RSS Midsummer Madness

Whenever I start thinking about RSS, I know I’ve been spending too much time in the blogging world, and it’s time to unplug for a while. The fact that I’ve just redesigned my home page, and started using SharpReader to track a bundle of tech blogs is all the confirmation I need.

Luke Hutteman, the brains behind SharpReader, is aware of what happens when your feeds get out of control:

“One of the problems with using an RSS Aggregator is that it gives the illusion of allowing you to keep up with a practically infinite number of weblogs. Whenever you find a link to a new weblog with an interesting entry, the temptation is high to subscribe to this blog to keep up with other writings on it. After doing this for a while, you end up with a huge number of subscriptions and find that there is a limit to what you can keep up with after all, even when using an aggregator.”

Once you get to that point you can either cut back, or you can go mad spending every waking minute trying to stay on top of your feeds. I was there back in March (with a lot less than the 200 feeds Luke has). I haven’t quite reached that same level of blogsessiveness yet, but I know that I need to check my consumption.

On the other hand…

The discussion surrounding the definition of a new blogging/syndication format/API type thing to replace RSS (currently going by the name “Echo”) is too interesting to ignore. And although the debate is anchored at Sam Ruby’s wiki, it has inevitably spilled over onto dozens of interconnected blogs.

(Hmm, a thought… Most newsreaders give you a nice and simple way of subscribing to a single feed. Some readers also give you the option of importing multiple feeds by showing them an OPML file on your hard disk. For situations like this, though, where there are several blogs all discussing a common subject, wouldn’t it be useful to have a simpler way of doing a “group subscribe”? It would probably be just a matter of consuming an web-based OPML file instead of a file-based one. Or does this feature exist, and have I just not been reading the FAQs closely enough?)

Another reason to stay interested in RSS/Echo is a little project I’ve been thinking about. Just a simple thing: a Windows service that would sit around and watch your newsreader’s OPML file. When it changed, it would apply an XSL transform to convert it into (X)HTML, and FTP it to your web site. Voila: a simple way of keeping your blog readership fully up-to-date with your feeds.

Of course, this could be extended so that the service watched any XML file in your filesystem for changes, applied the XSL(s) of your choice, and deposited the output file(s) anywhere. But then it could also monitor remote files and suck them down onto your PC…. And suddenly I’m looking at writing a version of BizTalk for personal use.

Hmm. Mustn’t get carried away. I’ve got enough on my plate as it is.