⌘ December 29, 2023

RSS as Mastodon? Maybe not. But RSS on Mastodon? Maybe!

Brent Simmons, writing for inessential.com on the viability of shoehorning his RSS reader app into also being a Mastodon client:

It still seems like RSS and Mastodon could fit in the same app, though! If I were designing it, I’d start with the social media experience: the single timeline of posts. Very simple sidebar. No article view. No read/unread status — just position in the timeline.

You could add RSS feeds, but they’d be treated like Mastodon posts. Any article short enough would appear in full in the timeline, but most would probably have to be truncated. You’d open articles in your browser, just like you do now with social media apps (there’d be no third article pane).

Such an app could be a nice unified experience. Get your Mastodon, Threads, RSS feeds, Micro.blog and, hopefully, other services — anything that supports ActivityPub, RSS, or some other open format or API — all in one place, in a way that’s already familiar to everyone.

Sounds pretty great! But it’s not NetNewsWire.

I think Simmons is right on point when he posits that social app as RSS reader” would work while RSS reader as a social app” really would not.

I’ve actually been experimenting with that RSS reader as social app” idea by following my Micro.blog’s timeline — with all its posts and replies — in Reeder via Sven Dahlstrand’s fantastic feed generator. It’s… okay. But conversations are hard to follow, and it’s not as pleasant or efficient as a native social timeline.

Funnily enough, Micro.blog already offers something like the solution that Simmons recommends. Since you can follow not only other Micro.blog users, but also Mastodon (and other Fediverse) accounts and individual sites just from their URL, you could certainly use Micro.blog as your home base with many windows out to the wider web.

I haven’t tried that yet (mostly because it would be a huge hassle to follow, and potentially unfollow, everyone there from my RSS reader) but I’m considering it as another experiment.

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