Summary: Since the blogosphere is abuzz in the Web 2.0 dialogue, I feel it’s time to reiterate the call that web sites should universally provide a usable method to transact with them from any capable electronic device. As CMSs becomes the norm, it seems too that such “universal access” capabilities should be the norm. Since we are swamped with so much information, I humbly suggest that we start by being sure to include titles for our content and full text options when syndicating feeds for consumption. I’ll explain…
It’s about the Net, not the Web
Once upon a time, the Internet was all about serving static HTML pages to view in a Web browser. The terms “Internet” and “Web” were considered somewhat synonymous, even though the former refers to the physical means for data trasmission among interconnected electronic devices (tool) and the latter refers to interconnected electronic documents (content). Today, the Internet transmits data in multiple ways, not just by serving up HTML documents for people to view on their preferred browser. The Internet provides services such as e-commerce, communication, video and other types of dynamic content.
We’re Becoming a More Portable Society
Today’s culture embrances portability. The world has become smaller, in part due to the Internet’s possibilities of transacting internationally on a scale unheard of 20 years ago. Further, this opportunity to connect, transmit, and receive information has moved away from simply using a personal computer to view web pages. I would first admonish gatekeepers of web sites to provide a method to view content on any capable electronic device. For example, Mike provides a great tutorial (for us non-code folks) for making your site mobile-friendly. Of course, I am the biggest hypocrite. Perhaps I will implement this feature once I get more than one reader (thanks, Mom).
Nonetheless, there are sophisticated happenings – take, for example, ESPN’s foray into mobile content delivery. Pretty impressive, huh?
As David over at Technorati indicates, the blogosphere world alone “is over 60 times bigger than it was only 3 years ago.” Because so much content is being created on a daily basis, it is so difficult for the common consumer to find what he or she is looking for. Let’s try to make it a bit easier for everyone…
Be sure to include titles for new content. I’ve recently “crossed over” and now do most of my reading using a feed reader rather than proactively using a combination of search and bookmarks to visit specific sites for information. As Thomas explains, the “come to me web” is the model of the future. I would argue that as more and more information is created and available, the harder it will be to find it. However, one way to make sense of the information that interests me is to subscribe to feeds available through sites I am interested in. Right now I have over
80 90 sites I subscribe to, so when browsing for articles of interest, the titles really matter. We need to be journalists here. Interestingly, one of the bigger feed evangelists out there does not regularly use titles on his site, thereby making me less interested to see what he has to say when using my new feed reader of choice (hat tip to Mark).
Give me the Whole Article!
In addition, I would say a great many content providers that do provide feeds only provide “snippets” of an article – usually only the first 250 characters. This then forces me to visit the web site to view content. This really makes syndicated feeds worthless for the reader, IMHO. In defense of only providing snippets, I’m sure this practice may, in part, be done purposefully so that I will click on advertisements. However, feeds are beginning to become embedded with clickable advertisements.
I cannot speak to every CMS out there, but I do know that WordPress by default will only syndicate these snippets of an article for those who choose to subscribe to a site’s feed. I’ve chosen to make sure that every post on my site is viewable in its entirety in an RSS reader. Below is the interface used in WordPress to make this change:
We live in an information age where each of us is confronted daily with choices about what information we choose to grab, hold onto, use, and get rid of. We make these choices very quickly. Therefore, I urge all content providers to make their content accessible to all digital devices, but let’s start by making sites “feed-friendly” by offering full-text syndicated feeds along with richly named titles.