarian commentary roundup" scheme of things.

These sites fall into two distinct groups: Sites that just don't have RSS feeds, and sites that have RSS feeds which are incorrectly formatted or something, such that they either generate garbage, or throw a bunch of unrelated stuff at me, in NewsSquares.

Two of them are among the most popular libertarian sites on the Internet. In theory, they have separate RSS feeds for commentary, multimedia, events, etc., but in practice no matter which feed I choose, I get everything (and they have a lot of everything). That makes it harder than just visiting the sites, where the stuff I want is clearly segregated.

I can already feel those sites slipping just a little out of focus. When something gets harder to do relative to other things, people tend to do it less. I guess I'm going to have to go through those folders full of bookmarks, put all the "rogue" sites in one folder, and train myself to visit that folder every day, so that I'm not reducing the value of my publication to my readers by taking it easy.

I have to wonder how big a factor similar effects are elsewhere. Are web sites that don't work and play well with RSS losing a lot of traffic -- not just from direct readers, but from journalists who never notice them in research, etc. and therefore never link them -- because they don't work their way into various "feed reader" schemes?

And speaking of such schemes, a question for KN@PPSTER readers: If this blog was available as a nicely pre-formatted Android or iOS app, would you read it more? I'm asking because Rocket-in-Bottle, the same company that make NewsSquares, has a neat thing in beta -- Publish5 -- that I just used to make a KN@PPSTER Android app. It seems pretty cool, but I'm not interested in popping $25 to put it in the Android market (where I can't imagine making it anything but a "free download") if nobody wants it. Talk at me in comments about that.

[Update: As you were on the app thing. I misunderstood the procedure -- I will be getting the app directly, which means I can just make the apk files downloadable and not have to pay an Android Market fee. I did have to pay $19 for the app itself, but that seems a reasonable price, especially since I can update it even after it's in the field, and Publish5 will serve new versions to people who have the old ones. So -- KN@PPSTER on Android, coming in a week or so!]


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