Friday, August 07, 2009
Blog and RSS advocates are devoted to the core. Only a couple of years ago, as so many factors appeared to converge to make feed readers the geek's information overload management tool of choice, the future seemed limitless. It only seemed fitting that Google acquired Feedburner.
The difference between RSS and old ways of opting in, though, is surely the issue of "breakout". Did RSS really ever cross the chasm from insider adoption out to being a mainstream technology? Nope.
Compare how things used to be with email. Even if you were a relatively unknown newsletter publisher, you could eventually build up your list to 10,000, 20,000, or more -- just through opt-in (not even counting swaps and "JV's"). Popular lists reached 200,000, and more, and those were just pinging companions to a popular content site.
RSS subscription worked differently. People had relatively strong feelings about how many feeds they'd sign up for, if they bothered at all. And suddenly, there was a host of other ways to find the content you loved, anyway -- Twitter, Techmeme, Digg, Sphinn, email, Facebook, etc. -- so even a lot of geeks curtailed their RSS habit.
Don't get me wrong, lots of people use it differently, but as adoption waned, it seemed less important to us here to bother displaying a "subscribe to feed" logo, and so forth. We started tweeting, Sphinning, etc., and hoping others would too.
Lee Odden over at TopRank Blog takes a slightly different view. Lee just posted the Top SEM and SEO Blogs list, in order of RSS subscription. In principle, I feel strongly about subscription, but I notice that many good blogs have only in the low thousands of subscribers. I asked Lee whether it was still worth paying attention to RSS. Here's what he thinks:
"Looking at the RSS subscriber counts for the top 10-20 blogs doesn't make it seem like RSS is dead just yet. For example, Search Engine Land has 9,500 followers on Twitter, and 40,909 RSS subscribers as reported by Feedburner.
"Twitter may be shiny and popular but not exclusive of RSS content consumption. Personally, I like to share both metrics on our blog. But that's just me.
"The AdAge list considers more variables and that sort of thing is likely to be a much better qualification of what's a 'top' list. In the end I think that decision is really up to the individual and lists are just puffery. There, I said it."
Well said, Lee.
Still, the fact that the top sites in the search marketing industry "only" have around 40,000 RSS subscribers despite their large numbers of daily articles and channels, shows that RSS subscription reaches its limits a lot sooner than email used to back in the day. It's a different animal. I tend to agree with Lee, in the sense that, as one of Seth Godin's all-time classic posts explains, Small is the New Big. You can choose between a million weak ties, or a few thousand strong ones. The strong ones are meaningful. They translate into real conversation and real connections. And best of all, they aren't spam. It's probably fitting, then, that Godin's blog currently sits at #3 on the Ad Age Power 150. And Search Engine Land sits pretty at #1.
Labels: blog, rss, twitter
Friday, March 02, 2007
What does a blogger, vlogger, or podcaster do when the "chill" sets in?
That chill can be a lot worse in some parts of the world than others.
Egyptian blogger Abdel Karim Nabil Suleiman has been jailed for his sustained critique of government policies and his educational institution, among other things, on his blog. Mr. Suleiman called for his former Islamic school (he had been expelled) to become a secular institution, and posted on his blog a "pledge to defend Arab and Muslim women against discrimination," according to a Globe and Mail report by Carolynne Wheeler.
Dissent blogs are a growing story in Egypt. Some, like this one, show evidence of police abuse.
In seemingly less contentious nations, we aren't generally jailed for what we write. Because it's so easy to seem controversial without actually ever taking a chance, it's also easy to forget that taking a real stand, even a small one, involves a measure of courage.
From time to time I make a mistake - who doesn't? And more often than some would like, I post or broadcast something a little bit frivolous - maybe even stupid. I'm sometimes guilty of having too much fun, being unprofessional, etc.
That someone is willing to go to jail for the right to expose abuse and discrimination is a reminder of just how easy some of us have it, relatively speaking.
But it also makes me think twice of censoring myself after the fact if someone writes to tell me I've done something stupid, told a racy joke, or laughed a little too loud. Because, in part, it's not being afraid of who you are, is what we're fighting for, isn't it? The "big chills" are truly frightening. But it's insidious when we let the "little chills" get to us, too. A loss of a few advertiser dollars, or a naysaying voice or two, is far from being jailed - so maybe it's a reminder to thicken the skin and to not be too apologetic based on the fear of someone wagging their finger, or of a loss of $218.94 in banner revenue.
Break a few eggshells today.
Labels: abdel karim nabil suleiman, blog, dissent, egypt
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