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Is RSS Too Simple? Syndication and Web 3.0

Is RSS Too Simple? Syndication and Web 3.0

For years, we have relied on RSS technology to publish our blog posts. Feeds delivered to their reader, bringing our outstanding content, witty repartee and gorgeous photos. And, we have developed a very narrow definition of what it means to have a blog following.As we continue to move towards Web 3.0, I would suggest that the concept of really simple syndication has become…well…too simple.

In the event that you don’t spend all of your free time reading up on internet trends (doesn’t everybody?), I thought I would include a bit of information about Web 3.0. Web 3.0 can mean a number of things, dependent upon what web function is involved…but the part that is most applicable here is the concept of the open web. Think open API, OpenID and application interoperability (ie Facebook connect).

Nova Spivak, grandson of the great Peter Drucker, offers several points to define the third decade the web. But one of them really captured my attention. It is the transformation of the Web from a network of separately silo-ed applications and content repositories to a more seamless and inter-operable whole.

I have often considered that to be a very literal statement…that we will be able to find our tribe on any site where we have registered. My Facebook friends, my Twitter tweeple, my Plurk pals, all will be visible when I log on to a site that is participating in this open connection between platforms.

But recently, I have started thinking of Web 3.0 as a philosophical understanding, not just a practical application. And it occurs to me that we have been trying to keep blogs and blog syndication in a Web 2.0 box, while it is clearly trying to evolve. We have defined our followers, our syndication, even our comments in a such a way as to disregard the value of satellite communities found on social media sites.

I started to think about this as I evaluated my analytics for several of my blogs. I could see tremendous growth in visitors, but not corresponding numbers subscribing to the feed. And for a while, I really fretted about the whole thing. My traffic was not “sticky”, I didn’t have nearly enough comments, my bounce rate was too high…how could this be?

When I let go of the traditional quantifiers for blog success, I saw a different paradigm taking form. I started looking at the referring sites to my blog and saw that there were some fairly consistent patterns. I started to think of sites like Facebook, Twitter and Plurk as my “real” readership. Rather than subscribing to my feed directly, my followers on those platforms were using my micro-posts as feeds. And after reading the articles, would go back to the various referring sites for commentary and discussion.

I started seeing regular readers and commenters on multiple platforms having multiple follow up conversations. I started wondering why they didn’t “count” as subscribers…and why this type of interaction wasn’t considered in the overall metrics of blog performance.

I have come to the conclusion that we have reached a point where measuring the amount of subscribers to an RSS feed is a much too simplistic way to analyze the impact of a blog. And counting comments per post no longer gives us a sense of reader involvement. Instead, we need to build measurement systems that consider followership on social media platforms as part of the community of the blog in question.

By letting go of our rigid definition of blogging success, we can bring this reliable social media tool into Web 3.0. Rather than assuming the blog is no longer as effective as it once was, let’s consider that our standards of effectiveness have not advanced sufficiently to capture the decentralization of social media interaction.