Why is RSS so hard?

I want to share a couple of thoughts from Steve about creating an RSS-enabled start page. Now, Steve is an extremely bright media fellow who deeply understands all this Media 2.0 stuff. But he’s not a geek, so his views on technology are decidedly consumer-centric.

“Right click. Copy shortcut. Paste here,” he grumbled while setting up the beta Netvibes start page with tabs. “It’s like a secret handshake, an inside joke.”

Those of us who write about this stuff need to LISTEN to what Steve’s saying. RSS will never reach its potential until it leaves the world of geekdom and subscribing to a feed becomes a simple one-click task. We need to accept the reality that RSS is intimidating. Yes, intimidating.

I realize a lot of folks are addressing this. IE7, for example, makes it easy to subscribe to a feed, but the browser’s “Favorites Center” is the reader, so what does that say for all the cool Ajax applications out there that are getting all that VC money?

Steve also complained that there’s no continuity among sites. Where’s the xml button? Why is it different on every site? Why are there no instructions accompanying the xml button? Why do some use an rss button instead of xml? What IS xml? Why do some sites not even have a button? What the heck is all that garble when I click on a “Subscribe to this feed” link? What do I do then?

Steve’s right, of course. It is a secret handshake. Now what do we do about it?

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