RSS Readers

Warning , this is a rant.

After getting back from a nice Sunday walk with my wonderful wife Jamie I sat down on the couch and thought “it would be nice if there was some sort of disposable reading like the newspaper I could read right now” .  This brought back to mind an old iOS app called Reeder and reading RSS feeds to chill out with a cup of coffee.

I stopped using Reeder awhile back, probably around the time Google Reader shut down.  It seems like at that point anyone interested in RSS would have realized that maybe the idea of managing distributed data feeds through a centralized service under the control of a private corporation wasn’t the way forward.

So this morning I just assumed that things had been straightened out by now and went shopping for a new RSS reader that I could throw a few feeds at. After a bit of poking around in the iOS App Store I found “Unread”, which seemed like my kind of reading app (fast and simple).  I paid my $4.99 and waited for the download to complete.

Unread is very nice, attractive, good typesetting, fast; I was really looking forward to using it, then I tried to add a feed.  Turns out there’s no way to add a feed, only “Accounts”.  This was common in applications before the demise of Google Reader because every RSS reader just assumed you’d be using Google Reader (in fact for many that was the only account you could sign into).  But I would have thought that after the GR shutdown things would have changed, apparently not.

I was frustrated about this for awhile and lodged a complaint with the developer, but I really wanted to read something this morning so I decided to go through the process of setting up one of these accounts temporarily until I could use the app to read feeds directly.  No surprise, this only elevated my frustration.

Here’s where Cameron goes berserk

Let me get this straight: I need to pay a subscription fee or with my soul (the road to hell is paved with Single Sign-On) for a service in order to connect an app I purchased to a feed from a website that is unrelated to the app or the subscription service?  In order to use a public, open syndication standard.

Simply put: W hat T he F uck.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

So many of us are concerned about preserving Net Neutrality but we are willing volunteer for net neutering by trading our liberty temporary safety or convenience. After all, what is Facebook or Instagram but the functionality of a blog + RSS wrapped up in a easy-to-swallow gel cap, whoese only cost to you is having your every thought and utterance mined for market research and occasionally having your perception of reality warped by being involuntarily experimented on.

We have had the technology for almost decades to do what we do now with social networks and other monolithic, privately-owned web publishing platforms (I’m looking at you, Medium) without the compromise and prostration that comes with using these “free” services.  We’ve been convinced that we are too dumb or too busy or too important to be troubled with the difficulty or tedium of operating a web server or installing open-source publishing software.  If that doesn’t work then we are intimidated into believing that security is the reason we should trust these tasks to the professionals, because they will protect your information from evil hackers .  We took the blue pill .

The irony here is that eliminating net neutrality wouldn’t be quite such a threat to the Internet we know and love had we taken the red pill.  It’s harder for ISP’s to establish a “ fast lane “ for service providers if the writing you’re reading or the music you’re hearing or the video you’re watching or the game you’re playing is coming from a constellation of independent systems, hosted across a diverse set of networks, spread around the world (or beyond).  In a distributed content Internet, it’s a lot harder for gangsters to burn down all the storefronts, and it’s a lot easier to build them back up again faster and better than before.

…so I guess I have to write my own RSS reader…

- Jason