Doc: does RSS replace email?

Doc Searls muses about whether RSS is a good replacement for email. Doc hypothesizes that RSS is better because RSS is part of a “relationship.”
This misses some key differences between good email, bad spam, RSS, and social network tools.
Spam isn’t bad because it is unsolicited. Spam is bad because spammers deluge us with millions of unsolicited messages, and don’t let us get away.
RSS makes it a little bit easier to subscribe and unsub, but that was easy enough with responsible mailing lists. A good RSS interface is a little bit easier to manage than a mail-reader — because RSS content is transient — it doesn’t pile up the same way unread email does.
But signing up for an RSS subscription isn’t a “relationship”, any more than signing up for a magazine is a relationship. If the information flow is one-way, then it’s publishing or marketing, not a “relationship”
It’s possible to have “relationships” facilitated by RSS, but that only happens when the receiver talks back — clicking through to the source to comment or hyperlink or trackback.
The problem with Spam is that it’s unsolicited BULK email. The opposite of unsolicited isn’t targeted “Dear Adina” — it’s really and truly personal.
I received a wonderful letter of introduction from a friend and colleague the other day. He introduced me to someone he know, who had common interests, and might be a potential customer. The letter was unsolicited, but this was a good thing — it was serendipitous and welcome.
LinkedIn and its counterparts purport to improve the process of personal introduction. But often they make personal introductions worse, by replacing thoughtful individual notes with form letters that strip out the emotional and substantive context that makes one want to reply.
Spam is hostile. RSS and LinkedIn are merely impersonal. Subscriptions and form letters aren’t relationships.
Conversations are.

1 thought on “Doc: does RSS replace email?”

  1. Re-ID

    After calling RSS opt-in authenticated Email, Doc takes up the issue of RSS as a substitute for email: Obviously, RSS isn’t e-mail. But what might it bring to email that isn’t there now? In a word, relationship. Now think about…

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