Reply to Jon Mitchell on reading bots

Are you familiar with Reading.am by Jon Mitchell (Everything is ablaze!)
@brentsimmons Are you familiar with Reading.am and/or the many homespun varieties of feeds people use to share what they′re reading online with minimal friction? For me this solved the problem of wanting RSS to have a social component, but it needs no centralized back end. People build a reading bot however they want, and they fire it off when they want to tell the internet “I am reading this.” For example, I trigger mine by using Pinboard just the way I normally would, and its RSS feeds feed the bot.For me this solved the problem of wanting RSS to have a social component, but it needs no centralized back end. People build a reading ...

I like the general idea behind what you’re talking about here Jon, though I may be missing part of the conversation as I came across it via a GitHub issue and it’s taken some time to find even a portion of the conversation on micro.blog, though I suspect I’m missing what I’m sure might be a fragmented conversation.

I too love the idea of indicating what I’ve been reading online. The problem I see is that very few platforms, social or otherwise are focusing on what people are actually reading. Reading.am is the only one I’m aware of. Pocket and Instapaper let people bookmark things they want to read, but typically don’t present feeds of things after they’ve been checked off as having been read.

Most others are systems meant for a specific purpose that are being bent to various other purposes and it’s rarely ever explicit so that everyone knows their intention. As an example, I know people who star, like, favorite or do something else on various platforms to indicate what they’re reading. Some also use these to indicate bookmarks. As a personal example, on Twitter, I sometimes “star” a tweet to indicate I “like” it or it’s a “favorite” while most other times I’m really using the functionality to quickly bookmark an article and use an IFTTT.com recipe to automatically add the URLs of these starred posts to my Pocket account for later reading.

The overarching issue with these is that the general concept is painfully spread out and the meaning isn’t always concrete or explicit. Wouldn’t it be better if it were vastly more specific? In an attempt to do just this, I use my own website, in linkblog-like fashion, to indicate what I’m physically reading. It has an RSS feed that others could subscribe to if they wish to read it elsewhere. I also “syndicate” copies to places like Reading.am or occasionally to Twitter, Facebook, etc. for those who prefer to follow in those locations. Incidentally on Twitter, mine often look a lot like your Twitter feed with visual icons to indicate specific intents.

For something like Evergreen, or any reader really, I’d much prefer if there was UI and functionality to allow me to directly interact with the content I’m reading and post that interaction to my own website (and own it) in a relatively frictionless way. This would be far better than using things like stars to do something that others may not grasp.

In the reading case, it would be cool if I could physically mark something explicitly as “read” in Evergreen, and the reader would post to my website that I’ve actually read the thing. While there are many ways to do this (including RSS), perhaps one of the most interesting currently is the open web standard called Micropub. So my WordPress site has a micropub endpoint (via a plugin) and apps that support it could post to my site on my behalf. If the reader could post to my site via micropub, I could use it to collect and create a feed of everything I’m reading. Similarly readers could also do similar things to explicitly indicate that I mean to bookmark something, or I could use the reader to compose a reply directly in the reader and post that reply to my website (which incidentally could send webmentions to the original website to publish those replies as comments on their site.)

As an example we’re all familiar with, micro.blog has micropub support, so I can use micro.blog’s app to post and micro.blog uses micropub to send the post to my own website.

With the proper micropub support, a reader could allow me to post explicit bookmarks, likes, favorites, replies, reads, etc. to my own website. All of these could then have individual feeds from my site back out. Thus people could subscribe to any (or all) of them as they choose. Want to know what I’m reading? Easy. Want to know what I’m bookmarking or liking? Which events I’ve RSVP’d to? Shazam!

My homepage has a full list of post types I’m currently supporting, and each one of them can be subscribed to individually by adding /feed/ onto the end of the URL.

In summary, let’s try not to impute too much meaning onto a simple star’s functionality when we can be imminently more specific about it. Of course, for completeness, for most readers, we’d also need to change the meaning of the traditional “mark as read” which in reality means, “mark as done” or “don’t show me this anymore”.

For more detail on how this could work in an advanced reader-based world I’ve written a more explicit set of details here: Feed Reader Revolution

And to quote Brent back:

…it’s okay if this is a work in progress and isn’t ready for everybody yet. It’s okay if it takes time. We don’t know how it will all work in the end.

We’re discovering the future as we build it.

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