Since the commercialisation of the Internet (say around 1994) there have been many “say what?” moments for us regulars; times when the likes of Wired first made up technology via terminology and then claimed how this technology was the new revolution. Wired has lost a good bit of its sex appeal, but the terminology invention mantle has been assumed by the blogistan. So we have “Web 2.0″, “curation”, “The Internet of Things”, and other recent verbal feats.
Equally puzzling are cases where a newer service (or fad) with function X is claimed to replace an established and targeted solution for problem Y. Take this quote by John Gruber:
Dave Winer: Why does Twitter work better for news than Google Reader? Simple, Twitter gives you what’s new now. You don’t have to hunt around to find the newest stuff. And it doesn’t waste your time by telling you how many unread items you have. Who cares. (It’s like asking how many NYT articles you haven’t read. It would be gargantuan. I don’t bother you with the number of Scripting News posts you haven’t read, so why does Google?)
Ignore the insignificant stuff about unread counts (as Gruber and Winer should have, in my humble opinion). More of interest is the notion that Twitter can replace an RSS reader (such as Google Reader) for reading news. Whence this notion?
On the one hand you have a tool like NetNewsWire (my preference over Google Reader) which lists subscriptions by provider, publication date, title, and author, offers previews of articles, and advanced functions such as filtering, sorting … or posting to Twitter if that be your proclivity.
On the other hand you have Twitter, a short message publication tool to which news providers (among others) post untagged, unsorted content at some arbitrary frequency. The 140 character limit affords barely enough room for a headline, leave alone the short summaries that are common in print articles, also available in RSS (or Atom).
How on earth can the latter (Twitter) supplant the former (RSS feeds accessed through dedicated clients or web apps)? Winer’s answer only adds to the puzzlement: in Twitter, “You don’t have to hunt around to find the newest stuff”. If you are a “breaking news” junkie, I suppose this (ability to serve you the latest bits) is a deal-breaking feature, but it is unclear to me why this is unachievable in an RSS reader. Even Google Reader provides ways to get this done (as also hide what to Winer is an annoyance: the unread count):
Google Reader with a customised style
It’s quite possible that Winer is aware of sorting by freshness and is speaking of some other functionality, but I cannot fathom what that might be.
Daring Fireball Linked List: Dave Winer on Unread Counts