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January 14, 2009


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jose a. del moral

I agree there is a cultural problem above it. Information is not the center of intranets and organizations still think it is their people's responsibility to get their own information sources.

Marshall Kirkpatrick

Very good point about the importance of the feed server in the discussion. All good points to consider. I hope you're right about it just not being born yet - but it's a fast moving world and these technologies have been commercialized and had professional sales staffs trying to tackle these problems for a number of years now, so I don't know...

Mike Gotta

But the companies attacking this space (e.g., Attensa, KnowNow, NewsGator) have a small sales footprint when compared to IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and other large enterprise software vendors. So despite the technology actually being old (e.g., RSS), the visibility of the technology is still not widespread - to some extent due to the lack of serious business applications vs. the traditional "improved productivity" argument (getting people off email).

Tough nut to crack...

Daniel J. Pritchett

Great article! I'm convinced RSS would be a big help to my team but it's really hard to know where to start in terms of getting people on board.

First we've got the fact that people are largely happy with their e-mail based workflows and don't necessarily want to participate in RSS-generating intranet web apps (SharePoint et al). Add to that the subpar feed creation options of many enterprise web apps and then top it off with the lack of a good unifying feed reader and it can feel hopeless.

My complaints clearly mirror the ones in your list above and I really don't know how to solve all of them in one pass. Until the overall RSS-consuming experience is brought up to snuff for enterprise users I don't see a way to get teams in large organizations interested.

I fear that Enterprise users are going to ignore RSS until the major vendors you mentioned (mostly Microsoft) tightly integrate it across all of their offerings and we all upgrade to the latest version of say Outlook+SharePoint or whatever the IBM stack might look like.

Can it be possible to win the RSS war in an enterprise by changing one small thing at a time?

By the way, I've written a fair amount about my own Enterprise 2.0 experiences at my own blog: http://www.sharingatwork.com/tag/enterprise-20

Thanks again for writing this!

Bill from Atlassian

Another problem is that enterprise software vendors have been slow to implement RSS. A large reason for that is the concern around security. At my former employer, an enterprise portal company swallowed by Oracle, it was an uphill battle to get RSS implemented because the enterprise folks are so focused on security. As a compromise we ended up shipping with RSS turned off.

The other major problem is feed discovery...how many business workers at [Name a Fortune 500 company here] are going to copy an RSS feed url and paste it into a feed reader? It doesn't matter whether you have the best RSS platform with caching and aggregation and all the back-end fanciness.

Daniel J. Pritchett

Bill - maybe we need curated RSS "channels" where one person per team can round up the relevant feeds for this concern or that concern and the rest of the team can just subscribe to that channel.

At its simplest it's just a Yahoo Pipes type aggregation but there's surely more variety available for a server-side channel creation and distribution tool.


There's also a major issue that arises just from being behind the firewall. Internal RSS feeds don't pipe to the outside. So, for people who use web-based tools for aggregating RSS feeds (like Netvibes or iGoogle), they can't use the tools they're accustomed to for reading internal RSS feeds.

I use Netvibes to read my various feeds, but have to resort to LiveBookmarks in Firefox to stay on top of the few internal feeds that I find worth following.

And, there's probably an even larger issue with simple education of what RSS is and how it can be useful. As always, a technology isn't useful in and of itself. It's only useful (and will take hold) when it solves specific problems for its customers.

Andrew Meyer

Great list, I would make two other suggestion. Social sites (YouTube, LinkedIn etc.) have all come up with roughly similar numbers. Only around 3% of people contribute material.

In a large population base like the Internet, that is not a problem. In a small population base, like a company or on an Intranet, it's very hard to see where enough different perspectives will come in.

Several people at very large companies have tried to introduce the idea. The problem is getting people to produce content. As anyone who's blogged as an individual over a long period of time will tell you, putting together entries consistently is difficult. It tends to go in waves. At least for me it does.

Lacking enough people to make the 3% meaningfully large and then dealing with the up and down levels of individual bloggers add to your well thought out list.

My 2 cents worth...

sam kleinman

isn't part of the problem with the adoption of RSS writ-large is that internet users are too used to gettting data "on web pages," and that moving content away from web pages, requires a rather substantial shift in how readers think about the process of getting content, and the way that people think about writing content (virtually, pull v. push) and that's a big move.

Also I think the fact that rss readers present information in much the same way that email readers present information is both a good and a bad thing. Good in that we already have a concept of how to deal with this information so there isn't another learning curve. Bad in that information consumers are reduced to (mostly) churning through queues that are constantly being refilled. There's also the adjunct concern--on which, I think, more data is needed--that RSS as a "way of reading" might decrease participation (comments and so forth).

In any case, interesting stuff.

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