Thursday, January 27, 2011

Is RSS Dead?

A few months ago I was on a panel at InnoTech with friends Kyle Flaherty, Bryan Person and Sheila Scarborough. The focus of the panel was on the future of social media and one of the topics that came up was RSS. Being the troublemaker that I am, I firmly asserted that RSS as we know it was dead. You can imagine the horror of the 200 plus audience members.

As we dug a little deeper into the topic, I backed off my position and clarified that while I didn't really think that RSS was dead, I did feel like we were nearing the end of the usefulness of RSS readers. Some of my panelists agreed with me (I believe that Sheila strongly objected) but we were able to have a productive conversation about the increasing value of XML feeds (that's all RSS really is) while the value of individual readers was on the wane.

Today, the conversation came up again with a gentleman whose shall remain nameless but let's just say that he is a pioneer in the space and I was pleased to hear that he agreed with me. And while I know at least half of you that read this (all three of you) will insist that you still read blogs regularly via your RSS reader of choice, I'm going to argue that you are a dying breed.

Why do I believe that RSS readers are going the way of the VHS tape? Mainly because they don't really allow for good curation. And by that, I mean that unless I'm reading an RSS feed of blogs that someone I know and trust like David Armano or Robert Scoble have "read" and "liked," than I'm forced to do a lot of hunting and pecking. This doesn't mean I don't like the blogs of smarties such as Joe Jaffe, Valeria MaltoniPeter Kim, Jay Baer or Tamsen McMahon. It just means that not all of their posts appeal to me (and I'm quite sure the opposite is true). Combine that with the fact that I enjoy discovering new sources of content -- and let's be honest, there are tons of new content creators coming on the scene every day --and you'll at least understand where I'm coming from.

Before you say it, I realize that Twitter alone ISN'T the solution to better content curation. In fact, Twitter can sometimes make it harder to find the right content unless you have the right human filters. I find mine in people like Ann Handley, Lee Odden, Steve Rubel, Amber NaslundSimon Mainwaring, Brian Morrissey, and Rachel Happe among dozens of others. So what is the solution? I'm not sure. A better Flipboard perhaps? A new and improved Delicious? If you know of one, I'm all ears.

Okay, this is the point where I turn things over and let all you folks that are smarter than me tell me the error of my ways. So comment away my friends. You know I love to be proved wrong.

POST SCRIPT: Here is an audio follow-on by friend and smart dude, Ike Pigott.

Monday, January 10, 2011


A couple of years ago, I remember my friend Mukund Mohan asking on Twitter how many channels people had engaged on in a particular day. I was always amazed when I sat back and thought about the fact that I was usually somewhere near 10-11 which included things like:

  • The phone (landline)
  • Cell phone
  • Twitter
  • Facebook (which now has several sub-channels)
  • E-mail
  • Skype
  • Text messages
  • Face-2-face
  • Blog (via comments)
  • IM (AIM, Yahoo and/or g-chat)
  • Discussion forums
While the number of channels continues to proliferate, my preferences continue to stay the same. What's amazing to me is that more people don't pick up on other people's preferred methods of communicating. In particular, this is an important notion when it comes to one's boss, respective other, family and increasingly, in influencer outreach.

For me, I have about three channels that I like to communicate in (and I'm guessing you won't be surprised):
  1. E-mail
  2. Twitter
  3. Text messaging
My three least favorite?
  1. Phone (landline)
  2. Cell phone
  3. IM (increasingly Facebook IM)
Now that doesn't mean that I don't like using IM with certain people. My co-author, Mike Schneider, and  I use Skype regularly to communicate about our book. It's also an invaluable tool during the Quick'n'Dirty podcast I do with Jennifer Leggio. And recently, I've found it humorous when my three year old daughter Skype calls me AND then manages to turn on the video functionality on my wife's computer. But this is a fairly private channel for me and I don't necessarily want everyone using it. It's also interruptive and requires me to stop what I'm doing to pay attention.

I also don't mind being on the phone sometimes. But it really is my least favorite channel. I'm not sure where my dislike of the phone stems from but what I will say is that my relationship with my wife has improved 1,000 fold now that we primarily use text to communicate when we aren't able to talk face to face. And with respect to everyone, I like my wife a whole lot better than I like a lot of other people.

Where am I going with this post? To the world of business of course and the fact that now, more than ever, businesses big and small need to be more in tune with how their customers want to engage them. If it's Twitter, then provide Twitter customer service... the same hours that you provide phone support. Or IM. Or via Facebook. Or on Skype (like AT&T does which is brilliant by the way).

Unfortunately, I'm still seeing a lot of companies that live in the world of in person, phone or e-mail. And of course most of those are during hours that aren't super convenient for most normal people. Hopefully this will change in 2011 as more and more companies look toward operationalizing social media. But I'm afraid it's going to be a while before we can engage companies in exactly the channels we please, when we please. Until then, I guess it's more "your call is very important to us... please continue to hold and your call will be answered in the order that it was received." Oy.