I’m a heavy user of Google Reader, which leaves me, it seems, in the technological wilderness. Google is exercising a strange indifference to its still-leading product, deprecating social features and conspicuously not installing the app by default on my Nexus 7. The “RSS is dead” discussion has now gone on for so long, it may itself be dead. Big apps like Flipboard and News.me propose to replace RSS with sharp interfaces that curate your social media feeds and make good guesses at what you’ll find interesting.
With all this advanced technology, why do I still bother evaluating 131 (often more) feeds each and every day for content I care about? Because I fear living in a bubble. Reading only what everyone else finds interesting has a natural flip side: ignoring all the things your friends have yet to consider. This narrowing of ideas (dare I call it the Gawkerization of ideas?) is anathema to what the Internet was supposed to promise us: Newspapers from around the world! Perspectives from people we would never meet! A world in which no one knows you’re a very erudite dog!
The powerful potential impact of lots of free information is inestimable - that’s why I don’t buy arguments that the internet is making us dumber, less creative or more parasitic. To take advantage of that potential, though, takes effort and intention: the specific intention to cultivate a variety of trusted sources and keep up with them. RSS still makes that possible in a way Facebook never will.