Featured Technology The Internet

What makes RSS better than social timelines?

Replied to The Fail Whale Cascade by Luke Harris (

I’m bored of what I call “the timeline era”. Scanning an unending stream of disconnected posts for topics of interest is no longer fun, I prefer deciding what to read based on titles, or topic-based discussion.

I am a huge fan of RSS and have never stopped using it to follow blogs and webcomics. But lately as I’ve read lots of people talking about timelines, a question has been niggling at me: what does make an RSS feed* feel better to use than “the timeline” of social media? They are both streams of information, but I prefer RSS.

*by RSS feed, I mean the stream composed of multiple individual feeds — it is a little confusing that the singular and plural/collective of feed are the same.

Continuing in the vein of exploring what makes a blog a blog, I’m curious why an RSS feed feels better than social media timelines. Are we conflating our like of blogs with a like of RSS, or is there something about RSS feeds inherently that we really do prefer to other timelines?

I think it’s useful to dig into what elements of the experience make a substantive difference, so we can make better design choices with new tools in the future. I’m interested not in the technical details here (yay RSS is open and not owned by a corporation, boo it’s kind of a pain to explain and set up) — I’m interested in how we use the technology, and how we feel about using it.


Lean forward and lean back reading


JOHN SCHWARTZ talks to clients about “sitting forward” or “sitting back” styles of reading. Media theorist HELEN KATZ describes those styles thus:

Lean forward, where the reader is actively controlling the flow of information.

*Lean back**, where the reader passively consumes information in a way that the author has directed.


Engaging online classes

Bookmarked The State Change Method: How to deliver engaging live lectures on Zoom by Wes Kao (Wes Kao)

State Change Method: Aim for a state change every 3–5 minutes to break up the monotony of a monologue-style lecture.

Personal Growth

Avoidance through Self-Aggression

Quoted Already Free (

In Already Free, therapist and Buddhist practitioner Bruce Tift examines how psychotherapy’s “Developmental” approach of understanding the way our childhood experiences shape our adult selves both challenges and supports the “Fruitional” approach of Buddhism, which tells us that the freedom we seek is always available.

“Our self-aggression is not just a relic from the past; it’s something we choose to reinvest in, over and over, every moment. We actually maintain a practice, with great effort, of being aggressive toward who we find ourselves to be. If we can become curious about the function this serves, if we invite greater awareness, then we might find that we can work with our issues much more skillfully and kindly… Claiming that we are problematic means we don’t have to engage with our lives fully, because we aren’t ‘ready yet’ — there’s something wrong that needs to be fixed first. [So] we have a good excuse to not show up. And it turns out that really showing up—being fully present, embodied, openhearted—is often a very intense experience. Having a complaint also gives us an explanation for our difficult experience—and if there’s a cause, there should be a solution. ‘I should be able to have the life without disturbance that I deserve once this unfair problem is cleaned up.’ It allows us to continue our disengagement indefinitely, since there will always be some unfair problem in our lives” – Bruce Tift

Resources and Reference

Structure as Involvement Tool

Bookmarked Liberating Structures – Liberating Structures Menu (