Improving The RSS Reading Experience

Last week, I blogged about how the RSS reading experience in feed readers is lacking because we’re deprived of the full visual experience of actually being at a web destination. In a feed reader, we get just the filtered content without the look and feel of the source.

So I got to thinkin’, since Google Reader (or any feed reader for that matter), knows what I’ve read and I what I haven’t, and knows the title & description of the feed entries, it could easily dice up the DOM of the originating site and inject the titles and descriptions coming in off the feed into the original page.

Below is a concept screenshot. Notice it’s the usual Google Reader trimmings but the actual content view is swapped out with Brand Spanking New’s actual look and feel. Note also that the three “read” entries are collapsed and slightly faded below the unread entry:




There are other issues that arise out of this approach (e.g. single entry-per-page blogs) but I’d be very curious to experience something like this – a sort of hybrid web browsing/feed reading experience.

An alternative approach would be to look for some sort of codified hinting to feed readers of what to do with their content – something like a referenced CSS embedded in the feed XML. It would be important to constrain what can be done – things like colors, fonts, better logo handling, but not much more. A feed reader could then spice itself up slightly as we navigate from source to source.

5 Comments Improving The RSS Reading Experience

  1. Ben

    I like this idea.
    I’m not so sure of pulling in all of the site (sidebar and everything), as the important thing is the content itself.
    The hinting could just as easily be achieved with XSLT – a reader pulls in RSS and then the XSLT transforms it according to what the stylesheet determines. Then it is just a matter of linking a CSS document to that inital RSS feed.

  2. Robert Scoble

    I really +hate+ this idea. I hope if it ever gets implemented that we’re given a choice to turn it off.
    The reason why I like feeds is BECAUSE I don’t have to look at your damn awful stupid fonts and page layout.

  3. Rich Ziade

    Wow. “Hate” is a strong word no?
    Sometimes, I just want to *see* where I am. I could see myself flipping this switch on occasion to get a sense of who the author is; their style etc. You can’t get that when you’re just a human API consumer.
    Besides, sometimes fonts and layout are really NICE.

  4. Ben

    To be fair, awful fonts have a lot to do with the state of web typography at the moment – the current ‘set’ of web fonts leaves a lot to be desired.
    Personally, I would never browse A List Apart without CSS for example (i.e. via a feed).
    I guess the point of RSS is to keep people current without visiting the site – does that devalue the site somewhat? Would you read magazine articles if someone jotted the relevant ones down for you on a scrap of paper?
    I prefer browsing the site to get the best experience. Even if it takes more time.

  5. Arnaud

    You can have images in an RSS feed (because it can contain HTML).
    Moreover, thanks to Yahoo Pipes, I think you can modify the fields of the RSS you receive, so you could add a custom banner image for each of your favorite sites.
    I think it could be a good compromise, and independant from your feed reader!


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