Like a lot of people I know, I’ve been enjoying and getting great value from Chris Dixon’s blog since he started his recent prolific phase a few months back. Generally if I want to respond to something another blogger writes, I’ll do so in the comments section there, but two of Chris’ recent posts inadvertently touched on a theme I’ve spent a bunch of time thinking about over the last couple of years.
Chris asks (and answers) the question, “Is Twitter replacing RSS as a primary means of consuming serialized content?”. For his usage, the answer is yes, as Twitter’s unending stream of shortened links replaces Google Reader. He then moves on to whether or not this is a good thing and concludes that, from an internet infrastructure point of view, it is not, as Twitter is a private, for-profit (yeah yeah) company that now acts as a single point of failure for everyone who chooses to consume content in this way. Historically Twitter isn’t the most reliable of services, so Chris opines that, “the internet is less open, less reliable and less secure” in a future world where Twitter has become the primary method of information consumption.
Oddly enough, I back up to Chris’ first question (although I agree entirely with his answer to the second question). When I first became active on Twitter – call that spring of 2008 although I’d been a registered user since spring of 2007 – I also noticed that my usage of my carefully-constructed RSS environment (I prefer Netvibes over Google Reader) declined significantly as I would see links coming across on Twitter from people whose curation I trust, and would spend my time reading them over the more systematic consumption of content to which I’d opted in via RSS.
Yet unlike Chris what I’ve found over the past six months or so is that I’ve gradually shifted back from Twitter to Netvibes when I’m actually looking to spend a chunk of time reading interesting material. I think there are a few reasons for that.
- The feeds to which I subscribe represent content that I generally want to see, even if I don’t read each article or post.
- If I’m at my machine when a tweet rolls by from the author of that content I may or may not see it or have the immediate inclination to click on it then and there.
- Virtually all links on Twitter are shortened, which means half the time I don’t know what I’m about to open. That’s friction I don’t enjoy.
Going from an RSS console to Twitter for consuming news and interesting content actually feels like moving back from Tivo to linear TV. It’s less structured, temporally reliant and has a huge proportion of noise. I think Twitter is a great form for content discovery, and I still often open links put out by the 350 or so interesting people I follow on Twitter. But if I really think the content is valuable my reaction these days is often what it was in 2006 – grab the feed and follow it for a while to see if it delivers consistent value. I find my consumption of content to be more enjoyable and less hit or miss this way.