RSS went out of style a long time ago. I think for many people, Twitter replaced their experience of opening a feed reader. Then we had Substack’s version of the Cambrian Explosion, where seemingly overnight everyone I know said “you know what I need more of? Frequent newsletters in my email!”
I’ve dusted off my RSS reader several times over the last five years, and the habit never really stuck. But I’m feeling pretty optimistic this time. I’ve been slowly and carefully adding new feeds to my reader, plus pruning out ones that I’m not reading as much. Here are some I’ve been following.
The Honest Broker is the guy who wrote the great Barnes & Noble analysis from a few days ago, so I’m looking forward to reading more.
/r/worldnews is a risky one. It fills up super fast, almost everything in it is bad, and there’s lots of spam. But I use it to quickly (10 seconds or less) scan the news, then mark all as read.
Waxy Links has been my favourite source for links on the internet for a decade. Always the first thing I add to a new RSS reader.
Kottke continues to be the greatest blogger that has ever lived, and I am glad he’s back.
A Whole Lotta Nothing is by mathowie, the guy who started Metafilter and did a bunch of other cool stuff. He’s been blogging more, which is a treat.
/r/internetisbeautiful is one of my favourite sources on the internet. There’s some spam, but the stuff that’s not spam is often Super Great Internet Content.
On a separate note, but very related, I think a lot about “information diets.” If you spend all day watching Fox News, you’re going to think Democrats are trying to destroy the country. If you spend all day reading far left content, you’re going to think the whole system is irredeemably broken and should be burned to the ground. If you spend all day obsessing over a comic book artist, you’re unsurprisingly going to know a lot about that comic book artist. We say things like “fandom” or being “very online” but for a lot of people it’s intentional brainwashing that can trigger a mental health crisis. Those are big words, and I stand by them.
My least favourite kind of content in the last few years is a tweet that goes like this:
- Talk about bad thing
- Explain that the bad thing isn’t getting enough coverage
- Then finish by saying “I’m so tired.”
I’m not disagreeing that there are bad things and powers that be that are making things worse. I just feel like if you’re so tired, metaphorically speaking, maybe you need to take a nap? Maybe guzzling every single bit of “we’re doomed” information you can find, one after the other, in an unending stream of doom can affect your desire to even get out bed in the morning? It’s worth considering, which is why I like the precision, length, and format of RSS readers.
With RSS, I am opting into longform content, from a person I chose to hear from, in a single feed. In Twitter, I’m getting lots of people at once, in little angry snippets. Worse, I often don’t know the person at all, thanks to the magic of retweets. RSS readers are a step closer to reading someone’s personal essay, magazine, or book. Twitter is listening to a chorus of algorithmically-powered outrage all day.
So I like my RSS feed as it is. I like finding new things to add to my little information garden. I like the farm-to-table aspect of knowing I can follow interesting thinkers, then harvest and enjoy their content. I like knowing that if I’m feeling stressed about the world I can look at my little information garden and spot the junk food. Then I can remove it. More of us should be doing this.
But there’s no business model there, so…