RSS — what is it good for?

What problem does RSS solve? Perhaps the most widely known use is reading weblogs. You can point your RSS Aggregator to a weblog’s RSS feed and you can then read the content of the weblog without visiting the site. Which is great, but it can be confusing to read a message on your buddies weblog in and then come read a headline to some news story on CNN. Dan pointed out that this use of RSS is basically the same as mozilla’s “Bookmark this group of tabs” (though I have to say that the window manager should do tabs like pwm does).

But, there are other uses for RSS. Academics use it to track publications. Aggregating multiple choice questions. In short, a lot of things.

As Will Cox noted in that discussion, RSS at its core is:

Something happened. This is the thing. More information on the thing here.

Now, RSS features (and individual weblog posts) can map onto RFC822 messages. Why “reinvent the wheel”? Why not use the tools we already have? For this reason, RSS has great potential for those of us for those of us who find a conventional web browser takes too much time away from our beloved emacs.

It shouldn’t be to hard for me to write some elisp so that I can instantly post responses to any weblogs entries I come across using the same UI that I use to read and write email or USENET news. I’ve had this idea in the back of my head for some time and just have to do a little work (when I get the TUITs) to implement it.

For me, the idea became obvious when people began talking about their RSS Aggregators as “Newsreaders“. Since RSS items can be viewed as a message, why not go whole hog and make the newsreader do all the dirty work of grabbing new posts, posting responses (or entirely new posts) to your site, and notifying the original source of your response?

Yet another reason emacs will continue to be my platform of choice.

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