Weblogs & RSS Not for Everyone, Says One Reader

When I relaunched CONTENTIOUS, I considered my options carefully. I selected the weblog approach and opted to add RSS because that strategy, I think, makes the most sense for me and for many of my readers.

“Many” definitely is not “all.” While the response to the new CONTENTIOUS weblog has been overwhelmingly positive, I have received some criticisms.

I’d like to share with you the most thoughtful criticism I’ve received, from Louis Erickson, who has some sound reasons for generally disliking weblogs and RSS feeds…
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About My E-Mail Updates

Since I’ve relaunched CONTENTIOUS, e-mail list management and e-mail updates have been major issues. I’ve had to update a large mailing list that was about a year old, integrate two mailing lists into one, and decide which system I was going to use for my list.

This has involved a lot of tweaking and testing. So far, I’ve been doing this as I’ve been sending out several recent e-mail announcements about individual postings. But doing an e-mail announcement for each weblog posting is a lot of work. Plus, I really don’t want to clutter anyone’s in-box with daily postings.

So what I’ve decided to do from here on out is to distribute an e-mail announcement only once every few days to tell CONTENTIOUS readers about recent postings – unless I post something so important and time-sensitive that it warrants an immediate e-mail announcement to my full list. I think that strategy will be more manageable for my subscribers, and for me.

If you want to find out about CONTENTIOUS postings as soon as they hit the Web, your best bet is to subscribe to my RSS feed. (Again, if you don’t know what RSS feeds are or how to use them, see my RSS backgrounder.)

Online Public Comments on Govt. Rules? Lotsa Luck…

JUNE 4, 2004: JUST OUT OF CURIOUSITY… I notice that I’ve been getting a ton of hits to this article lately. I guess it got mentioned and linked to somewhere, but I don’t know where. Since I follow this topic, I’d love to know where it’s being discussed. I’d appreciate it if someone could tell me where they found the link to this article. E-mail me at: editor@contentious.com. Thanks!

A General Accounting Office report released today sharply criticizes a high-profile Bush Administration e-government initiative, the Regulations.gov site, which was supposed to enable the public to submit online comments on proposed rules from various federal agencies.

Bad site design and lack of appropriate links from agency sites is undermining this effort, said GAO.

Gee, why am I not surprised?
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Someone Having a Bad Day at Dictonary.com?

Being a notoriously incorrigible word geek, one RSS feed I check every day is Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day. (Here’s the feed.)

….But this week, I’m a little concerned. I’m wondering whether the editor of this fine service is having a really bad week.

Here’s what I mean: Today (Sunday), the word of the day is execrable: 1. Deserving to be excreted; detestable; abominable. 2. Extremely bad; of very poor quality; very inferior.

Hmmmm… Looking back over the past week, other potential cries for help appear…
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It’s So Good to be Back…

I’d like to offer my heartfelt thanks for all the support and encouragement I’ve received from my readers, colleagues, and friends for relaunching CONTENTIOUS as a weblog.

I’d especially like to thank everyone who has posted comments to my recent weblog items – such interesting food for thought! If you haven’t yet had a chance to peruse the comments about postings here, please do – and feel free to post comments of your own! I’ll be doing some future blogging on some of the topics raised in these comments, and in e-mail discussions about these postings.

Also, I’d like to thank some fellow bloggers who have been kind enough to mention the CONTENTIOUS relaunch…
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What Are Webfeeds (RSS), and Why Should You Care?

This 12-part tutorial is a major revision and expansion of an article I originally published Oct. 18, 2003 under the title “What Is RSS and Why Should You Care?”

Please note that this tutorial reflects an important shift in terminology at CONTENTIOUS. This publication is transitioning from RSS feed to the more generic nickname webfeed. This shift is explained in Part 11.

TUTORIAL TABLE OF CONTENTS:

  1. Introduction: What’s New Online?
  2. How Most Webfeeds Work
  3. Main Advantage: Webfeeds Save You Time
  4. Getting Started: You Need a Feed Reader
  5. Subscribing to Webfeeds
  6. Finding Good Webfeeds
  7. For Publishers: Why Webfeeds Beat E-mail Newsletters
  8. Publishing Your Own Webfeed
  9. Content: What to Put on Your Webfeed
  10. Webfeed Disadvantages
  11. Why Do I Say “Webfeed” Rather than “RSS?”
  12. The Big Picture for Webfeeds

Read on… and feel free to link to this resource or quote from it (with attribution, please).

Welcome to the Relaunched CONTENTIOUS!

My online publication CONTENTIOUS began life as a Web-based online newsletter in 1998. In the years that followed I branched out into offering an e-mail version as well. It was great, and hectic – and a whole lot to manage! Coding every page by hand, plus producing each e-mail newsletter by hand, let alone the writing and editing, and mailing-list management, was a huge task.

After letting CONTENTIOUS lie fallow for awhile so I could work on other projects, I’ve relaunched it in a new, easier-to-manage, and far more flexible and interactive form – a weblog. Here’s what your can expect from the new version of CONTENTIOUS…
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Credibility and the Blogger-Journalist Spectrum

Frankly, for years now I’ve been fairly annoyed at the attitude I get from many of my colleagues from mainstream media. These are the journalists, editors, and publishers who blithely dismiss online or independent journalism as inherently lacking in credibility. Not only is that belief inaccurate and counterproductive, it’s shortsighted.

I’d like to call to your attention a fabulous posting in one of my very favorite Weblogs, Phil Wolff’s A Klog Apart. Check out the Oct. 17, 2003 entry, How Much of a Journalist Are You, Blogger?, in which he discusses the kinds of standards which lend credibility to news reporting, regardless of who’s doing the reporting.

I’m pretty opinionated on the matter of credibility among online publishers. I’ve long held that the credibility of news and commentary stems not from the nature of the publisher but rather from intent, knowledge, and skill. I believe that independent publishers (online and elsewhere) and other types of organizations (such as companies or advocacy groups) can provide news and comment that is as valuable – sometimes even more valuable – than what comes out of many established news organizations. Wolff sets a fine example in this regard.
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Overlooked RSS Opportunities

OK, everyone – in case you didn’t realize it, you can use RSS feeds for a whole lot more than announcing articles and Weblog items.

I mention this because I’m forever spotting sites and organizations that should offer some kind of RSS feed – but don’t.

This is so easy to do, and so useful for your online audience, and it makes you look so cutting-edge, why not go for it?

Here are some of the most overlooked, yet potentially useful, options for RSS feeds…
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