Weblogs are terrific for fast authoring. But aggregators are missing some very important features to make them useful--and the RSS standard needs to support those features.
I was thinking about putting Ruby snippets into my weblog. The plan was to use that for a
snippet repository, instead of email. (In my email client, I have a HowTo folder with subfolders for different technologies. I typically write a draft message to record snippets and the like, and then drag it to the subfolder for that technology. Later I can view the message headers to find the tip I want, or do a search when the folders get big.)
That's when it struck me--the problem with weblog aggregators is that I can't easily
save a message! That problem is /almost/ solved with a web-based agreggator like
BlogLines. IF a weblog has a permalink (a URL that goes to the post, rather than to the weblog, so you can get to that post again later)--THEN I can visit that link, and THEN I can drag that link to a bookmarks folder, which I will happily create for the purpose.
So right away, we can see several limitations:
I need to be using a Web-based aggregator, so my bookmark-folders are nearby.
The post has to include a permalink.
I've got to visit the permalink before I can copy the bookmark--that's a two
step operation that, in email, is only a single step.
The thing is, if a weblog is interesting enough to follow, then a significant percentage
of its articles are probably things I want to save. So that operation should be one of the easiest things I can do in an aggregator.
So now I know how an aggregator should behave, ideally:
I get all my unread weblogs in one list, like email.
(Many aggregators can do that.)
When I move off of a post, it automatically disappears from the unread list.
That's more convenient that email. For a while, it remains in the "current
posts" area for that weblog. There should also be a "recent posts" button
I can use see stuff I've already read, in case I don't recall where to look
for it. But in general, stuff I've scanned should disappear on its own.
When I see one I want to keep, there is a SAVE button that's easy to click.
That saves the permalink to the appropriate folder. That functionality would
be even easier than email, because I don't have to drag the message.
BUT: To do that, the aggregator has to know how to find the permalink,
every post has to have one, and the aggregator has to know about it.
Since a bookmark is just a pointer to a page, it should also be possible
to save the bookmark in multiple categories. Dragging the bookmark to a
folder could copy the link, for example, without removing it from the
list. That would make it easy to file a post under multiple categories
without having to Ctrl+Click to do it, as with email.
The bottom line is that if I'm interested enough to keep following a weblog,
there are going to be posts I'd like to save. Permalinks are a step in the
right direction, but they need to be near-ubiquitous and aggregators need to
be able to get them.
Note: I'm so far out of the loop on RSS technologies, it should be
a criminal offense. So if anyone knows of any new developments in this
area, by all means let me know.
Firefox has a feature called "Live Bookmarks". If you add an RSS feed as a live bookmark, you get something that looks like a bookmarks folder, but in fact contains links to the feed items. To try it: 0. Use Firefox. 1. Go to a supporting website, like Artima's front page: http://www.artima.com/index.jsp. 2. See the orange icon in the right of your address bar? Click it. Select one of the feeds, and then select the destination folder. 3. That's it. Click on the live bookmark and you'll see the posted items, each one linked to the permalink.