web 2.0

RSS as universal acid

My colleague Tony Hirst has been exploring the use of RSS to deliver regular (academic) content, using FeedCycle. There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about this, but Tony has been exploring these issues for a while, and it seems like the content and the technology side are converging to give him what he wants.

I’m always impressed when something relatively simple like RSS that was developed for one purpose begins to have new found applications. There are some quite subtle implications to Tony’s delivery of content – for a start it allows the user to control the pace. It also provides an easy means of syndicating content, which rather reduces the concept of content coming from your university. One could imagine the same content being delivered to students at different universities, and on different courses. While this may not lead to full scale disintermediation (there I go again), it is another erosion (whether you view that as good or bad) in the direct link between student A and University B.

At the EDEN conference I showed netvibes as an example of web 2.0 stuff and Stephen Downes said it looked like the Netscape portal of 10 years ago. He asked why this would be any different. I mumbled a reply which didn’t answer the question, but on reflection perhaps what I should have said was ‘RSS’, or maybe ‘RSS and AJAX’. It isn’t that the concept is different, but the environment it is operating in is – now there is a wealth of content and tools that can be pulled in easily, which makes the point of a portal worthwhile.

There – it’s only taken me 6 weeks to come up with that response. Tomorrow: a witty putdown to a bloke I met on London underground in 1997…

PS – apologies for borrowing Dan Dennett’s Universal acid metaphor yet again. I have previously suggested that service oriented architectures were a universal acid, and now RSS. None of these come close to the penetration of Dennett’s acid though – evolution.

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