WebRSS - A Web Presentation Style

by Steve Mallett

'WebRSS' is the idea of making the content of a chronologically item-heavy website as easy to manage for an everyday reader as RSS Reading applications have done for alpha geeks in tracking and reading multiple information sources.


Quickly scan many more content sources and headlines than you do now to easily find what's worth reading, and -as importantly- discard and forget about more junk.

This is a difficult thing to explain, an easier thing to show, and is likely understood best with experience. But first a personal explanation: RSS, or "Really Simple Syndication" is an information format made popular with alpha geeks for its ability to share & render news and blog post content into the basics - a topic, text about the topic, and hyperlinks.

RSS as just a machine readable format and is useless to a human being unless it is turned back into a human readable format. Hence the rise of 'rss readers' or 'feed readers'. With the streamlining of content that RSS affords feed readers soon filled up with more content sources than most, if not all, would have read or tracked before. There was less noise, more signal. A lot more signal. In fact some alpha geeks now complain that they are able to track too much information to the loss of taking time to analyze it.

What is important to WebRSS about the above alpha geek scenario above is that these folks have evolved a streamlined way to present relevant information packets that are easily scanned for relevance by title, and reading of only what is actually of interest.

For example (my own): On any given day I track information coming out of around 150 sources. Some example math tells me that I can follow 150-ish sources, with an average of 5 content items a day per source, resulting in 750 items I potentially am able to track and find relevant info from. Oh, and I can do this in about 5 minutes several times a day if I want.

More important than the shear volume of information is that the presentation of the content, as the majority of feed readers do, allows you to discard information so quickly you get to spend your time on the good stuff.

I just wrote, "allows you to discard information so quickly you get to spend your time on the good stuff." In the face of a deluge of information this is an incredible gift. However; very few people, let alone those techie enough to read blogs all days, use RSS!* Seems a shame that something so wonderful not be shared by more, so how can they benefit: present your site's content in WebRSS presentation form. Despite RSS's success most people still like visiting websites.

Now is a good time to look at an example. Some screenshots from something I'll unveil more of soon.


Browsing Headlines.


Click the headline and the description appears.
Read the rest of the story or use the permalink.


The permalink'd version.

What we've done here is model a news aggregation site into the picture of an rss reader. With very few clicks of the mouse and a bit of scrolling you can get a full synopsis of what is happening in the world, and all we've done is structure a massive collection of information into delicious bite-sized chunks! Come to think of it... it looks a bit like that other source of massive amounts of information.... your email inbox. If you're a GMail user you'll see some similarities. We're fans so we borrowed some of their better ideas as well.

It is my hope that this gift of presentation from the alpha geek world will be well received by those not using RSS readers. In terms of news sites, I find it a bit comical that news sites like CNN still look like fancy brochures with streaming video.

In simplicity (I hope),

** A confession: I use GMail for my email & bloglines for my feeds. They've influenced my information habits so much that I no was no longer reading the outside world's news aside from FARK's news flashes. I could have imported news rss feeds to bloglines, but any one news source is biased.. to get the real news you have to have them all at your finger tips. Too much work too!
***Right now there's no login. I can't stand to have to sign up for another bloody account on a website.. including my own! We're debating the use of logins vs the site tracking what you've seen already... like an rss reader!



2005-12-27 13:39:02
Alpha geek
Steve, too many references to this term for one article. And besides, betas now use RSS


2006-01-01 06:12:25
Alpha geek
I'm not so sure they do. See the footnote link: http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2005/08/66_of_blog_read.html