Wednesday, 16 April 2008


RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and is basically about recording information about updates to a website in a structured format. What you actually need to know about RSS is that most websites these days have RSS feeds and this means that you can do alot of web browsing from within an RSS reader. I use Google Reader because it works via a browser so I can access it from home, work, or my mobile phone and they all stay in sync. RSS is amazing. I thought it was cool when I first discovered it years ago because it meant I didn't actually have to go to my favourite sites to see if they had been updated. And yes, fundamentally, years later, that is still all I use it for. But the really important difference is that initially, I used it to make sure that I didn't miss a Penny Arcade comic while now I use it to plug my brain into lots of really smart people's brains (and also never miss a PA comic). Steve Yegge. Paul Graham. Reginald Braithwaite. These guys are brilliant. I just bought Reg a Darkhorse double espresso via his handy donation link and I would be doing the same for Steve if he made it similarly easy (Paul Graham doesn't need my money, his brilliance has already brought him fat wads of cash). I discovered these names via the ever growing torrent of information that hits in me in the face every morning, noon and night (yep, my brain needs its breakfast, lunch and dinner the same way my body does). There are many other great bloggers that I subscribe to, but the above 3 are special because they are inspirational. Their writing has changed the way I think of myself, my work, and my future. I have struggled in the past to come up with a singular example of why Steve's writing is so great and this evening I went through the same process with Reg. These people are inspirational because they each have their own particular perspective on software development and these perspectives are refined, logical, and exciting. Furthermore, these perspectives are communicated through the aggregate of their writing, rather than any individual piece. Much of my effort to generalize is RSS assisted. I have found the programming sub-reddit to be especially useful as it is focused on less common programming languages such as Ruby, Python, Lisp, Haskell, etc rather than the heavyweights (.NET and Java). My RSS subscription count has probably doubled since I discovered Reddit - its an excellent source of worthwhile blogs. The world wide web has had an incredible influence on my life and RSS has significantly changed how I consume the web's content. Do you ever stop to wonder "gee, how on earth did we ever do anything without the internet"? Well now I'm wondering how I ever got by without RSS.

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