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Going through my RSS feeds this morning, I was reminded how each item is a vignette, a small window into someone else's life. I don't follow sites for news, although that inevitably seeps through, but for the people, their stories, their thoughts and ideas. Inspiration, education, confirmation, confrontation — it's all there, every day in post-sized fragments.

This is what the web is for — anyone can publish, anyone can share their story with the world. That's what social media was for: a simplified way of publishing and reaching those who might be interested in that story. With scale comes conflict, disagreement, it's inevitable. The way that conflict is handled, however, how it is promoted, amplified, and packaged as entertainment is the issue. It's not a technology problem but a human problem; the technology does what it's told, reacts to the whims and desires of those who create it and teach it through daily use.

We would love for "the town square" to echo the idealised images of the Greek agoras with philosophers keenly, but respectfully, debating the issues of the day. Our modern day agoras, however, are removed from both geography and time, they are designed to be accessible to the whole world and, with everyone talking at once, only the loudest will be heard, the most extreme. With scale comes chaos.

Curating a set of RSS feeds is like stepping away from the agoras and finding a little café, somewhere to sit and watch from a distance, to gather the words of the other patrons. Somewhere familiar where we recognise the regulars. We might never interact beyond a nod of appreciation but, in our own way, we come to know these people or, at least, what they allow us to know. The clientele may change over time, new voices emerge while old voices fade — that's the way of it, the way of life.

We must still be mindful of those voices we pay heed to, not allow them to have undue influence, and not embed ourselves strictly with those whose world view matches our own. We can embrace disagreements and use them as learning exercises rather than battlefronts. And in this way, our small café can be everything we need.

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cdevroe says:Reply to cdevroe

@colinwalker ⭐

James says:Reply to James

This is such a good way to think of RSS. Your RSS reader is your neighborhood coffee shop.

There really is something magical about being able to connect with people over time on the web that's separate from the noise machines.

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Colin Walker Colin Walker colin@colinwalker.blog