Do not Feed the...

RSS feeds have dramatically changed the way we consume content online. Over the course of time, I have come to subscribe to 90+ feeds of which I manage to read about 20 of them completely.

If there’s one debate that keeps raging across the blogosphere, off and on, it has to be about RSS feeds. Even now, I hear occasional raves and rants about how partial text feeds are irritating and nonsensical, and all that.

What if (this may be a very silly what-if) the choice were left to the user?

What if I as a reader could decide whether I wanted a Partial-Text, Full-Text or Headlines only feed for a given site?

For instance, I’d prefer to have a Headline-only feed for heavy output websites like Slashdot and ZDNet while I’d prefer a full-text feed for sporadically updating sites, like friend blogs.

Alternatively, this can be achieved from the client-side itself, i.e. within the RSS reader. To me, it makes sense to open the feed in three stages:

Headlines >> Partial Text (Excerpt*) >> Full Text

In either of the cases, the publisher must provide a full-text feed.

Of the few readers that I have tried and tested, Google Reader comes close, offering Expanded and Reading views. Combined with keyboard shortcuts, these make for an amazing experience.

At the end of the day, reading RSS feeds is nothing but consuming content, and right now, there are only so many ways to do it.

I have a sneaky suspicion, things will be different soon.

(*caveat: I would define an excerpt as a paragraph or two, having a total of about 5-7 lines at least)

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