Much has been written about how RSS needs to disappear before it can take off. The whole usability challenge of moving from a browser-based view to an aggregator-based view of a person or company is slowly being solved as browsers themselves add native support for RSS discovery and subscription.
But simply subscribing to RSS is just the tip of the usability iceberg. Participating in the blogosphere is a usability nightmare that only the bravest of innovators and early adopters are willing to struggle thru. I can’t even call myself brave:
- I use a desktop-based blog authoring application to write my blog entries.
- I use a Typepad or MovableType blog server console to confirm trackbacks and comments posted by others.
- if I want to respond to a comment left on my blog I have to browse to a particular blog entry and add a comment in-browser.
- Once I respond to a comment, I have to switch back to the blog server console to approve my own comment.
- I use still another desktop-based RSS aggregating application to subscribe to anywhere from 200-300 feeds
- My desktop aggregator doesn’t show conversations around permalinks, and doesn’t allow me to add comments directly… I have to browse to the permalink in question and figure out how to read and leave a comment, if I can at all.
- if and when I start commenting on things, I totally see the value in using CoComment to track my comments and conversations, but then I’d have yet another console to manage.
Would any of this be easier if I used entirely web-based services? No, I’d still have to juggle between at least 5 difference consoles:
- authoring blog entries
- approving comments
- syndicating RSS
- authoring comments
- tracking conversations
Imagine if email usability was as fragmented as this… one console to author new emails, a completely separate UI to receive them, yet another to respond, still another to track.
Because my aggregator of choice doesn’t aggregate conversations, I am not participating in them nearly as much as I should. What serious blogosphere participants need is a blogging client that incorporates all of these aspects of participation. The Atom Threading specification will help, but only after a number of servers and clients start adopting it.