Piling on

OK, here's what I wrote in the latest Cites & Insights--word-for-word (it's easy to select text from a PDF and copy it, particularly if it's on one page--and the CC license means that any blogger or whoever could legitimately quote it). Note that it was part of a multipart comment on postings in the Walking paper blog, thus the subheading and date (directly from that blog):

---------Beginning of copied section----

Rss hub-bub, January 19, 2005

This time Schmidt’s just asking for trouble. Noting enthusiasm in the blogosphere about one library vendor adding RSS to one of their extended products (and the predictable “every library and every vendor should be doing this right now� responses from more excitable bloggers), he quotes part of one comment on one post. That comment, from an employee of another library automation company, notes that when that employee has suggested RSS feeds, the general response is “where are the customers who want this?�

He has a point that is sometimes difficult to remember. There are still many, many people [who] aren’t familiar with RSS. Ask your neighbor what “Really Simple Syndication� is. 98% of you will come back having received strange looks, and maybe 1% of you (likely less) will have the correct answer. [Footnote: The missing 1%? You’ll come back with a black eye.]

You won’t get RSS in online catalogs until vendors
know that patrons are using it—and, by the way, you probably won’t get it if you’re not willing to pay for it. Sure, it has valuable library roles—-but what portion of the community will take advantage of the feeds? Maybe, as Schmidt suggests, this is one of those cases where the library mentors the patrons—“guiding them through technologies they might benefit from
learning about.�

He also notes that, if RSS takes off in a big way,
it’s likely to be ruined—“If not by some new fangled spam, then it’ll be by the abundant adverts and few full-content feeds. It could be rendered as painful to use as email.� I’ve wondered about that, and noted with a small sense of irony that the RSS feed from one of the top library promoters of RSS feeds is now partially
broken (by my standards): It’s no longer a fulltext feed, for financial reasons. (And, earlier, notes that he only encountered the comments because he clicked through to the site.)

Interesting stuff. So your library would just as
soon drop its new title lists and substitute an automatically generated RSS feed? You tell your patrons, “Oh, we don’t send that email any more. All you have to do is add our new title RSS feed to your aggregator.� What reaction will you get?

I live in a very high-tech community, on a block
where most homes are owned by two parents, both of
whom work in Silicon Valley. If I went around asking neighbors about RSS, I’m sure I’d get more than 1% success rate—but I’m also sure it would be a lot less than half.

(Last-minute addition: See TRENDS & QUICK
TAKES in this issue. The latest Pew Internet & American Life study on blogging suggests that Schmidt’s “98%� figure is right on the money.)

----------End of copied section--------

Why quote that 500+-word section? Because Jenny Levine (who has a considerably larger readership than I do, either here or at C&I) spent 1500+ words flaming me for things I don't believe I said (and, in the process, offering some genuinely useful suggestions of how RSS might be worthwhile in a library setting, to more than the 2% of American adults who apparently use aggregators). And because another blogger pointed to that entry without comment. And because Karen Schneider today spent yet another 800+ words applauding Jenny's post.

Clearly I must be biased against RSS: That's why I created a blog whose sole function is to serve as an RSS (actually Atom) feed. That's why I read Jenny, Karen, and 100 or so other bloggers via Bloglines.

This seems to be yet another case where raising any doubts whatsoever about a new technology--or, for that matter, commenting on the doubts raised by someone else (as I was here)--constitutes an attack on that technology. (I call it the "DR school of argument," and no, I won't expand those initials.)

Blah.

Quick addition: Now yet another blogger has contributed to the piling on--this time without even reading my original comment (apparently), but instead trusting that Jenny L. must certainly have reported what I said correctly. The "conversation" just gets better and better.

Update 2/9/05, noonish: A conversation of sorts has taken place on most of the sites involved here. One, however, remains pure monolog: It's now been more than 24 hours, and while the original flame has been updated, my comment has not been posted (it requires signoff by the blog owner). Ah, the community! Ah, the conversation! Somehow, I'm reminded of the last line of in last night's Gilmore Girls. (Arcane reference deliberately left unexplained, just to bedevil both of you reading this--and no, we didn't discover GG until last spring. We're now watching Season 2 on DVD while also watching Season 5 on TV. Other than a little cognitive dissonance, no problem.)

Closing note, Thursday, February 10:
47 hours on the unposted comment; I'm giving up. Meanwhile, I think this particular flamefest has gone on long enough--and have said so in a comment at Shifted Librarian. Jenny and I will clearly continue to disagree; the Perspective that may grow out of this won't be about the original controversy; and life goes on. I won't delete this entry because...I don't believe in mucking with the record.

Comments

people get too hyper

And I am also a hyper blogger too, and tend to pile on when my pet subjects are discussed. But, I don't see how composing mini-essays about a couple paragraphs of something in Cites & Insights, especially when you came out and said that part of what you wrote was based on a misinterpertation of what RSS would be used for with new title lists.

RSS is just a nifty way of accessing information, with many current and potential applications. I do find it weird that people react so vehemently to someone not being a RSS cheerleader --which isn't exactly the case, as you use bloglines. I'm starting to think that not being evangelical about RSS is an offense on the order of kicking a puppy or drowning kittens.

Re:people get too hyper

Arrgh, I meant "But, I don't see how composing mini-essays about a couple paragraphs of something in Cites & Insights, especially when you came out and said that part of what you wrote was based on a misinterpertation of what RSS would be used for with new title lists, is an effective use of anyone's time and energy."

Re:people get too hyper

But then, you were adding a brief, informal comment to a journal--and, given the subject (taking it as part of your lead sentence), I pretty much understood you anyway.

To be fair, I did not say that the paragraph was a misinterpretation until after one of the flames--but it's only one paragraph.

I not only use Bloglines, I set up the C&I Updates blog for the sole purpose of serving as a feed.

Oh well. You need to have a thick skin to be part of the infosphere.

Show me the money

Walt, take a deep breath - Jenny has good arguments for RSS, and I would note that Jenny's been on her RSS soapbox for months, so you probably stepped on her toes.

However, I'm a pretty technical guy and I'd have to side with you on RSS. Allow me to quote your article:
"That comment, from an employee of another library automation company, notes that when that employee has suggested RSS feeds, the general response is “where are the customers who want this?�".
...
You won’t get RSS in online catalogs until vendors know that patrons are using it—and, by the way, you probably won’t get it if you’re not willing to pay for it. (emphasis added)

I liked the 'its likely to be ruined' comment too! Jenny never seems to addreess the white elephant in the room of RSS feeds - how much it will cost and are libraries willing to buy. OPAC vendors are for profit companies - if there's no market, there no product. (aka 'solution without a problem' problem...)

My own little world...

Things like this make me a little bit happy that I tend to exist within my own little world in the blogosphere. It's rare that I comment on something I've read elsewhere. Usually because I'm so caught up in other things that by the time I get around to commenting, it's already a dead topic. The one time I did have a vehement post about something, it was only tangentially related to the library world. From that I learned, I like the low-stress of non-vehemence ;)

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