I Am An RSS Feed Redux: One Step Closer to Owning Your Entire Web Presence

Back in 2011, I wrote a rant explaining that I want to be an RSS feed. It was a response to the launch for Google+, a reaction to the creation of yet. another. social. networking. platform. Another place among the dozens I already publish content, another account to further fragment my online presence.

And I had a better plan: if I could just publish content in one place using syndication (much like an RSS feed), then other people could subscribe to receive it in whatever platform or tool they choose. Publish once, use many. And if I wanted to edit or kill my feed, I would just need to do it from my end and it would impact what everyone else receives. No copies; but true real-time access to the presence I want to have on the web.

[Aside: this could also help kids get rid of everything that was posted about them by their parents, before they were officially online in their own capacity. Finally, a way to rid themselves of all the embarrassing photos and posts their parents have posted about them over the years.]

I was lucky enough to have my idea seen by the one and only Dave Winer, creator of RSS himself, who commented that my idea aligns very much with his vision for the future of content ownership and syndication. He even referred to it as "our shared vision for RSS" in a Twitter discussion.

[Total fangirl moment.]

And wouldn't it seem that he's been doing something about it: he's been experimenting with creating a content publishing mechanism that could syndicate to a multitude of platforms simultaneously. So while it still requires a content creator to publish outwards to multiple platforms, it means only hitting publish one time to have your content appear everywhere at once.

In a piece entitled "Blogging 2.0" he explains:
I don't like the idea of writing something to have it visible in only one place.

Sometimes I find that a comment I wrote in one place is really a blog post, but why should it stop being a comment?
[Warning: I'm about to nerd out for a second, so if you don't know what CMS and API mean, you can skim this paragraph and resume reading at the next one.]

<nerd out>This approach would require content creators staging their content in some local or cloud-based CMS. When they hit publish, it would actually kick off a syndication workflow using platform APIs to distribute content to third-party sites simultaneously. (Publishing is really a misnomer; the content gets posted to a preferred CMS platform, then a workflow basically informs other third-party platforms that new content is available for the taking.) The list of platforms to which the content would be published would most likely be pre-determined to begin with, but with proper tagging (and even a combination of metadata and HTML data) content could even get picked up automatically by crawlers and published wherever appropriate. Better reach would be determined by better tagging and yes, the system could get gamed just like SEO, but the possibilities are amazing.</nerd out>

More simply put: The concept entails running a content management system (Wordpress, Blogger, TeamSite, Drupal, even DropBox or Google Drive) and when the user publishes content, it could kick off automatic workflows to share that content with to multiple platforms. It's a more advanced approach than standard RSS feeds and in fact the technology isn't in place yet: consider that you could write a comment or a blog post, save it to your Dropbox or Google Drive or Wordpress and then the text, not a link would be sent to a variety of sites: Facebook, Google+, your blog, etc. etc.

If readers could go to any platform of their choosing to find your content, then we'd be a step closer to my vision of being an RSS feed! Meantime, Winer's post encourages geeks to get on building the necessary APIs to make this happen, and I concur! (And let me know if you do, so I can geek out on it, ok? ;)