Following the prophesied death of the RSS, we have been left wondering what would replace it, or if it already had been replaced and we just hadn’t noticed! Has Twitter really been the nail in the RSS coffin. In a recent article, Mike Elgan points out that the two are fundamentally different. RSS is a user controlled service, while Twitter is controlled by others. Elgan goes on to discuss the lack of precision that we, as consumers, are experiencing with technology. He suggests that as developers have been creating new products, we have begun to lose ‘exactness’.
Computer user interfaces have evolved to become more user-friendly and more sophisticated. But while they have become easier to use, they've become harder to control.
Innovation: A Substitute For Control?
With examples from a variety of different mediums, Elgan makes a compelling argument for the notion that innovation is a substitution for control.
Starting with Samsung’s new technologies (gesture controls sensitive to where your eyes are looking and where your finger hovers), he bemoans the lack of accuracy involved in touchscreen phones and tablets. Moving on to hardware like Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox, which detect users’ movements, he says that we are losing the ability to precisely direct our technology. And with search engines and social media now programmed to second guess the content we want to see, maybe there is something in his argument. What we have gained in simplicity and speed of use, we've sacrificed in accuracy; whether that’s when entering commands, searching for content or arranging data.
The Cost of Progress?
Personally, I think if developers weren't trying to find new operating methods our devices would be a whole lot more laborious (and a lot more boring!).
Yes, it’s easy to mistype on a touchscreen handset, and sure, the scrolling and zooming functions aren't quite exact. But can you imagine reverting to using handsets that don’t use touch technology? That little scroll wheel on my mouse probably saves me minutes each day compared to clicking and dragging a scroll bar. It might not be as accurate, but playing games of tennis on the Nintendo Wii is some of the most fun you can have on a games console!
Some of the ‘innovative’ features that Elgan talks about seem a little gimmicky (do videos really need to pause when our eyes move from the screen?), but ultimately, the most useful will survive and evolve. The same applies to his ideas on Google Reader.
Level of accuracy aside, if the technology is suitable for people’s needs, then they will use it. And if people still need RSS then the departure of Google Reader won’t matter.