Wired printed my letter to the editor on the ridiculousness of calling RSS a “push” technology. July 2004 issue (12.07).

Update: I have come up with what I think is a fair definition of “push” :

A) The content provider initiates the transmission

B) In order to do that, the content provider knows
1) That you want the transmission
2) Something about you – at least your address

RSS satisfies neither of these criteria.

Music: Yo La Tengo :: Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House

One Reply to “Printed”

  1. Following Scots logic, I agree to a degree, but I’m not sure that what was described as Push ever was Push.

    Earthlink or MSN’s home page isn’t Push because it aggregated stuff in areas I said I have interest. AOL may get a little closer and go so far as to push media onto my PC in the hopes that I’ll decide to pull it. But most of all this amounts to offering you a limited set of choices and hoping your choice to buy-in or opt-in to specific content types means you’ll come back again and again.

    True Push to me would be a kiosk in my living room or office that I program to search out media based on specific criteria, or better yet that programs itself by fuzzy logic based on what it knows I’ll want based on my past choices – like Amazon’s recommendation system. The kiosk would flip through channels and content automatically and wait for me to be pulled to it to immerse myself further.

    TIVO seems to steer close to this with pushing media to you that it thinks you’ll want. This may be risky or annoying especially if it consumes resources you’d rather not use. But I think that’s the model for intelligent TV sets of the future. Push TV – TV that determines what you might like based on what you obviously like.

    My car radio can search for channels of media such as News, Traffic, Jazz, etc. My TV tuner should be able to search for movies, reality TV, news, comedy – and be able to hone in on what I consider funny or what kinds of movies I like, or what news shows I typically watch – and maybe surprise me by flipping through some tangential stuff I might not have known about otherwise.

    One problem with this model is that it skirts around the very issues that raise a lot of privacy concerns online – spyware, user profiling, and ad targeting based on info collected about you. We get offended by the concept but when the grocery store mails a coupon for our favorite snack or something it knows we often buy then it’s a perk. Amazon pulls you to it’s treasure chest of offers and fine-tunes it through your yes/no criteria. But if they popped-up ads for books by authors we liked we’d still probably have that knee-jerk reaction to pop-ups. McLuhan had it nailed in a nutshell, it’s not the message it’s the medium.

    Ultimately it all comes down to filters and selections. What choices are pre-filtered based on what content is out there and who is providing it. Rights, ownership and other factors may play into whether something can even be offered to me, or advertising may involve attempts to steer me to specific media content.

    What do we choose to filter in, or out? Once it makes it past the initial filters what do we then choose to read, watch or experience. In that sense I think there is no true push, it’s more about what is there to be pushed and what pulls you in, though conscious or unconscious decisions. Or with RSS, what you chose to pull towards you – and that still doesn’t mean it pulls you into it.

    I haven’t played with RSS much. It strikes me as the logical evolution of the “smart agents” I was keen on playing with 10 years ago. In that sense I think any Push really amounts to an agent you’ve enabled, but Push failed because most channels of media were broadly aggregated with little criteria from you. RSS allows a much greater criteria of selection and filtering. But it still relies on my to desire to pull it up and run it, and somehow I just never seem to get past installing something like that and using it a few times and forgetting about it. I suppose it’s worth another look. But I read news the way I look for CDs or books in a bookstore, skimming around until something grabs my attention. And I watch TV much the same way. Filtering your news too much strikes me as risky – all the news you want to see – and none of the news you chose to ignore. I prefer a model where I stumble across things that expand the interests I already have.

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