The Rise and Demise of RSS

“Before the internet was consolidated into centralized information silos, RSS imagined a better way to let users control their online personas.” [Sinclair Target]

RSS is a standard that lets people take bits and pieces of websites, news sites, and personal blogs, and essentially assemble their own Facebook news feed. Likewise, it lets publishers connect directly with consumers — and individuals connect with their friends and family — without having to get permission from Facebook or some other company. RSS is intimidating at first, but easy to use once you get the hang of it. And hopefully it’ll make a comeback.

Why Doctors Hate Their Computers

Digitization promises to make medical care easier and more efficient. But screens are coming between doctors and their patients. [Atul Gawande]

Thoughtful article about problems that ensue when digitization imposes top-down centralized command on front-line workers.

The ‘Future Book’ Is Here, but It’s Not What We Expected

Books have been unchanged for a century or more. Even ebooks are just print books digitized. But digital technology has transformed the entire ecosystem around them: Print-on-demand, Kickstarter, social media, email newsletters, audiobooks, podcasting, and more. [Craig Mod]

I can think of two reasons why books themselves have been unchanged, despite breathless 1990s predictions to the contrary — and yeah these reasons are contradictory:

  • Books are perfect for what they are. Mass-published print books have been evolving for a thousand years, and the written word has evolved over ten thousand years. Books are mature technology, like shovels and forks and tables, refined to perfection with only a little bit of fiddling left to do around the edges. Sure, other media emerge, but they’re other media; a movie is not a book, nor is a podcast.
  • Monopolization by Amazon stifles innovation. We’re not going to see ebook innovation until somebody competes with the Kindle.

Karen Sparck Jones

Computer scientist Karen Sparck Jones wrote a pioneering paper in 1972 about natural language recognition that led to the development of Internet search engines. Her work from the 1960s-80s is still groundbreaking today. [Nellie Bowles]

“I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America.”

For 10 years, Lauren Hough was a cable tech in the Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. She writes about her experiences in a brilliant essay that’s funny, exasperating, frustrating, infuriating and occasionally sad. “A glimpse of the suburban grotesque, featuring Russian mobsters, Fox News rage addicts, a caged man in a sex dungeon, and Dick Cheney.”

What killed RSS?

Technology didn’t kill RSS — regulatory capture did, says Cory Doctorow. “… thanks to generations of antitrust malpractice and financialization, we now live in an era of five massive services filled with screenshots from the other four.” Also, blaming feuding among RSS developers for its demise is “like blaming rhino conservationists’ internal disputes — rather than climate change — for the decline in rhinos’ numbers.”

I love RSS. I still use it every day, several times a day on workdays. I’m about to do another sweep in my chosen RSS reader,, now. It’s very disappointing that RSS never took off. People complained that it’s difficult to use and understand, but it’s easier than Facebook.

Marc Andreessen: audio will be “titanically important” and VR will be “1,000” times bigger than AR

Andreessen’s take on AR vs. VR reveals a kind of chauvinism. He says your environment is inherently uninteresting if you’re unlucky enough to live anywhere other than Silicon Valley, a college campus, or a major city. And virtual reality, he says, is the cure.

On the other hand, he’s right about the importance of audio. A voice in your ear that you can interact with every waking moment. That’s a kind of augmented reality already.

Marc Andreessen: audio will be ‘titanically important’ and VR will be ‘1,000’ times bigger than AR

Meshed up

I set up a mesh network in the house this afternoon. Took about 45 minutes. It’s Working great so far — at last we have a single WiFi network that extends throughout the whole house, from corner to corner. We went for the Logitech Orbi model, rather than the more well-known Eero or Google, because the Logitech seemed to be more well-reviewed.

Ask me again in a month if this continues to work well.

Almost cut the cord

We tried out YouTube TV ($40 – free trial) and I thought we finally might be able to cut the cable cord by adding that service to our existing lineup. But YouTube TV won’t let you skip commercials on some shows so nope. We’re sticking with cable.

The Rich Will Outlive Us All

“Already, there is about a 20-year lifespan gap across different socioeconomic groups in the United States, with an average age of 66 in some of America’s poorest communities, compared with 87 in more affluent areas.” [Jessica Powell]