Subscribing to RSS Search Feeds – Whys & Wherefores

Like Alan I reckon this is a very interesting and worthwhile discussion but while he tears off on a very interesting riff on the value of RSS beyond what is simply ‘new’ I find myself coming back to my main usage of RSS which is to aggregate news sources and in particular my recent ‘Not the WebCT or Blackboard Blog‘ stuff for which I subscribed to a host of RSS searches through various providers.

As with Stephen I used Bloglines, Pubsub & Feedster (& I would have used Technorati had I known that their watchlists are now free) in order to get most recent news results (in this case for two pretty simple searches, ‘blackboard’ and ‘webct’). This was a pretty positive experience as it dug up a heck of a lot of postings that would otherwise never have crossed the radar, especially using a search engine and to be honest I found these to be of real value because they were live, developing and new (which was, in part, a reason why I started it, to demonstrate what webct or blackboard could do if they wanted to).

Now had I run those terms through a search engine I would have got, ahem, 3,860,000 for blackboard and 2,830,000 for WebCT… probably largely unbrowsable, mostly out of date, irrelevant and also, a pain in the arse to look through (with the Google 20 word or so extract). While a more defined search would certainly have brought up more relevant content, in essence I was looking for anything Bb or WebCT related and consequently wouldn’t want to do that.

So on the main issue, Robin Good’s contention that web search feeds are as equally valuable as RSS or news search feeds, I’d have to say I disagree for this kind of function.

Indeed, I’ve also found that subscribing to Google News updates has been an equally fruitless experience, essentially flooding you with airy, poorly written PR fluff about how ‘x and x’ have made $xm and how great everyone is… there’s hardly a world of critical journalism out there in this area I can tell you!

Finally, while subscribing to all those searches was definitely a valuable thing for me to do I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re able to / want to devote a serious part of your life to it (you get a lot of stuff even on RSS search alone) and think that in the end, I’m much happier using my own, personally designed, human operated, filtered and annotated search engine… the 190-odd blogs I subscribe to which share the good bits, cut the crap out and give me a chance to discuss and think about the stuff in hand.

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