Tag Archives: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh

What’s RSS to You?

I’ve been playing with RSS feeds for a few years but nearly always find myself struggling for a strategy to stay in control of them. Most of the time I hardly make a dent in the unread posts, so my favorite reader for them is one that can let me mark lots of posts as read without feeling too guilty. But maybe it’s just me.

This led me to wonder how other people use them, and, well, whether they use them. It’s one technology that seems to have taken off, given all the RSS buttons you see around the web, but I sometimes wonder just how many people are actively getting their information from RSS and how.

I’m hoping your answers might shed light. The survey’s here. There’s no registration required, and nothing weird is collected about you. It’s all on one page so there’s no boring clicking through to do. And it’s in a lovely green shade, which I think you’ll like/hate. Plus, I’ve tried to leave space for you to leave your responses that don’t fit the choices I give; if there’s not enough space, or you just really hate surveys, please feel free to write to me direct. If you’re amenable to me contacting you by email with follow-up questions about your responses, please throw your email address and name into one of the answers.

Thanks in advance to those of you who do answer. Feel free to pass it on to others who might be interested. Results will be published at some point, in some form or another.

Technorati tags: , ,

Interview With The Guy Behind The Klips

In today’s Asian Wall Street Journal and in WSJ.com (subscription only, I’m afraid) I talk about widgets — sometimes called dashboards — as an alternative, or addition, to RSS.

Here is the transcript of an email/IM interview I did with Allan Wille, president and CEO of Serence, the company behind Klips:

The new Folio looks good. what’s the main new feature in this version?

Based on customer feedback, mostly from Content Providers, images and a richer content experience were very key. Much of that had to do with increased branding capabilities as well. So images are likely the BIG feature in KlipFolio 3.0. Enterprise to a lesser extent were also asking for images – charts, graphs that can tie into CRM or other enterprise applications

 

why would someone go for Klips over an RSS reader or similar device?

We are positioning KlipFolio as a dashboard – a personal dashboard for consumers or an digital/business dashboard for enterprise. We are not an RSS reader, and I see our paths moving appart, such that the two products –KlipFolio and an RSS reader– can exist in parallel. Klips are intelligent agents, where the value lies in their ability to inform and alert users of complex data. Klips are very good at allowing personalization of content, and persenting users with alerts to critical data. Of-course Klips can do news feeds, but the differentiation there is less apparent, and in some cases, an RSS reader will do a better job.

 

You seem to have a lot of European users. is that right, and if so, any reason for that?

KlipFolio started to have sucess with a number of key German news outlets – Tagesschau, Heise, Spiegel Online etc … this started back in 2002, when RSS was not quite as hyped as it is today. I believe this gave us significant visibility among other content providers in Germany and Europe, and has led to a very large European userbase, and subsequently a good source of leads and customers. North America was hesitant to try new technologies and as RSS was adopted by more and more content providers in NA, Klips were caught in a difficult differentiation battle. With the features present in 3.0, wer are looking to overcome these challenges in NA.

 

You’ve been doing Klip for a while, and while as you know I’m a fan, it doesn’t seem to have caught on as I might have expected. I don’t see that many Klip buttons on websites. any thoughts on that?

When you compare the visibilty of Klips to RSS, you are quite right – it seems to be taking a back seat. It is important for us to continue to get the Klip buttons out there, as this is a major marketing program for us. Again, it is a question of differentiation, of added value over RSS. 3.0 will be addressing much of this, and we need to aggressively make sure we educate key content providers of the value – a trend we are seeing though is that the major content providers are contacting us not for simple Klip publishing, but more so for the development of branded desktop clients …

 

Related to the last one, where do you see the market for this? it seems to be different fields you’re playing to, from the RSS on a stick audience, to the secure corporate feeds…

Interesting question – our markets are (a) Content Providers (ie: CNET, Kluwer, Penton, Spiegel) for branded versions of KlipFolio (branded KlipFolio, downloadable from their sites, with their Klips bundled), (b) Enterprise (Wells Fargo, Advanded Telcom, Curtiss-Wright, NDR) who license KlipFolio Enterprise as an internal dashboard, and, (c) Application Vendors (Connotate, BizActions) who wish to OEM distribute KlipFolio as their own product, sublicensed to their customers (in other words a channel play). End users are not a market for us – they are a source of leads.

 

Critics might say that because its proprietary software, Klips are a step backwards, locking users and providers into something that’s Old Economy.. any thoughts on that?

It’s not proprietary. Anyone can build and publish Klips. We publish our APIs, and a full SDK free of charge, and with no need to register. We use XML and Javascript. Konfabulator, Apple dashboard, and Macromedia Central (or Adobe now …) are more like Flash (as a mini-application environment). I must say it’s very cool, and I have tried it a number of times, but the inconistency of the interfaces have ultimately gotten in the way. I do think it will attract a number of Content Providers due to it’s brandability.

