Imagine that you love a particular podcast that comes out every couple of weeks – although depending on circumstance, sometimes its published a little earlier and sometimes a little later. But in this particular alternative universe, instead of being notified by your phone that it has just downloaded a new episode, it’s up to you to visit the podcast’s website every couple weeks to check if the episode is ready to be downloaded.
As labour goes, regularly visiting a website isn’t the most arduous task in the world but if you are like me, you might subscribe to a couple dozen podcasts with some released weekly, others fortnightly, and others on no particular schedule. Without the ability to subscribe to a podcast it is easy to see how episodes could be missed and entire shows, forgotten about.
The technology that makes subscribing to podcasts possible is called RSS, and as technologies go, it’s a very good one. For one, RSS allows you to download podcasts without identifying who you are to the publishers or to the world at large. While you do need special software to handle podcasts (I use BeyondPod), you don’t need to be on a particular social media platform or worry that you use (or don’t use) an Apple iOS product.
RSS is also the technology that made subscribing to web pages possible. Using Feedly, I have the most recent stories from CBC Windsor, The Windsor Star. The Windsorite and many, many blogs delivered to me as they are published.
So why does the City of Windsor’s City Council web pages lack RSS feeds? Why do residents have to re-visit a page to see if it has been updated?
I have sent a 311 request that RSS feeds be added to these pages with the next version of the City of Windsor website.
Until that time, if you want to stay up to date with changes on websites that don’t feature RSS feeds, you might want to try one of these five tools that will notify you of website content changes. (For myself, I use Klaxon – my first Heroku App).
One of my favourite TED Talks is from Dave Meslin and I’ve embedded it below. Dave Meslin argues that our governments use design to discourage engagement. The good news? We can re-design improvement. Or in this case, we can ask for RSS.