RSS or do you have time for a chat?

reports the views of ‘s that readers are on the wane as a social media tool. 

[PS If you’re not familiar with what RSS and feeders are, check out this simple Plain English video]

 the world’s leading (who has moved with a snazzy new look that is reminiscent of ) has threatened to remove the blog’s RSS feed, alleging: 

Doesn’t it (RSS) seem a bit Jabba the Hut? Some fat lazy bastard who simply sets up their PC to suck information into their consume-everything lifestyle. Forget a meander down to the local pub for a chat with some old friends. Give me drip-feed Slug & Lettuce, All Bar One, Rat & Parrot, O’Neill’s and carte blanche to argue. Why have 4% bitter when you can have 6% super lager? Why have a conversation when you can have automated opportunities to spout opinion? Why use subtlety when you can shout?

Similarly there has been debate among the Blogpower crew regarding feeds – with concern expressed that its use does not necessarily reflect the ethos of a group of small bloggers supporting each other by regular visits.

But as reports, it is necessary to use tools like RSS to keep up with what is being said online.  That is particularly the case in public relations, where, you are monitoring for professional rather than purely social reasons.

I agree, using RSS for Bloglines and Google Alerts enables me to catch up with a lot more information, that would be hard to keep up with otherwise.  I can also provide news updates onto my educational site, making it a good one stop shop for students

However, at times (particularly if you’ve had a day or two away from the computer) the volume of information you get fed is overwhelming and only a brief scan is possible.

This does makes me a lurker, not really engaging with the conversation as TWL observes.  But do I have time for the pub crawl approach that would be required to stop by all the blogs where there could be something of interest?

Also, with many people taking Summer breaks – or simply  – then it would be like stopping by an empty boozer, a pretty pointless way to spend time.  RSS enables you to know when your mate is chatting and so drop by for a quick half.

Personally, I’m not convinced that and fulfil the same connection as to me, they appear to lack the depth of a good blog conversation.

The strength of blogs is the conversation, when comments add different perspectives, making best use of Web 2.0 technology.  Although, yes, sometimes a thread is largely nonsense (notably at popular blogs, where people want to be seen rather than add value).

There are also times when people are busy – if they have a quick peak through the doors using RSS and think the conversation today isn’t for them, or that they haven’t time to sit and relax, that’s fine.

Like most aspects of new technology, RSS is a tool to be used, not abused.  We should remember the importance of the “social” dimension – to make friends, share views, enjoy what others have written and join the conversation by adding value. 

That means being more active rather than just being an RSS lurker, but not spoiling the conversation by spamming, being offensive or talking off topic.  But then, that happens in real life too.

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.