Dave Winer, commenting on a Wired News article on RSS Aggregators, writes: “There are two schools of thought about aggregators. One says that they should work like a mail reader, the other that it should work like a weblog. The former shows you each feed as a separate thing, the latter shows all articles in reverse-chronologic order, grouping them by time. Imho we already have enough mail readers, wire up RSS to email and you’re done. Who needs another piece of software to do what an already-existing category does so well. But the latter, which is the approach I used in Radio’s aggregator, works incredibly well. People who are just using mail-reader style aggregators are really missing something. Articles that only write about mail reader aggregators are also missing something.”
This debate on whether an email client or a one-page browser view is better has been going on for some time. I have a solution which could combine the best of both worlds:
– users should divide the feeds subscribed into two based on the perceived value. High-value feeds should be delivered in email via IMAP into a separate mailbox (like how our Info Aggregator does). This is because it is easier reading these as separate items – also makes it easier to store the item or forward it or simply post it to a blog.
– the second type of feeds consists of these which have items of occasional interest. For example, I subscribe to feeds from The Agonist but it is highly unlikely that I will blog or forward these items. I just need to know what’s happening. These could all come in a single email or be shown on a browser as a one-page aggregator. This makes browsing these items much faster than going through individual items. Here, there is more quantity than quality.