Bix wrote about the idea of universally followable /now pages. This notion is a replacement for / addendum to an idea he previously had about a site or service that would show you when people have made updates to their info rather than what those updates actually were.
The key is that it would let the individual explore those updates in their own time. They are given the minimum information required rather than be overloaded.
"So that’s my pitch to the /now page community: develop tools that publish these pages not just to a webpage but to RSS and/or ActivityPub, as well as tools to markup, perhaps using some kind of microformats, the underlying HTML in ways that would allow for a crawler to parse them even absent an RSS or ActivityPub feed."
Microformats2 certainly could work. There are already indieweb tools that parse pages based on markup, like monocle but RSS is far more familiar with much wider adoption. Even if people persist in saying social killed RSS or that it died with Google Reader.
Using rssCloud to push updates (I wish more feeds supported it) would be a nice addition.
This got me thinking about feed readers. They became popular because of their killer feature: convenience. They bring everything together in one place allowing the consumer to easily scan updates from multiple sources without having to navigate halfway across the web.
Feed readers also homogenise content, displaying it according to local preferences. Links will always be the same colour and other elements, like blockquotes, will always look the same. It reduces the cognitive load when consuming posts from multiple and varied sources.
But is this always a good thing?
I've written before about trying to shift away from posts just being "social units" in a timeline — that is one of the big disadvantages with certain social networks: all content is rendered the same. Also mentioned in passing before.
It makes me wonder if we're 'doing it wrong' with feed readers.
The homogenisation of post content means we lose the personality behind the words. As I have previously quoted Robin Sloan: "presentation is a form of content" — abstracting the content from how it was meant to look can do it a disservice.
I have been intrigued by the idea of having "less of an emphasis on the actual consumption itself within the reader — more of a notification system" and Bix's post brings me back to this.
The menu tray for /reader is just a list of blogs with an indication of unread posts. What if this was all it did? Just told you someone had updated their site and it was up to you, the reader, to go off and find out what.
I wondered if this approach might cause me to read less due to the loss of convenience. Conversely, it might make me interact more, leave more comments, as I would already be on the host site.
I posited an alternative view for /reader 7 months ago (wow, was it really that long) but nothing ever came of it. Now, however, I think the time is right to return to it and see what I can come up with.