Why Dave Winer’s Approach Rocks

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I mentioned in my last story watching Dave Winer’s keynote at Gnomedex, where he demos his OPML Editor and how he uses its blog editing features to update his blog in real time. Well, coincidentially, Dave’s project has been buzzing quite a bit recently. He announced that he’ll be adding a ‘river of news’ style aggregator with reportedly pod/vidcasting capabilities. Well, he’s released the beta plugin for it now (instead of making new builds for every feature added, Dave is using a smart technique where he has one flexible build which he builds plugins on and releases them, also auto-updatable).

First off, I mentioned ‘river of news’ style aggregating above. You might be a little confused, so I’ll explain. Traditionally, most aggregators work by categorising feeds into folders, they become bold if they have something you haven’t read yet, and if you click on it and stay on one news article for say more than 5 seconds, they convert to normal. Much like an e-mail client. But Dave’s method, “river of news” style aggregating, is simple and I find it a better way of reading news. All it is, as the name most accurately suggests, is sitting on a bank and watching the latest posts coming in and floating by, like boats. It doesn’t matter which blog they are from, as long as you’ve subscribed to it, they come by you and when it’s old, or when there’s newer stuff, they go down. Basically, instead of aggregating different RSS feeds, as the traditional aggregators do it, ‘river of news’ style aggregates one single OPML file (eg. all the feeds you’ve subscribed to). Yes, most of this stuff came from Dave’s definition of it.

It really comes down to personal preference, but as the title suggests, I’ll explain why I prefer the ‘river of news’ style aggregating (Dave Winer’s method) than the traditional e-mail client/aggregator way. First off, the obvious plus is that you don’t have to click feed-by-feed, looking at new stuff, as your brain selects which feed is most important, etc. If it’s new, then you’ll see it on one page. Also, to add to this, if there’s stuff about topic X on one blog and more on another blog, not mentioned on blog 1, it’s easy to read both of these and really get the ‘big picture’ in your mind, rather than just what one blog covers (which limits your knowledge about it).

Another plus is that every blog in your subscription list is neutral, so in the traditional way, you may never click on a blog which you just saw once, liked the idea, and subscribed to it, however greater news it may have about topic X than the others. In this method, each blog in your list has the same chance as the other, so if you just scan through it and see that you’re not interested in what’s written or that you’ve read it previously, move on, where as if you find something interesting, you may be surprised which blog its coming from. This, again, extends your knowledge on one topic and if you blog yourself, allows you to project a wider perspective on something rather than just ‘Scoble has an interesting point. Om disagrees. Although, several others like Jeremy, Battelle, and Chris agree.’

The best plus, of course, is its simplicity. Most ‘river of news’ style aggregators, I’ve found are web if not browser based (like Dave’s one itself). So, they have one single page which has the news and updates every so often (Dave’s one is every hour, although you can change that), and when you want news, just hit refresh. There’s some newer stuff. This allows you to be up-to-date on many things, and if you miss some, it’ll still be there, just scroll from the bottom where you last finished from.

This style also has a few disadvantages, though, which is why its so debatable. I mentioned above an advantage is the neutrality (if that’s a word) of feeds and posts. Well, if your an extremely categorised person and find it hard to switch to something your brain has no control over, well, you might want to stick to the traditional way of reading. I seriously find that when I use the traditional method, I many times ignore a lot of blogs because there’s just something in my brain which says ‘that blog won’t have anything new’. This causes me to miss a lot of things when I write, and even whole news stories (although I end up hearing about them sometime in the future). Since I’ve switched to this style of aggregating, it’s really made a difference.

Coming back to Dave’s editor, I can’t wait for the actual or final or stable version of this to come. I do find it very useful and although it might not hundred percent be there, I still use it.


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