Seems that my Rename RSS contest has caused a bit of a stir. Many people seem interested in the idea; a few others seem considerably less than thrilled.
It’s fascinating to me how the very concept of a name can spark a strong sense of both imagination and attachment. I’m finding this contest to be quite an intriguing experiment! I’ll be curious to see the end result. I don’t have any particular expectations, I just thought this should be tried.
Many people seem intrigued by the idea of renaming RSS. In the last couple of days I’ve gotten a LOT of entries it’ll take me a little while after posting this article to catch up with adding them all to the entry list.
Also on the positive side, this contest has been noted and linked to in several other places including Lockergnome and Scott Rosenberg’s Salon blog. And I’m amazed that this contest is getting considerable attention in European blogs, including the popular German blog Telepolis
On the “not so thrilled” side, some reactions to this contest have ranged from cynical to indignant and I suspect I may have inadvertently offended Dave Winer, a prominent RSS pioneer…
On the cynical end of the negative-opinion spectrum, Gadgetopia thinks this contest “will go over like a lead balloon.” Weblog Hype says, “I doubt whatever this contest comes up with will be used anywhere else, other than some of the readers of Amy’s weblog.”
But today, Dave Winer’s “Early Morning RSS Rants” caught me by surprise. Some excerpts from Winer’s posting:
“RSS clearly is about to go through another growth spurt. And as with each other time its eclipsed its former self there are people who seem to want to take control, redefine it in some bizarre and undignified way…
“The name RSS is every bit as good as any other name you can come up with, and it has the advantage that it’s the name everyone uses. Read a marketing text book. It doesn’t matter what it’s called, rather that it means something in lots of brains. Trying to make a new name stick will only make the whole thing weaker…
“For example, imagine falling in love with someone. “You’re the perfect person for me,” you say. “But your name doesn’t communicate who you are. Let’s have a contest to come up with a new name for you.” Now, how clueless would that be?”
…Now, Winer doesn’t mention me, CONTENTIOUS, or my contest by name, and no links are included, but as far as I know I’m the only person running a contest to rename RSS. And I did invite Winer to be one of the judges. (He didn’t respond to the invitation, and I guess his reasons for that are now obvious.)
PUTTING IT ALL IN CONTEXT: I’m thoroughly intrigued and delighted at the broad spectrum of opinion and debate that this contest has raised. I even enjoy the criticism and cynicism I can be critical, opinionated, and cynical myself at times, so I certainly don’t fault others for that.
I also expect never to be able to please everyone, and that some people will inevitably disagree strongly with virtually everything I say or write. That’s not a problem, that’s just life.
However, I would like to clarify a few things about why I decided to offer this contest, my attitude toward it, and what I expect the result to be:
THIS IS AN EXPERIMENT: First and foremost, I view this contest as an experiment, not a campaign or crusade. I am not trying to claim any kind of “control” over RSS, either.
The truth is, by now I’ve heard so many people complain about the geekiness of the acronym “RSS,” I thought that someone should try to gather suggestions for a catchier, less geeky new name for this exciting online publishing option. No one else seemed to be doing that in any coherent way, I decided to give it a try.
I have no idea whether the winning name will catch on. Actually, I have no particular expectations or goals in that regard. I just thought this process should be tried, because it would be interesting.
If in the long run the best name for RSS indeed turns out to be “RSS,” fine! I’d have no problem with that as long as eventually that acronym somehow ceased being an obstacle to popular acceptance and adoption.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH ACRONYMS? Not all acronyms are inherently bad but they have their uses and abuses. I see this every day when I talk to people face-to-face about RSS. Most people who are not technology afficionados have a visceral and visible resistance to acronyms, including “RSS.” Yet vast numbers of these same acronym-resistant people could reap great benefits by learning how to read and even publish RSS feeds!
The thing about acronyms is that they tend to keep non-experts at arm’s length from interesting ideas or tools. Acronyms are inherently cryptic, because they must literally be decoded in order to be understood. In fact, the original full name for RSS is “RDF Site Summary” a nested acronym that requires two levels of decoding, and it gets geekier at the second level!
Yes, I really do see the acronym RSS as an obstacle not an insurmountable one to be sure, but a considerable one that should not be ignored. This bothers me because I am so excited about RSS and its possibilities. Consequently, I am very grateful to the contributions of Dave Winer, Ben Hammersley, Ben Trott, and others who pioneered RSS and are exploring various ways to put it to good use.
SUGGESTION: LIGHTEN UP! Seriously if I am not emotionally attached to the outcome or long-term impact of this contest, why should anyone else get upset about it? This contest is simply an experiment that’s encouraging some lively debate, and it’s fun and creative! Just let it happen, participate if you want to, ignore it or criticize it if you choose, and see what comes of it.
Either way, it’s bound to be interesting.