Creative writer Chuck Mullen on RSS and what it was like trying to find a Google Reader replacement.  

 

1) Would you consider RSS an essential part of your daily routine?

Absolutely, it’s essential for various reasons. First off, of course, is my constant need to absorb interesting content. Being a creative writer, you need to stay in touch with industry trends, as well as know what the general consensus of the public is and what’s trending.

By utilizing the power of RSS, I’m able to quickly skim through subjects and compelling stories to gain a grasp of the environment we live in. By subscribing to such a wide and diverse genre of topics and sites (and cultures too!), it keeps me a step ahead.

I’m able to bring up and discuss a wide scope of subjects, and it’s made me the “go to person for something different”. If you need to be ahead of the pack, RSS can help.

2) There are a lot of people that say RSS is dying out or dead, do you agree?

This one is a tough one to answer because there are so many different factors, such as the death of the desktop computer and content providers that are restricting or removing RSS feeds to force you to visit their site for ad delivery.

When Google stopped their service, it sent the message that RSS was yesterday’s news. It goes without saying that service providers need a way to monetize their services, but this has created a whole different set of limitations on free users: premium features, lack of trust that the service will stay online, and of course the biggest issue, reliability.

On the other hand, many people are faced with the growing issue of a lack of time. RSS groups together all your content into a nice, tight package that you can easily pick through and choose what you want without having to load up a particular site. I’ve seen that RSS is something people don’t even know about – if there was more knowledge, it would enhance RSS usage.

Sadly, I think that RSS usage is slowly going down, not that I want that or think that’s a good thing. It’s clearly not.

3) After Google Reader was shut down, what was it like trying to find a replacement?

Nearly impossible. I went through at least 20 before I settled on two that I use now. The whole gimmick of Google Reader was the clean display, minimalistic functions, and no need for a premium subscription (or inline ads). Plus, Google Reader had the search function that could easily introduce you to new content delivery sites, or even topics.

A lot of the replacements, lacked one feature or another. Other’s imposed limits on free users. In my experience, it’s very hard to convert a free user to a regularly paying one. If they’re used to it being free, they’ll want it to stay free. And if not, they’ll continue to trek until they find something free and functional to their specific wants and needs.

A lot of sites that attempted to step up, simply didn’t make the cut. Another factor was the presentation of the replacement site. Many attempted to “reinvent the wheel”, which was rather senseless, especially for those that were accustomed to Google Reader. I certainly was one of those. And this played a tremendous role in my search for a replacement.

4) What are the essentials you look for when you choose a reader?

Speed, clear design, no clutter, full content display (of course this is if the subscribed site allows full display of the content – usually if they don’t, I don’t subscribe!), search function, not only for feeds, but available sources. Mobile usage, which displays in the app or browser itself, not where you have to launch a browser to see ONE SITE at a time.

5) Do you think RSS and social media can share a similar space for users?

The past year has shown me that the typical social media user, is clearly not the type that would use RSS. I’m not saying that RSS users are these intelligent, super users of the internet and social media users are simple.

No, what I am saying is, that social media has gone from being a useful tool to a place where people are just there to promote something or someone. Twitter is still somewhat safe from this, due to limitations of text usage. There is only so much you can write in 160 characters or less.

Plus, a lot of social media users tend to stick within a particular genre, and topic. RSS users are very diverse. Social media users like short bursts of information, and content. RSS users tend to go deeper into the subjects.

Most social media platforms are tailored to promote the platform, allow communication amongst the users, and targeted content delivery. If you are a follower or fan of a particular topic, generally that “social feed”, would showcase exactly what you are looking for. Whereas RSS, can’t be defined to that level, unless you stick to a specific topic or subject (and only target those feed sources).

Social media has shifted from a great source of staying in touch, and content delivery to spamming, lack of proper grammar, and outright vulgarity, or worse. And going through the mess is not time efficient.

Sure, most users aren’t engaging in these activities, but I still don’t really think RSS and social media can share a similar space simply due to the users of each platform.

6) What stands out to you about FlowReader and what features would you like to see?

Ahhh, FlowReader… what stands out to me, is how I can see my Twitter stream on the side, and see the feeds in the middle. That the mobile platform is similar to the desktop one. Loads fast and is clean. How long the service has been available, and the look and feel of it.

As far as features I’d like to see: search with a longer retention period of your own feeds as well as feed you’re not subscribed, related categories to show you similar feeds, and a daily email digest that contain content based on keywords or topics. Since I’m a stats nut, I’d also love to see how much content a site posts, a 24-hour usage graph, and how many feeds you’ve read in a day, week, month, or year. Stats was one of the things I loved about Google Reader!

7) What’s your favorite feed to read, and why?

I actually have a few! Being from the entertainment industry, I get a kick out the craziness that transpires within the business. I like dlisted.com and egotastic.com a LOT. Both for the comedy, the pictures, and the craziness. And the writing style. I am also a huge Android user and fan, so I dig androidauthority.com.  I also find tons of relevant life information on lifehacker.com.

In general, I run about 350+ subscriptions, and I try to go as wide variety as I can. I also enjoy torrentfreak.com which isn’t what the name implies. It’s  a wonderful source of information, related to the rights and wrongs of the control of piracy. Enlightening and informative.


Chuck Mullen, 42, I’m a creative writer by trade, someone who doesn’t sleep, and a RSS fanatic. I have lived on 2 continents in two completely different cultures (and languages!). I see it from the inside and now from the outside.

I love Twitter but I don’t tweet that much, go figure. I am seen as this really strange person, but I see myself as different, and different, is good. My one word is FREEDOM.