A web site is not an RSS feed...nor the reverse.

There was a time not so long ago when we built "home pages".  Glorviously extravagant, naievely simple web sites that said who we were, and what we were about.   On those home pages, we put news & announcements, and often, links to static pages of content.   If we wanted to interact with visitors, we included guest books, maybe a simple message board, or just displayed our email address prominantly so others could drop us a note.    All of this was created by hand with the expectation that changes would be few and far between.

Eventually this became such a common approach for building a web site, that we tried to standardize these things.  At the same time, we discovered that a frequently updated web site received more visitors than one that was static or rarely updated.  As a result, content-management features were added to speed updates, forums were improved to include user avatars, threading, and email subscriptions.  Finally, the news & announcements became data-driven, annotated with metadata, and archived for historical review.

The current incarnation of this evoulution is what we call the Weblog.   A weblog is still nothing more than an "about" page, news, articles, and forums, it just has evolved a few new facets and appendages to impower users to interact in new (and hopefully better) ways.   Today, we can hardly imagine a web site without at least 1 RSS Feed.  In fact, most web sites today (nearly) completely revolve around their News & Announcements and the related RSS feed.  Yet, we must remind ourselves that the RSS feed is useless by itself.  It is an evolution FROM a web site, not an evolution OF a web site.  It is nothing more than an alternative delivery vehicle for information, not neccessarily a replacement for the weblog (read web site).

However, too many blogs today look like nothing more than an RSS Feed transformed via XSLT.  In fact, I bet quite a few are exactly that.   As a result, they look less like a home page, and more like a laundry-list.  Yeah, most sites have a banner and some rudimentary navigation, but I'm talking about what happens below the first 6 inches of the site.

Which leads me back to the title of this article...

A Web Site is supposed to be the virtual equivilent of a store-front window or your home's front lawn.  A weblog is supposed to be like the entryway, and an RSS feed is supposed to add value to an already valueable web site, much like putting a sign outside the store to advertise your current specials.  An RSS Feed is not supposed to be your entire web site, nor is your web site supposed to be turned directly into an RSS feed.   Sure there are some nifty Web 2.0 uses for RSS, but dont get so busy focusing on your RSS Feed that you forget about why its there in the first place - to drive visitors toward your web site.

RSS is a just tool, and like any other tool it can be abused, and over used.

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