RSS isn't dead
February 17th, 2021
I’m not the first person to write that headline, nor will I be the last, but it’s pretty clear that people forget (or never knew) that RSS is a thing. If you haven’t heard of RSS feeds before, they stand for Really Simple Syndication, which may not tell you what they do. They’re XML feeds with content from a website. They can be created statically or generated from an application (e.g. Wordpress or Gatsby). In fact, this website has an RSS feed and I wouldn’t build a blog without one.
But why would you want to use RSS?
- Twitter is a firehose where things get lost
- Bookmarks require you to regularly visit
- Individual web sites can be cluttered and hard to read
- You want all the content you like in one place
You become the curator of the content you want to see, not the people you’re following. RSS can replace Twitter or Facebook, but for others it supplements it. I go back and forth on whether I bother with Social Media, but for the moment I’m on Twitter here and there.
Okay, you’ve decided you want to try it, what do I recommend as next steps? There are numerous options, but Feedbin is the best option I’ve found. It’s a paid service, but I find it to be worth the cost for three reasons:
- Actions: you can setup automations to mark items as read or starred based on certain conditions.
- Newsletter email address: an email address is created that imports all content into Feedbin, then you can read those newsletters with everything else in your feed reader.
- Twitter: you can subscribe to a Twitter feed in Feedbin. I recommend combining this with Actions to cut down on the noise.
In addition, I recommend using a feed reader in addition to the service and I like Reeder. Again, it’s paid, but it’s been the smoothest feed reader experience I’ve found and even though I’ve tried other apps like NetNewsWire and Unread, I always end up back with Reeder. As a side benefit, if you’re not interested in paying for Feedbin (and I suggest you at least try the trial), Reeder can use iCloud to synchronize your feeds and read items between your iOS and macOS devices.
You’re convinced and you’ve setup your tools, what should you subscribe to? That’s up to you, but many sites offer RSS feeds and the ones that don’t usually offer an email newsletter or a Twitter account. Reeder on macOS offers a Safari extension that allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds and on iOS I recommend using Feed Hawk.
That being said, here are some general recommendations from my subscriptions:
- Cal Newport (feed) has a lot to say about deep work, the perils of social media, focus and productivity
- Cassidy Williams (feed) is a software engineer and puts out a weekly newsletter with a few links, an interview question, and a damn good attitude
- The Changelog (feed) is a podcast first, but it also has a newsletter and an RSS feed of news in the development community
- Daring Fireball (feed) is a blog written by John Gruber about Apple, technology, and news in general
- Derek Sivers (feed) is an author who has a great outlook on things that I can’t help but read his work
- Hacker Newsletter is a curated email newsletter with the week’s best articles from Hacker News
- James Clear (feed is pretty quiet, newsletter is updated weekly) is an author who’s written a lot about habits versus goals and always manages to make me think with his weekly newsletter
- kottke.org (feed) is one of the oldest blogs that I know of and read regularly, it’s a potpourri of interesting links
- MacStories (feed) is my favorite source for Apple news
- Node Weekly (feed) is a weekly newsletter about Node.js
- React Status (feed) is a weekly newsletter about React
- Signal vs. Noise (feed) is Basecamp’s blog and ta source of insightful articles about software and product development
- Six Colors (feed) is yet another site for Apple news
- Tools and Toys (feed) is a great site for pointing out fun gear you didn’t know you wanted
- The Wirecutter (feed) is a great site for finding great stuff you actually need