 

Where do you see this space (Klips, but also RSS, Konfabulator etc) going? Do they at some point move off the desktop?

I see a clear short-term trend where RSS readers are going to be melded into browsers and email-clients. I see them as becoming more capable of rendering html (and soon video, and audio), where their value as an “alerting” tool become less apparent. I also would consider this a very dangerous time to be an RSS reader client company – even for the forerunners, I don’t see competitive advantage, or amongst themselves, competitive differentiation. Longer term, I believe RSS will become an important background technololgy — and enabler — much the same way html is today to the web. RSS will not be a house-hold name among the early majority and on. There will be readers and alerting tools on various platforms and form-factors (and likely powered by xml/rss/whatever), but people won’t be calling it rss.

 

What are the most exciting uses you’ve seen of Klips? How do you use them yourself?

On the consumer front, I find the email watchers (the hotmail, yahoo, gmail and pop3 mail) Klips to be very exciting – they are secure, access complex data and present users with dynamically generated setup options. One the enterprise front, two very interesting ones are a company that is using a Klip to alert their call-center agents of key data from their CRM system, and a bank who uses Klips as part of their work-flow system to increase productivity and review speed. Where the Bank’s internal processes saw documents, policies, forms, and client applications being worked on by many employees and managers, the current work-flow system put the onus of moving forward on the employees and manager’s shoulders and relied on email to notify them when a document was edited, or in need of approval. We improved on this process by working with their work-flow application where each individual user is now alerted to pending documents, policies and applications via KlipFolio – it’s relevant to what the manager or employee is responsible for, and a popup alert ensures they take action, and of-course with a single click from the Klip, they can jump right into the familiar work-flow system.

 

So far there are only a few 3.0 feeds. what else is in the pipeline, feed-wise?

We will be updating all of the email Klips, the stock tracker, eBay monitor Klips and as with Betanews, we are working with a handful of key content providers globally to update their Klips. In general we will be focusing our efforts on more service oriented Klips, and encouraging our community of developers to do the same – part of our efforts to differentiate.

 

How do you make your money from this? And how would you characterise the journey so far? I first wrote about Klips more than 3 years ago, and a lot has happened on the internet since then. Are Klips struggling to keep up with these changes?

The hype of RSS has both helped and distracted our progress. On the one hand, RSS has educated the markets, and generated interest in desktop alerting. On the other, RSS has made our position more difficult to define – educating the market that we are not an RSS reader, but rather an alerting dashboard targeted for commercial purposes. The markets are more conductive – more educated, more financially willing, and more competitively driven. Also, I truly believe that in our space – alerting dashboards – we are positioned as one of the best players.

I’m not sure it’s a matter of keeping up with RSS – we support RSS among other standards. One thing we have found is that real-customer deals are hard to find the closer you get to RSS – it’s a very early adopter marketplace – lots of hype, not much real value or money yet. As we distance ourselves from RSS we find the client conversation is more focused on solving real business needs.

As mentioned in an earlier answer, we target content providers, online retailers and premium content providers as our KlipFolio Branded customers; application vendors, service providers, ISPs as our OEM customers; and corporations as our KlipFolio enterprise customers. We have a solid base of customers in all three areas and (with out venture funding I might add) are profitable.

You are right – lots has happened, but I think the interesting stuff is yet to happen. Same goes for Serence …

 

 

Thanks, Allan.

RSS, The NYT, And The Future

Continuing the theme of RSS, here’s a couple of tidbits:

  • NYTimes.com has expanded its Really Simple Syndication offerings to 27 categories including new feeds such as Most E-mailed Articles, Multimedia and Week in Review.
  • Mediathink, a ‘full service marketing firm’, has released a White Paper on entitled “RSS – The Next Big Thing Online.” The White Paper outlines the marketing and media implications of this new online channel and evaluates 12 RSS newsreaders (Active Refresh, Amphetadesk, Feeddemon, Feedreader, Meerkat, MyNetscape, Newsgator, Newzcrawler, Scopeware Newswatcher, Sharpreader, Syndic8, and Tristana).
  • MediaThink’s conclusion: RSS will go beyond text “to allow for easier access and filtering of audio and video”, where users can “create personal broadband ‘channels’ where RSS acts as the filtering and notification tool. Soon we expect to see users subscribed to all types of rich media content using RSS.”

To prove their point, MediaThink launched a multimedia version of their press release via RSS.

A New Kind Of Klip

An alternative to RSS? Or an advance? Or can the two sit together?

