technaut (technaut) wrote,

RSS Aggregators.

There are a large number of companies out there who are trying to get in on the RSS aggregation bandwagon. I'm going to assume for the sake of this essay that you already know about RSS and aggregation and the many uses to which it is currently being put (podcasting, vlogging, etc). If not, I suggest you check out the link above before reading further.

Now, the RSS system has a number of flaws, the most major of which is that it doesn't scale. The server load from having several hundred thousand subscribers poll a website every few minutes can bring even major webservices like MSN to their knees. That however is not what this essay is about. Instead of proposing a replacement for RSS (which I may well post about in the future), I'm going to propose a replacement for the current crop of aggregators.

There are many aggregators and I've looked at a fair number of them, but by no means all, so for all I know what I am about to propose may already exist out there. If they do though, I was unable to find them.

What I want is a service that doesn't just merge multiple RSS streams into a single stream. That's useful, but its far from enough. I would very much like to see a service that can create RSS streams out of non-web material like newsgroups and mailing lists and syndicate them. The resulting output from the RSS aggregator should default to RSS (of course) but it would also be very useful if it could also be output in the form of a mailing list or newsgroup gateway.

Then, I want to be able to merge streams and perform operations upon the results. I would like to collapse together all articles with identical texts. Too many of the news streams I subscribe to carry the exact same story and I would like to see it only once. It would also be good if the aggregator could tell when multiple articles were all about the same current hot topic and group them together, perhaps by merging the articles into a single meta-article.

Another thing that would be good would be to be able to splt a stream (either a regular stream, or one of these merged streams) so that I could filter technical discussions into a different feed than political discussions about technology, both of which currently show up in some of the technology streams I follow.

Once all that is in place, then I would like to see some collaborative filtering layered on top of it all. Something that allows the subscribers to the resulting feeds to give feedback, not only in the form of comments, but as ratings and subject tags so that the readers can refine the initial stream filtering done by the RSS engine. Think of it as a Digg for RSS with the ability to add and vote on topic categories.

Now THAT is a service I would like to see!
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