RSS for the people
The Los Angeles Fire Department has a blog post up explaining the benefits of RSS to their readers. Here’s an excerpt:
With RSS, you don’t have to reveal your email address to have the new content, such as LAFD News, delivered to your computer. If you want to stop receiving information, you don’t have to request to be “taken off the list”. One click, and poof… the subscription is gone.
Plus, since there’s no email address involved, there’s no way some publisher can sell, rent or give away the means to contact you. That’s right… no more spam, viruses, phishing, or identity theft. And best of all, no reason to put yourself at the mercy of an unknown publisher’s intentions.
Again, if you don’t like the content, you can make it disappear as fast as you can change a TV channel. With just one click.
Two things popped out for me in the above:
1) The use of more familiar technology to help explain RSS — in this case, email subscriptions and channel surfing the TV.
2) Referencing the negative experiences people might have had with unsubscribing or privacy to distinguish RSS as a positive alternative.
I think there’s a lesson here for us as we think about helping more people get the full benefits of the Web. RSS is a fundamental technology that is changing and broadening the way everyone can find and stay up to date with information that matters to them. Yet awareness of RSS is minimal.
The LAFD is on the right track by taking the time to explain in approachable terms what RSS is like, and how it makes the Web experience better. I’m still looking for a really good, thorough example of this kind of explanation — though this tutorial by Daniel Bricklin is in the ballpark.