Canada’s Serence will today announce a new version of KlipFolio, which describes itself as a a ‘uniquely powerful and globally-adopted information awareness and notification platform’ but could probably be better termed a variation of RSS that uses a proprietary software and a slightly more modular approach than most RSS fans are used to.

This new version of KlipFolio, 2.5, has advanced statistics for content providers, encryption for Klip data and some enhancements to the Klip software for end users, including audio alerts, scroll-bars and configurable fonts.

There are some advantages to some in using Klips over RSS or Atom feeds, and this seems to be the direction that Serence is taking: Corporate data, or any other material where the provider wants to ensure it doesn’t get into the wrong hands, and where the provider wants plenty of data back on who’s reading what, when and how much.

The small modular approach also lends itself to small chunks of deliverable data rather than the big grab-bag of news that RSS readers have become. This is something I’ve mentioned before.

RSS Moves Closer To The Mainstream

More evidence, if it were needed, that RSS is moving mainstream.

eWeek reports that InfoSpace – who also own the dogpile, WebCrawler and metacrawler search sites — will add RSS feeds to the next release of its search toolbar. A setup feature called “Search Page” will scan an open Web page for RSS or Atom feeds, and then let a user decide whether to add them to the toolbar.

This year may well be the year of RSS feeds: Where they get easier to use, where the big players adopt them (I noticed a Microsoft feed the other day; perhaps they’ve been around for a while, I just haven’t seen an official one before) and where marketers find a way to make money out of them.

A Way Forward For RSS Content

RSS is one of those technologies that’s hard to explain to casual users of the Internet. When you tell them they can have their news and site updates in the form of a feed, direct to their desktop, they usually ask

a) can’t I do that already? I thought I could do that already.
b) you mean like email? I don’t want more programs on my computer. Or
c) OK, sounds good but what kind of things can I get?

Don’t get me wrong. RSS, or something like it, is the future. But it’s a hard sell to folk who haven’t downloaded a program in their life (more people than you’re care to imagine; I wonder what the stats on that look like), or to folk who are so worn out by spam they don’t want to sift through more bits and pieces arriving on the computer. But even if people do like the sound of it, RSS still doesn’t lend itself to grabbing information. It’s great for folks looking to read what other people are writing, or even keeping up to speed on general news, but it doesn’t quite have the customisation necessary to lure ordinary folk. Not everyone considers reading blogs in another format to be their idea of fun.

This may be changing (not the idea of fun, the customisation of RSS.) Klips, an RSS-type desktop feed from Serence, have introduced modules that include feeds of more specific, user-defined data, allowing you to track selected currencies, UPS and FedEx packages and stocks. (While I love the design and simplicity of Klips, I don’t think they work for large bodies of information, such as blogs and news, so expect to see Klips move more and more in the direction of small clumps of changing data, such as traffic reports, flight departure and arrival times, or hot deals, scattered around your desktop.)

RSS could do a lot of this too, but so far hasn’t. You can harvest a lot of information via RSS but most of it is passive: You can’t tailor it too much. Either take the feed or don’t. This will change, and already is beginning to, thanks in part to a guy called Mikel Maron from the University of Sussex. He’s come up with a way to deliver some of the personalized data from your My Yahoo! account to an RSS feed, a neat trick that arose from his university studies. (If you’re interested in the technical aspects, here they are in PDF form.) So far his feed — which is not related to Yahoo! in any way — can handle market quotes, weather and movie listing, depending on how you’ve configured your Yahoo! account. But of course his approach offers great potential for funnelling all sorts of personalized data straight to your RSS browser. Let’s hope Yahoo! support, or even buy, Mikel’s efforts.

(Thanks to Chris Pirillo’s LockerGnome RSS Resource for pointing out Mikel’s site.)

News: Newsfeeds With Bite

 For those of you who haven’t tried RSS feed, I’d suggest it’s a great way to subscribe to newletters without too much hassle. But where is RSS going to go? PaidContent.org, the award-winning independent news blog, has launched its RSS version, reports Poynter.org. The feed will include ads, prompting the question: when will we see spam RSS? And how might that work?

Software: Psst, Want Another RSS Feed?

 Here’s another way to get your daily dose of blogs, news and RSS feeds (blogs that dripfeed their way through to your desktop without you having to do anything). NewsMonster is “a news, weblog, and RSS aggregator that runs directly in your web browser.”
 
 
“NewsMonster offers a superior web experience and outstanding integration with existing websites and weblogs that support RSS. Even sites that don’t support RSS can work with NewsMonster.”  NewsMonster also incorporates an advanced reputation system to prevent spam and discover and inform you of important news. I have to say that I haven’t checked it out yet.