Using Social Media Sites As “RSS Readers” — Online Collaboration

Increasingly, social media web sites are becoming much more than places to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues online. They’re becoming major hubs of information consumption, analysis and distribution as well, so it’s important to understand how this trend is playing out on some of the more popular destinations on the social web.

In fact, social media web sites such as Twitter, FriendFeed and  Facebook have the potential to take over many of the functions of RSS readers such as Google Reader, Newsgator and Bloglines.

twitter-logoAmidst all the hubbub of Ashton Kutcher and CNN and Oprah Winfrey and Save Chuck, Twitter has become a nifty and dynamic way to receive inbound alerts about news stories and information, giving the ability to turn your Twitter stream into an “RSS reader” of sorts.

There are a few different ways to use Twitter as an RSS reader. The first is to simply follow those users who broadcast links to stories and web sites that you find interesting and relevant (Robert Scoble, for example, when it comes to all things tech, Internet and geek). This is a means of crafting your own “smart people network” that sends the best stories and links to you. As David Drager at systemBash writes, “I find it awesome to be able to see what is going on, without having to manage ‘feeds.’”

The second way to use Twitter as an RSS reader is to literally send RSS feeds into your Twitter stream using a service like Twitterfeed. This works well for people who want to see a “firehose” of stories on their Twitter profile that can be browsed throughout the day. Twitterfeed also works in conjunction with microblogging services and Laconica, and status update services HelloTxt and

friendfeed_logo_48_2One of the best services for harnessing social media to create an inbound source for content and links from trusted sources is FriendFeed. If anything, the challenge with FriendFeed is to use the right set of folders and filters to best craft your personalized RSS reader-like experience.

For example, Justin Korn discusses the use of “imaginary friends” to set up customized RSS feeds for the topics that you’d like to keep track of. A somewhat simpler means of using FriendFeed as an RSS reader is to make use of filters. The default filters on FriendFeed are “Favorites”, “Personal”, and “Professional”, but you can customize them however you like. For example, you could set up a “Sports” filter for sources that link to a lot of sports-related stories that you’re likely to be interested in.

facebook-logo1Facebook is an interesting case study to look at as it’s one of the most popular social networking/social media web sites in the world, yet takes more of a “walled garden” approach as compared to Twitter and FriendFeed, as you can only interact with people who are your Facebook friends.

Can Facebook be used as an RSS reader? Well, sort of. ReadWriteWeb covered the shutting down of a Facebook app “that turned your newsfeed into an RSS feed” as it interfered with Facebook’s privacy policies. Marshall Kirkpatrick muses that the “wall that keeps Facebook user data in and private by default feels too contrary to the fundamental nature of the Internet for it to last.”

However, Facebook is still a useful place to pick up news and information from trusted sources (your friends and contacts) as each individual can pipe RSS feeds into their own newsfeed, so you can still use Facebook as a limited inbound RSS reader of sorts, via your Facebook friends.


A New Comm Biz piece asks, “Will RSS Ever Go Mainstream?” Perhaps in some ways it already is, and will continue to evolve through social media web sites like Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook.

Do you use social media web sites as RSS readers?

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