The announcement that Google is canceling its Reader has hit me hard. I like news. I like following a variety of news sources. RSS allows me to follow news easily. The Reader consolidates the feeds into one space. Some of the topics (as I have arranged them) in my subscriptions:
And a whole bunch of things left without a category (friends’ feeds, political feeds, Grantland). Beer alone makes up a significant part of my subscriptions - numbering close to 1,000. With so much information circulating on a daily basis, how else can I keep track? RSS is vital. I spent some time tracking down alternatives that will allow import of Googles saved feed file.
- Old Reader – about 27,000 imports ahead of me in the que. It will be awhile.
- Feedly – nice interface. But it doesn’t default to showing the entire article. And it relies on my Google account.
- Rolio -still processing my Google file.
The beauty about the feed is that it minimizes Web reading to one site – a frame in a tabbed browser. Keep it open. News comes to you. We used to click on those endless “blogrolls” before RSS in order to keep up with each other’s thoughts and ideas. RSS aggregates. Aggregation is a key principle of new media writing and thinking.
Facebook, too, aggregates writing and thinking. But it is limited to “friends” and “pages” and not to the endless supply of topic driven writing occurring elsewhere.
There are other ways to aggregate, of course, I aggregate every MOOC piece I can find in Diigo. These collected sites inform my thinking and will play a role regarding how I write about MOOCs. But these links did not come to me. I went to them. I saved them. Now they are aggregated. I need, though, the links to come to me first.
Aggregation teaches. I can attribute a great deal of my beer knowledge to my RSS subscriptions. On a daily basis, I learn about releases, commentary, tastings, upcoming events, promotional materials, video releases, collaborations and so on. This is how I spend some of my day. Learning by aggregation.
We spent last week in Las Vegas at our field’s main conference. I did not want to go. But an opportunity existed (more later) that I felt I had to follow up on. Walking along the Strip, one encounters the Sammy Hagar restaurant, Hard Rock Cafe, the M & M Store, Margaritaville, and a number of other chains (restaurants and stores). I know why I don’t like Vegas. But it’s too easy to offer up that critique of superficiality (it’s a commonplace aggregated in our collective critical knowledge). Instead, there is the question of why others like Las Vegas. Obviously, people like Vegas and these places. When I left at 3:30 am Saturday for an early flight, the Strip was still packed with people. Vegas visitors like this aggregation of the commonplace (similar, we can say, to how critics like their own aggregated commonplaces such as a typical critique of Vegas). You can go to a House of Blues in many cities; why come to Vegas to go to one? You can drink a Coors tall boy at 10 am anywhere. Why come to Vegas just to do it while walking down the street (and for more money, too)? There is an aggregation here that is meaningful to many people. They like this stream of familiar storefronts and headline acts (Faith Hill, The Blue Men, Roseanne Barr). The people, though, go to the aggregation. It’s assembled for them. Nice and neat.
I like my Reader aggregation. It’s neat, too, but only because of how I organize it. It’s not pre-organized for me. And its content changes daily (In Vegas, Grand Canyon tours will be there today, tomorrow, the next day….so, too, will be Eddie Griffin and his three shows a week act at some casino). What makes RSS special, then, if aggregation exists already in numerous spaces in a variety of forms (like the Vegas strip)? I could say “surprise” (look at what I got today!), or content (my feeds are more meaningful than the Hard Rock Cafe), or the juxtaposition of disparate material (as opposed to the same $8.50 beer draught price along the strip).
Or not. I simply like my own aggregation. Others choose Vegas’ aggregation. The difference, of course, is that of atoms and bits. Nobody’s canceling Vegas in July. It will still be doing its job then. Google Reader, on the other hand, will vanish as bits. Atoms, too, can vanish. And bits can remain. Just not in this case.