What RSS 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 handful of sites. What Samachar does is increase by a factor of 10 the amount of information that can be processed in the same time by aggregating all the news links together in one page. The same concept of aggregation can be used with RSS feeds to build the New Desktop.
In Samachar, one is limited to the sites chosen by the site editors. With RSS, you as an individual can now do the same — it places the power of aggregation in the hands of the reader. Over the past few years, most publishers now put out RSS feeds (though few Indian sites do this). By collecting all the news links and brief descriptions on a single page, it is possible to process (scan) dozens of stories very quickly and then decide which to read. A web-based RSS Aggregator is NewsIsFree.
In future, RSS Aggregation (with its roots in XML) as being fundamental to the digital dashboard. The feeds will not be limited to just news or weblog posts, but could be any “event”. The real action will happen when machines (processes/applications) start putting out RSS feeds to be processed by other machines. Now, integrate this with 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. This has the makings of a new information processing environment.
A weblog helps close the feedback loop. When you read the RSS feeds, you can decide to post it (with or without comments) on your personal blog (or a group or project blog). What you post now also gets published as a RSS feed which can be subscribed by others, thus enhancing the interactions between people. This creates an alternate read-write environment, and serves as the underpinning for the New Desktop.
The New Desktop
The focus in the past was on the Individual. The Personal Computer was used by One. Today, the focus is on the Network, the Group. The Computer is used as a collaborative tool, for sharing, and in a Connected environment. Today, when we switch on a computer, we are shown a desktop with a bunch of icons and then we decide which applications we want to launch. This has been the way things have been done for the past decade or so. This desktop is based on the underlying notion of files, directories, folders and local storage.
Can we think of a New Desktop for Thin Clients (more on this shortly) based on using Blogs and Syndication? In this new order, the emphasis is on providing a unified view of all that one is reading-thinking-writing. Today, this gets scattered over multiple applications (eg. email, Office documents). While each application is a specialist at doing something, the question to consider is whether we can intercept the actions at the server-level and create an integrated view?
Next Week: Rethinking Enterprise Software (continued)