reading feeds

It’s been about two years since I started (again, but this time for real) reading articles regularly via feeds. I’ve been using the web to read stuff for much longer than that, of course, but there was a limit on how many sites I’d remember to look at. I’d played with RSS before that but did not really see what was interesting about it. It seemed like a really awful protocol for a data feed of new or updated articles since none of the feeds I saw took the idea of a unique article ID seriously and the “feed” always had the last n articles rather than a protocol that let me ask for “all articles since X” where X might be a timestamp I received with the last feed or an opaque value identifying what articles I’ve seen. RSS was also underspecified and the wide variety of things I found in the feeds I looked at proved it. I still think HTTP/(RSS|Atom) is an awful protocol but it’s also widely implemented and allows useful things to happen. After playing a little with RSS when it came about, I proceeded to ignore it and all feeds for a long time. I preferred to visit the sites that held my interest enough to revisit. A couple years ago, though, I noticed I was getting emailed (or IM’d) links to interesting things that were on blogs. I found a few blogs that I liked, mostly ones that had interesting things to say instead of ones that were all about posting links to places that had interesting things to say, or, worse, posting links to places that posted links to places that had interesting things to say…

So, noticing my mail client could subscribe to feeds, I decided to start subscribing to feeds for places where I ended up reading something. Now instead of keeping up with five or ten sites, I could keep an eye on a lot more with essentially the same time investment. Eventually shortcomings in my feed reader (Thunderbird on one machine) led me to try rawdog and eventually write my own. Between August 2005 and a week or so ago, the interface I had for subscribing to a new feed was “edit a config file on my Linux machine”. I hadn’t realized how bad that was until a week or so ago when I finally implemented a subscribe interface to my new aggregator — a bookmarklet to subscribe to the current site’s feed by using feed autodiscovery.

Some of the feeds I read are purely entertainment, such as photo feeds, but most of them I read because I’m interested in the subject matter or because the author’s posts make me think.

Anyway, having a usable interface for adding feeds has meant I’ve actually been seeking new feeds to read. Here’s a couple I’ve come across recently that I subscribed to:

Stevey’s Blog Rants I got here via Math for Programmers which was linked from techmemeorandum. The post articulates an idea that has been slowly forming for me (and then some, giving some ideas and resources). The blog seems to be worth reading. understanding The journal of a first-year teacher who was until very recently a programmer. A friend of mine also followed this path though he got more formal study between being a programmer and becoming a math teacher. The way people learn is interesting.