RSS Aggregation — The Real Discontinuity

Even more than weblogs, perhaps the real innovation in information publishing and access is the RSS newsfeed. What it does is get information to you from the sources you want (your subscriptions). This fundamentally changes the quantum of information that one is able to process. Very much like the way Samachar has changed the news habits of people. Earlier, one used to go to multiple sites and figure out what has been updated. In that mode, one can perhaps go to a few sites. What Samachar does in increase by a factor of 10 the amount of information that can be processed in the same time. [Samachar was launched by my company IndiaWorld in 1997.]

RSS Aggregation takes this one step further. In Samachar, one is limited to the sites chosen by the site managers. in RSS, you can do the same — it places the power of aggregation in the hands of the reader. In the past few years, most publishers now put out RSS feeds — consisting of the title of the story, URL, and a brief description. Put on a single page, it is possible to process (scan) dozens of stories very quickly and then decide which to read. All this, by just viewing a single page.

In future, I see RSS Aggregation (with its roots in XML) as being fundamental to the corporate portal (or the digital dashboard, whatever we decide to call it). The feeds will not be limited to just news or blog posts, but could be any “event”. The real action will happen when machines (process/applications) start putting out RSS feeds to be processed by other machines. Add to this an Information Bus which can multicast, and a “subscription” model — wherein a user/process can decide which events/feeds to monitor based on subject, description or source.

To this, one needs to add the weblog to close the feedback loop. When I read the RSS feeds, I can decide to post it (with or without comments) on my personal blog. What I post now also gets published as a RSS feed and enhances the interaction between people.

A few recent posts on related topics:
Dave Winer: What is a News Aggregator
Paulo: [The] set of news sources could also mean reports generated by your accounting software, status of your servers, posts in a discussion group, orders from your e-commerce site, updates from your co workers workflow management software.
John Robb on communications efficiency

I can envision the following scenario in a company to amplify and institutionalise knowledge:
– all individuals have their own blogs and RSS aggregators
– RSS feeds include external news, internal posts, mail, documents, “events”
– each blog published has its own RSS feed to close the loop
– search across the blogs: with the granularity being a blog post
– outlines for the table of contents

The combination of Blogs, Outlines and RSS Aggregation is what needs to be used to build the Digital Dashboard.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.