Yesterday, we were meeting as a team to chat about how Connect enhancements, when Paul says he would use Connect more if he could have the activity running in Firefox via an add-on.
Sounds like a good idea to me, and I’m already thinking of people who might want to tinker with an add-on, which should be easy because we have REST APIs, etc.
Then Anthony says that can be accomplished with any number of feed reading add-ons already available. Doh, over-engineering fail.
Of course, Anthony is right, so I spent a few hours tinkering with a few of these add-ons and the activity feeds from Connect. Makes for a pretty good solution overall, and I just finished a page (one of Rich’s Easter Egg features) to let people know about this method for consuming Connect activity.
The bigger picture here is that feeds are an afterthought in the enterprise, even for people who think about feeds everyday, like me.
I gave up trying to convince people to use feeds to read information on the ‘tubes long ago, but now, many internal systems generate feeds, creating renewed interest. Still, I struggle to get people to use the feeds we produce; everyone wants email first.
I don’t get that; if Connect sends you bacn, won’t that make you more annoyed, since everyone says they have too much email?
The real question here is why people won’t use feeds? I have some ideas.
1) Feeds (RSS, Atom, XML) have always been under-explained. They’re quietly advertised by that little orange icon, with no obvious “what’s it for” explanation. You can get one in some places, mostly content providers, but mostly, feeds are a mystery to the average user.
2) You have to do something to use feeds. The fact that you need a feed reader before you can read a feed probably causes most people to quit before even trying.
3) There are so many feed readers, choosing one is a chore. Plus, even easy, breezy web-based readers (Google Reader, Bloglines) require a learning curve.
4) You have to remember to use them. This is probably the last straw for a lot of people. They have to launch the feed reader or do to the web app. Tough to build that habit. Even mail clients with feed reading capabilities (e.g. Thunderbird) suffer from this problem. Feeds don’t require a response, like email, so they’re easily ignored.
5) Feed are geeky. I get the feeling that most people think this, but I’m not sure why. Maybe RSS scares them off because it’s another acronym. No idea.
Do you have other ideas?
Feeds need a makeover. Someone’s going to get rich by figuring out how to make feed reading as commonplace as Googling or Facebooking. If only it were me.
Find the comments and share your thoughts.