Cognitive Daily

Who reads RSS feeds offline?

The post on showing only part of the RSS feeds has attracted quite a lot of attention, including some rather strident comments, such as this one from “Aurora”:

How lazy are some people? What kind of society do we live in where people are too f**ing annoyed to click a mouse button to read an entire article?

But Christopher Davis offered a compelling response:

Perhaps you can tell me how to “click through” when I’m reading RSS feeds on my PDA on the subway. Not all applications have always-on connectivity.

Excellent point. But I wonder how many people really do read RSS feeds offline. Sounds like it’s time for another poll:


  1. #1 Dave Munger
    April 30, 2007

    I’ve already thought of one problem with this poll: if you’re reading this post offline, you won’t be able to respond to it. But maybe if people are sufficiently annoyed by the problem of incomplete RSS feeds, they’ll come back later to reply….

  2. #2 Daniel Nicolas
    April 30, 2007

    I read feeds offline about 40% of the time.

    Often I’ll hit the “refresh all” and all 1000+ of the sites I’m subscribed to bring me awesome stuff to read and think about blogging about. Then I’ll run down to the beach or to a friend’s house or pretty much anywhere I go I bring my laptop with me, so I read my feeds throughout the day while I’m disconnected. Of course as soon as I find some wifi I’m hitting that refresh button again…

  3. #3 Stuart Coleman
    April 30, 2007

    I never read them offline. But then again, I’m never really offline anyway.

  4. #4 Stuart Coleman
    April 30, 2007

    I never read them offline. But then again, I’m never really offline anyway.

    However, sometimes the click-through posts are still annoying, especially when the content above the fold doesn’t really give a good picture of what the article is about. Personally, I only use the “below the fold” thing when a post is exceptionally long. But it’s a matter of personal preference.

  5. #5 Bozo
    April 30, 2007

    Davis needs some software that does the clicking-through for him. I’m not sure if it exists, but it should be easy — Scarfing up the feeds and wget-ing them to a local cache would be straightforward. Adding that to a RSS reader as a per-feed option would be an easy, cool feature.

    I missed the earlier poll, but I really like RSS’s purpose of covering a wide net of sources. I get thousands of items per day and filter them out extensively. The summary is important if people subscribe to lots of feeds, but not so much if people subscribe to only a few and are looking to RSS as a mechanism to pull all the articles into one browser experience. Also your survey might have some self-selective filtering out those who do monitor large numbers of feeds.

  6. #6 Elever
    April 30, 2007

    I would vote, but I’m offline.

    Can’t read it offline, cause I use Google Reader. Which doesn’t work offline.

  7. #7 Janne
    April 30, 2007

    I belong in the “please don’t post the entire text in the feed” camp. RSS, for me, is to get a condensed, quick overview of what stuff has been added lately, precisely so I don’t have to scroll through all of it.

    I see two solutions, both reasonable I think: first, people or aggregators of people that are prone to essayism (scienceblogs is an excellent example) could provide two feeds, one with the summaries, another with full-length posts.

    Second, I think now that perhaps RSS readers should have a couple of “pull down the entire post” buttons; one per post, one per feed (which pulls down all unread posts in the feed) and pethaps one global button. The function could be to put the post or unread posts of each feed in its own tab in the users’ browser, ready to peruse at their leisure.

  8. #8 pelf
    April 30, 2007

    (1) I don’t have a fancy hand-held device that can read feeds offline.

    (2) Comment #3 is sooo true – I’m never really offine either.

    But I wouldn’t say “people who do not click to read through” are “lazy” because sometimes the first two paragraphs are enough to tell you whether you’d like to have more of it, or whether you should move on to the next feed. Plus, with the amount of feeds we’re subscribed to (from news to blogs to comics to what-have-yous), I don’t think we can afford to click through all of them and leave a comment on all of them.

  9. #9 Brian Mingus
    April 30, 2007

    I would pay a nominal fee to access your site because I enjoy your content, but I have not and will not look at your advertisements.

    Advertising is brainwashing. I avoid it at all costs.

  10. #10 codesuidae
    April 30, 2007

    I agree regarding the two-feed solution. Put short article digests in one feed, complete articles in the other. Put the half-articles somewhere dark.

    I don’t generally read off-line, but half-articles are pointless.

  11. #11 Josh
    April 30, 2007

    Argh! Make me flag the post so that I can “take the poll” when I get back to the office. I’m limited to the RSS feed:
    1. When I’m at lunch sitting by myself on my cell phone (like this time)
    2. When I’m on the bus, train, or subway saving the environment from my car’s exhaust.
    3. When I’m on a plane, traveling for business or pleasure.

    Six months ago, that was 80% of my RSS reading. Nowadays, I have to admit it’s down close to 20%, but I intend to start taking the bus now that I’ve figured out the routes in my new home.

  12. #12 Tonya
    May 1, 2007

    I’m reading you with google reader and frankly, I’ve STOPPED reading your feed. It’s not about being lazy as one of your readers suggested – it’s that I really do prefer to read it all in once place. My browser runs VERY VERY slowly so it takes forever for another page to load.

    I don’t look at your ads anyway, because, like the other commenter, I also use firefox with adblock plus and filterset.g – I haven’t looked at a single ad in over a year.

    I don’t understand — Why not let us read the whole article via the reader?

  13. #13 Peter
    May 1, 2007

    I never read offline, but I would prefer to have the entire article in the feed. “Clicking through” to see the whole article is okay if there is only a few things you want to read, but every time I open a new window it takes about 5-20 seconds to load. It just would save a bit of time and make reading the articles less tedious if they were all there in the feed.

  14. #14 Dave Munger
    May 1, 2007

    Tonya and Peter:

    I understand where you’re coming from, I really do. The reason you can’t do the things you want to do is very simple: I’m trying to make money doing what I do. So is We haven’t figured out a way that can let you have what you want and still make money. We put up with people who use adblock and so on because as of now they don’t represent an overwhelmingly large portion of our readership, but if everyone started doing that then we’d either go out of business or figure out some technological solution that forced you to view the ads.

    It seems to me that both of your problems could be solved by using a tabbed browser. When I read blogs using my RSS reader I click on the ones that interest me and they load up in new tabs. I can go back to reading all the feeds while they load, and by the time I’m done, I’ve got 7 or 8 articles I want to read start to finish, each in its own tab and ready to go.

  15. #15 Michael Cimino
    May 4, 2007

    Personally, I would prefer it if a full-article feed was offered because I am one of those kinds of people who are only subscribed to a few feeds and want to read them all from one place. I’ve tried using Feed43 to get the whole document, but no luck so far. If someone could help me setup a Feed43 feed that can either fetch the contents of the whole article, or get a full-sized “preview” image or thumbnail of the site, I’d greatly appreciate it. 😉

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