J. R. Swab

I'm Rethinking RSS


Categories: [Technology]
Tags: rss, privacy rss privacy

After some thinking about the current state of social media and mass email lists, RSS came to mind, and it's actually a much better alternative for privacy. No data collection, no feed manipulation, no email newsletters. It's like someone from the future went to the past and gave us the answer to subscribing to creators without giving our away every detail about our lives.

Little to no data collection

As far as I'm aware there is no way to collect personal data through RSS feeds. You get an app (pick a good one like Feeder) and add each site's XML feed.

That's it!

Unless the app you use monitors your usage, asks for your name, or other personal information you can be pretty confident that your personal data is not stored and sold.

I mentioned Feeder, this is the RSS app I use to 'subscribe' to blogs that I like to keep tabs on. It's a nice app with lots of settings to fit your needs. You can set it only to show articles you have not read or to display them all. The app also has a notification feature to alert you went a new post is released by any of the sites you follow.

On top of all that it is FOSS (free and open source software)! Here is their "pitch" on F-Droid:

Feeder is a fully free/libre feed reader. It supports all comment feed formats, including JSONFeed. It doesn't track you. It doesn't require any setup. It doesn't even need you to create an account! Just set up your feeds, or import them from your old reader via OPML, then get on with syncing and reading.

I was unable to find the app in the Google Play Store so you will need to download F-Droid to install the APK.

No unwanted curation

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and most of the top social feeds curate what you see to some extent. I don't like this. Curating a user's feed opens the door to abuse, censorship, and pushing posts that appeal to an agenda.

Take back control of your most read sites by adding them to your RSS reader instead of only following them on social media. Major topics are much too easy to miss otherwise.

All updates in one place

You don't need a bunch of apps or to sign up for a million email lists if you use a sites RSS/XML feed. I have an email list, and you may join if you like but we all know how crazy email lists get. I promise never to send a million emails to you if you sign up because I hate that just as much as the next guy.

Centralized and decentralized

RSS works in both centralized and decentralized platforms. I'm not sure why Steemit and Busy don't have a feed option outside of the on-site feed. Creating an RSS feed would make it easier for many people to consume the content of their contributors. It would be a simple feature to add and just needs a little JS, PHP, or Python to construct the feed for each user. (I know because I did just that back when Nebulus had user accounts.)

Be Privacy Minded

If you are security and privacy-focused like I am, don't rely on the major social networks to show you everything from everyone you followed. Also don't feel obligated to sign up for everyone's email list just because you like a single post. RSS feeds, created years ago, solve many issues with privacy that we see today.

The big social networks tweak the data we see. Most email lists want our name and other data on top of our email address. Why bother with any of these when we can grab the XML data from a feed and see everything without compromising our privacy?

How to Find a Hidden RSS Feed

Many blogs run on WordPress and (unless turned off) have an XML page just itching for use. If you are on a site's homepage try typing "/feed.xml," "atom.xml", or "rss.xml" you may be surprised to find one even they don't advertise it.

Another way is to use the Feeder app I mentioned above. In the app select "add feed" form the three dots in the top right. Then enter the URL of the site you want to add. Feeder will search the site for the proper XML file to attach. It's super easy!