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Talking about RSS

I discovered the usefulness of RSS about a year ago (as of writing) and have been using it extensively ever since. I use it for news, blogs, podcasts and the like, but I also use it to “follow” people on social media.

Not too long ago I decided to completely wipe all of my Youtube subscriptions (with the aid of this useful piece of Javascript) and chose to completely rely on RSS to stay up to date with my favourite Youtube video creators. Although as of writing I still have a Google/Youtube account, I liked the idea that I wouldn’t necessarily need one to “subscribe” to people there, should I choose to get rid of it or just not be logged in. Unlike Youtube’s subscription feed, I can organise my RSS feed into categories. I can have my Tech related subscriptions organised into one section, Gaming in another, Politics in another and so on. Whereas when I used Youtube’s built-in subscription functionality it was a mishmash of all different types of videos, which can be a bit of a pain if you subscribe to a lot of people like I do. Besides just making it easier to find certain types of media, it also makes it easy to avoid certain types of videos. Many a time I’ve said to myself “I’m really in no mood to think about politics right now” and decided to avoid the politics feed. This is not something I could do when I used Youtube’s subscription feed. Sure I could just ignore the political videos and keep scrolling, but that’s not so easy when you catch a glimpse of a video with an eye-catching thumbnail talking about some depressing political development. With my RSS reader I have the option to choose when to see or even think about that type of information.

When it comes to many social media sites, the most popular ones like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter don’t have support for RSS (Twitter used to, but have since removed it). This is where a very handy piece of software called RSS-Bridge comes in. RSS-Bridge will create RSS feeds for sites that don’t officially support it. Their GitHub page has an awesome rant at the bottom that wonderfully articulates my frustrations with these sites and their lack of RSS support.

So now that I use RSS to subscribe to people on social media, I have a mix of Twitter accounts, Instagram accounts, Tumblr blogs, The odd Facebook page here and there, as well as regular old blogs that I can sort, organise and have sharing categories, regardless of which website they come from. I don’t have to log into separate sites, with separate feeds filled with a mishmash of subject matters. I don’t need to have an account just to follow one or two people who use a specific social media site that I have no interest in using myself. I’ve found many news sources, software projects and content creators that rely on social media sites (usually Facebook or Twitter) to post news and updates rather than having a dedicated site, which makes having the ability to use RSS with these services very useful. Although I still have a Twitter account as of writing this, I am slowly phasing out my use of it and plan to possibly do what I did with Youtube and replace it with RSS completely.

So this goes out to any online creators who may be reading this, whether you write articles, blog posts, make videos or post updates: Please provide an RSS feed if you can? Some of us still use it, we like using it and we don’t want to have to opt-in to walled-garden social media sites with un-configurable, non-organisable feeds that are often subject to algorithms that mess with the simple chronological ordering that I suspect most of us want. I’d like to thank Youtubers who at least organise their videos into playlists so I can subscribe to those specifically, very handy if I’m only interested in certain videos you post. Oh and to social media sites: IMPLEMENT RSS. Thank you to the sites that do support RSS, please continue Smiling Face.

Update: It seems Youtube has also decided to ditch chronological order for the subscription feed in favour of a “personalised” order.