October 28, 2008

Finally, a prediction comes true

Writing about web page http://www.guardian.co.uk/help/insideguardian/2008/oct/22/full-fat-rss-feed-upgrade

I’m constantly disappointed by the way in which exciting predictions about the future fail to come true. I don’t fly to work with a jet pack, or holiday on the moon, and although I get many, many adverts for pills of one sort or another in my in-box, I don’t believe that there are really IQ-boosting, anti-aging, hair restoring, cancer curing tablets (not all in the same pill necessarily) available yet.

But one prediction which has been floating around for a while genuinely did come true today. It’s the one about personalised newspapers being delivered to your portable electronic reader. The prediction, which I’ve come across literally more than once, is that having a printed newspaper containing stuff you may or may not want to read delivered to you every morning is inefficient and wasteful. Better to define your preferences for the type of news you’re interested in and/or the columnists you like to read (that is, whose biases accord agreeably with your own) and then have a personalised, digital paper sent to you in the morning, to read on your Read-o-tron on the train (monorail) to work.

And now, the combination of the NetNewsWire RSS reader on my iPod Touch and the Guardian’s recent announcement that their RSS feeds now contain the full text of articles (as reported by Chris Doidge earlier today) means that this is exactly what I have. I’ve chosen RSS feeds for top stories, tech, music and HE, and every morning my iPod wakes itself up and downloads all those articles to its memory using my home wifi. Then at convenient moments in the day – and I don’t need to be connected, since the articles are all cached – I can read whatever catches my eye. No paper, complete personalisation. Finally, the future!

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