Today I watched myself very quickly use RSS to glue a new web app into my flow, and be the first to catch the links about a hot news story through a realtime RSS feed. Yeah I still use it, and I love what it does for me.
Earlier today I was talking with Scoble, he was raving about Plancast. The conversation ended when he discovered the Google-China story. In the next hour RSS played a huge role in me getting informed on the Google story, and sharing what I learned with all my Twitter followers. That was the realtime part of what RSS did for me (I use a hacked-up version of the fastest NYT feed, more on that later).
But I was also able to add Plancast to my workflow without knowing in advance how much I would be using it. Because they provide an RSS feed of the updates for the people I follow on Plancast. And because it's the standard format for flowing updates, I could hook it into River2, and it "just worked." This way I get a chance to have its updates flow by me even if I don't remember to regularly visit the site. (In a followup one of the developers told me the API is one of the next things on their list, and they're planning on being compatible with the Twitter API. Good move. I also suggested they could add more data to the RSS feed. That might mean more to their success, in the short term, than a full API.)
Anyway -- I get news faster than anyone else. I share it on Twitter of course. So guess where they're getting the news from? It's RSS, dummy. (Might have been a good title for the piece, but I decided to be more serious.)
Well, the Times is slow and bureaucratic. They don't want to take the risk to go realtime. Not enough of an installed base. But I desperately wanted a realtime RSS feed, so I went ahead and hacked it. It's really brute force and ugly, but it works. Those, of course, are the best kind of hacks. ">
They have a great feed, it's all the newest stuff from the Times, all sections, in reverse-chronologic order. It's a gold mine of news. I have a script running on one of my servers that reads it every minute. If the feed updates, the script reads the feed, hacks in a <cloud> element with string substitution, and writes it out another of my servers. That's the feed I follow in River2. The back-end that relays the updates is running on another of my servers. If you have a realtime RSS reader, you're welcome to follow it too:
Point is, RSS is the universal language of realtime updates. The Plancast guys know it, they do UI and systems. The Times guys know it too -- they do news content, the other side of the equation. And everyone in both their industries knows it too. When you have something that's working so incredibly well you celebrate the fact that while no one was looking everyone was compatible. It's a fracking miracle.
PS: I'm davew on Plancast. And it looks like a very promising service.