RSS Readers Are Too Hard To Use

And could be “fixed” with one simple change in their user experience.

One-click subscribe. Currently, you have to cut-and-paste RSS feed URLs into RSS readers. If RSS feeds ended with “.rss” (instead of .xml or .rdf), then simply clicking on them should launch your preferred RSS reader and automatically subscribe you to the feed. Cutting-and-pasting is a pain, and will keep RSS out of the hands of the less tech-savvy, because it requires them to understand things like “URLs” and that they’re “subscribing” to a “news feed.” What is understand is that I cilck and I get stuff. Currently, if I click an RSS feed I’m awash with unformatted gibberish.

Alternatively, I suppose it’s pretty obvious that RSS aggregation will simply become a feature of next generation web browsers. I now use the RSS reader Shrook, which utilizes the Safari toolkit to embed a web browser in the reader. How long until Safari (and IE, and Mozilla, etc.) simply allow you to track your RSS subscriptions? It would be a pretty simple addition to the web browser interface, and have the added benefit of being the first significant bit of browser evolution since Mosaic allowed for inline images. (Though I suppose auto-filling of forms was also remarkably valuable.)

Where in the US is PeterMe?

One of my primary motivations for my last trip was to visit a part of the country that I had never seen. With northern New England visited, my travel experience in the US looks as follows.

Where's PeterMe?
I’ve never been to Alaska or Hawaii, either. And I’ve now been to British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Quebec.

I hadn’t quite realized the pattern of travel until I saw this — I pretty much haven’t been to the “edges” of the country. I’m not particularly motivated to visit Montana, North Dakota or Delaware, but I’ve long wanted to lollygag around the Deep South, a part of America that looms so large in our country’s history, but about which I only know that I’ve seen through various mediated forms, or from folks who moved away. (And it wasn’t until I was writing this that I realized I hadn’t been to West Virginia, either. Somehow, been all around it. Anyway, should I go to W. VA?)

What have I taken away from my US travels? One thing I’ve found is that, with the exception of Indiana, every state I’ve visited has had something to offer. Something worthwhile to experience, to understand.

The places I like most? The places where I can most easily be me. When traveling, this state is made clear by where I can engage in peterme rituals–afternoon coffee, bookstore browsing, enjoying local beers, eating great food, wandering neighborhoods, seeing good movies. Cities that have resonated: Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, Austin, TX, New Orleans, LA, Madison, WI, Minneapolis, MN, Chapel Hill, NC, Cambridge, MA, Burlington, VT.

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’m impressed with Burlington. Vermont’s largest city, it’s still only 40,000, and it’s in the corner of a state with only 600,000 people. Yet it provides a richer urban experience than many cities in this country, and allows you to have it without being overwhelmed. That it can support all those restaurants, stores, and a first-run four-plex arthouse cinema causes me to scratch my head at the economics of it all. If there were other cities nearby that fed into it, it would make more sense.

See you on the highway, or in the coffeehouse.