A Decade of Blogging

Do you remember May 2005? I do in some respects, but not in others. Being the parent of a six month old at the time, I have to admit a lot of non-family things are lost in a blur. But I do remember getting started with this blog, at the time when absolutely everyone had a blog, very much as today absolutely everyone has a Twitter feed, or an Instagram account, or an Ello page. (Just kidding about the last one. I think I’m the only one. Ello strives to be as successful as Google Plus when it grows up.)

For me, the month is notable because it was May ten years ago that I started RSS4Lib. I do remember coming back from a daylong conference (which was the subject of the first post on this blog, RSS and Libraries), not long after starting my then position at the Ginn Library at Tufts University. The conference was all about emerging and new technologies, and blogging caught my attention. It seemed there was so much interest in blogging and RSS, and so little information, that I grabbed the theme of RSS and libraries, came up with a name in the model of the venerable web4lib listserv, and soon snagged a domain name. Thus was born RSS4Lib.

Much as blogging was all the rage, so was RSS. Not just how data gets from place to place, RSS was itself a value-added and well-advertised service that any reasonably well architected website would provide. “Visit Oursite-dot-com! We have an RSS feed.” It was as much a sign of currency and hipness as being on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or whatever it is the kids are using this afternoon.

Things have changed. Today, if RSS is having a good day, it’s been reduced to being the plumbing of data exchange for APIs and people who use the dwindling number feed aggregators like Feedly.

Back in the day, there was actually plenty of RSS-related news to talk about. Over the years, though, my fervor for blogging declined, in pace with the rest of the library worlds, and my posts became less frequent and more broadly focused on technology in libraries. My favorite posts are those that have allowed me to imagine futures that aren’t now possible, such as the recent “In Today’s Internet of Things, YOU Are the Thing, and the much older “Serendipity at Risk,” “Perspective on Discovery,” and “The Paradox of RSS and Web Scale Discovery.” The most popular posts, though, tend to be “how-to” posts (see below).

Ironically, the most popular post (see below for the top 10) is one that describes a tool I wrote to parse server log files to tell you how many unique subscribers your site’s feed has. Ironic because despite that page’s popularity, the reliance on RSS as an access mechanism has been steadily declining.

As the Internet and this blog have evolved, my career has grown, too. Rather than being the guy who works on the web site, though not as the main part of my job, I now oversee the maintenance and development of a vastly larger and more complex library website, and deal with an entirely new range of issues. Over the ten years of blogging, it went from something fun, to something I felt obligated to do, to something I felt guilty about not doing, to … whatever it is now. I still write, though at the extremes of length: occasional long-form article and chapter length publications on one side, and 144-character-long tweets Twitter at the other. I do like the freedom, even if it is seldom exercised, of having a space available to share my thoughts. I expect to post here from time to time going forward…. Maybe RSS4Lib will last another ten years. Who knows? Despite the time I spend on it, as Yogi Berra is credited with saying, it’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.

— Ken

Just in case you’re curious, the most popular posts ever (where “ever” is since November 2009, when I added Analytics to the site):

  1. Counting RSS Subscribers (8039 views)
  2. RSS for Kindle Readers (5216 views)
  3. Google Has an RSS Embedding Tool (3997 views)
  4. YourStats: Estimate Feed Readership for Your Blog (3466 views)
  5. Google Chrome and RSS (2851 views)
  6. Flog Blog: RSS to Facebook (2252 views)
  7. JavaScript RSS Box Viewer (1813 views)
  8. Feedbooks: RSS to PDF for Offline Reading (1506 views)
  9. RSS to Twitter Tools (1341 views)
  10. Facebook Notes Redirects Your Feeds (1223 views)