RSS Attention Management

RSS readers are very handy for people to manage attention to incoming information.
Debates about the relative superiority of RSS readers and web browsers are missing the point. Nobody wants the whole web coming to their desktop reader.
You use RSS for sources that change periodically, that you visit again and again. Bug-tracking is a great application — several people in the RSS-Winterfest IRC mentioned bug-tracking as handy use of RSS.
A few people in the IRC mentioned RSS for alerting. The RSS polling design isn’t intended for real-time notification. For that you need IM or Jabber or Tibco. Real-time notification and periodic updates can be used nicely side-by-side — for example, a system administrator might want routine human and system notifications via RSS, and system-down or danger-zone alerts by IM or pager.
Information updates have different levels of urgency — “the building is on fire” is more urgent than “the room temperature has increased from 68 to 72 degrees” (unless you’re managing a temperature-sensitive lab culture).
A given piece of information is more urgent for some than others. A customer support query is urgent for the service reps on duty, and of background interest to product managers and developers.
We need a range of attention-getting media.
* IM/pager for lapel-grabbing alerts
* email for important, short-notice items
* RSS for alerts for discretionary attention
* Weblogs and wiki providing a “browse mode” fix for recent changes junkies, and a searchable archive for occasional readers
(We also need a Ross Mayfield trademark colorful chart to gain fame for the concept.)
These modes complement each other. They help individuals manage attention, and they help organizations focus attention on urgent matters, while building knowledge in important areas.

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