RSS and the Waning Mystery of the Web

By Deane Barker on June 7, 2005

Is it just me, or does RSS suck all the mystery and joy out of the Web? Does it make the whole concept of “sufing the Web” just a little more disappointing than it used to be?

Once or twice during the course of an evening, I’ll tell my wife I’m going to “check my email” and head downstairs to the office. To me, “check my email” means:


Check my email






Check my AdSense revenue


Approve, delete, and de-spam Gadgetopia comments


Check out my feeds in Bloglines

I always get a little depressed when I’m done, because there’s really not much else to do. That last one is the kicker – I get about every bit of Web-based information I need from Bloglines. In a hurry. After I’ve covered all the unread posts in that, the Web seems a little...empty. There’s just not much else to read. (The fact of the matter is that I could put CNN, the USAToday, and AdSense into Bloglines too, condensing my surfing even more.)

I remember way back when the Web was young, you used to have to surf – go from site to site to get what you needed. It was halfway exciting – you were living on the edge, man. You were surfing the Net. You never knew what you were gonna find.

Even as late as 2002, I had a “Daily” folder in my bookmarks with all the sites I visited every morning – Slashdot, Snopes, CNN, etc. It was a ritual.

Now the Web is delivered to me so efficiently that all the mystery of the Web has been sucked dry. This is cool, and I don’t want to turn back the hands of time, but there’s a reason I don’t have food delivered every lunch – sometimes I like to actually visit a restaurant.

Am I crazy?

Comments (9)

Phil Ringnalda says:

Are you remembering that you can click the links in RSS items? I know just what you mean, I get into speed rushes where I try to just tear through everything and wind up feeling empty, but it’s usually because I start treating posts as (dead) ends, assuming what the linked things have to say from the post commenting on them rather than reading them, and reading the things they link to, and the things they link to...

Derek says:

I know exactly how you feel. My usual routine is as follows:

  • open up FeedDemon (if I’m on my own computer) or Bloglines if I’m on another computer. I love how FD syncs Bloglines.

  • log into uneasysilence to post a few stories

  • check my feedreader again

  • remain in my feed reader until I decide I’m tried of being online.

A few days ago I tried to visit each of my feeds manually instead of relying on rss but ended up returning to my usual routine.

Dave Taylor says:

Wow, um, you guys need to find something else to do other than hang out waiting for new information to come down the RSS pipeline! :-)

Seriously, it’s a matter of information efficiency, in my eyes. Instead of having one person stumbling across things (me), or having a few buddies sending me links (which happens via email) I now have about 150 different writers (bloggers, columnists, journalists) who are simultaneously scrounging the Web, helping me find cool stuff and ignore other, less interesting material.

Brad Spangler says:

It’s interesting that you object to the efficiency with which information is brought to you. I wonder, however, if you aren’t focusing on the wrong problem.

RSS is all about repetition – how to get more of the same AFTER you’ve identified stuff you like that you might not have been previously aware of.

So, if you’re stuck in a rut – get out of it.

If all the people you read are only saying things that bore you – look for new ones.

If you miss the sense of wonder to be found from actively exploring for new ideas – get back to exploring.


If the information you encounter seems to boring and banal – create new and interesting information, then publish it.

To often people sit back and expect to be entertained, when they could shift gears and think about ways to be entertaining. Nothing personal, but if you use your mouse more than your keyboard, then you might be part of the problem.

Henry says:

I guess this proves someone with find something negative about anything.

josh says:

I get kind of the same thing.

I’m at about 200 feeds in bloglines and I’ve found that just keeping up with those feeds means I have much less time to look around at new and different things.

I have access to more information faster but it’s much less random.

random says:

I share your pain. I often go to my computer wondering if there is something I “forgot to look at”. There never is. It’s too bad. Excuse the shameless self promotion, but if you want to see something almost brand new, check out our site. We’re looking for a little love. Thanks for all you hard work. R says:

i find myself following print media again without reason, perhaps due to the fact that i seek some mystery in what i find: neural and warp records’ strange attractor vol. one are both recent purchases as i steal their music through bittorrent – i feel the need to purchase something, perhaps this to compensate, in return.

Anonymous says:

Well, that’s what RSS is about. I think It is great that I don’t have to websurf anymore and to have my web experience be decided by pure lottery (more or less). I can now RSS surf and still have the element of surprise. I think websurfing nowadays is like using your warpdrive spaceship to go to the grocery down the street...