Monday, December 19, 2005

TOI RSS Goodness

Lalit IMed me about the re-layout of the TOI a few months back. The feature I gravitated to immediately was the RSS feeds section. I must say I'm impressed. Some of the things on my wishlist have been granted - a feed dedicated to columns, and one dedicated to the editorial page.

Some grouses remain which I hope will be addressed in future re-iterations.

1. The columnist section feed still does not indicate who the author is. For instance, I'd be interested in any article by Swaminathan Aiyar or Gurcharan Das. Jug Suraiya, occasionally. I still have to go through each article to see the author. The name of the author in the feed itself would be so much more useful and time-saving. That's the point of RSS, isn't it?

2. What is it with the multi-page layout? We scared of reading more than two paragraphs on a page now? Our attention-deficit-addled minds not capable of much more? It's time they give the reader a bit more respect. Clicking 'next' after reading so less text is irritating, as is the fact that even short articles have something like 5 pages dedicated to them.

3.Nice font color. I like the subdued grey used for the text. However, on-screen real estate shows exactly where the priorities of the newspaper lie. A total of less than 25% of the page layour is dedicated to actual newspaper text.

The RSS feed is a blessing. I haven't read the TOI for over a year. Didn't miss it a single bit. I did miss some of the columnists I enjoyed earlier - unless they were linked to by other blogs. This gives me a chance to keep up with the better editorials.

Some of the rest is pure drivel, but some choice is better than the joke that other Indian newspapers (except the Indian Express, which is slightly better) call 'websites'. No RSS feeds, no concept of permanent links, nonexistent cross-browser compliance.

I sometimes wonder about whether it is really worth it for a site to go into the effort of adding RSS to their site. It is likely to be a lot of expense for them to do it, and the number of readers added may not be huge. But Robert Scoble makes a point for RSS in his usual in-your-face style.

The surprising fact is that even though I work among early adopters in terms of technology, I know very few people who actually use RSS. The number of people who have tunnel vision in terms of the work they do is disturbingly high. I remember a conversation where someone didn't know what Wikipedia was, and I've had more than one conversation with people to explain to them what RSS is (and this is among tech professionals) .

But maybe it's also that I am nerdier than is good for me.


thedq said...

Im a non techie and i understood much later how important an rss feed is for websites i visit frequently. I never bothered to know how to use it untill google desktop. However, its beginning to irritate because everytime rediff/toi has something up, i get a notice. Its not something you'd want for a frequently updated website.
Let me know if i made a technical/conceptual error in what i just wrote. :-)
ps: notice the last two headlines on the toi website. They are always something related to 15 hottest outfits/chicks in bollywood. I get scared now to scroll down the page, out of fear i might puke!

Ajay said...

Umm...all engineers are techies. Don't let any IT knucklehead tell you otherwise. :-).

Isn't there a setting to turn off alerts or to reduce their frequency?I still prefer the 'pull' model where I go to the reader and read stuff.

I don't subscribe to the main TOI news - only to the editorials and columnists. The Express has better news stories, but then, people do seem to want pretty women in their news ;-)