As a participant in several email newsletters (Listservs) I am discovering that they are not very efficient, and only sometimes provide me with anything I am truly interested in. I spend most of my time trashing entrys, waiting for something of interest. But the Weblogs I subscribe to in my aggregator have so much rich content that I always find new and interesting information that I need. Surfing the web is not an option, the aggrator does that for me. The one exception to the listserv concept is Stephen Downes OLDaily, which is primarily his review of the best of the blogs related to instructional technology with an annotated description about each. So Stephen is actually a higher level aggregator using a listserv to distribute his research!
How does this affect web development? RSS is becoming mainstream with browsers and email programs (Mozilla’s) already offering RSS as part of their fuction. Social networking applications like del.icio.us and flickr offer bookmarks and pictures respectively, shared by anyone, anywhere. With these tools available who is going to search your site for new information by using your carefully designed navigation? Why would anyone read a static page that doesn’t even say when it was last updated, when they can subscribe to exactly the type of information they need and find fresh data daily by taking advantage of RSS?
I see the integration of RSS and accompanying technologies as vital to web design. Whether you add RSS to your web sites or mix weblogs and static pages together, there will be a challenge to make web sites more current and interactive than ever before. And what of target audiences? What does RSS and social networking say about who the users are? Perhaps new types of users are now challenging our design skills.
Web design and development will always been in transition. We are used to new technologies, new standards, new browsers, and new users. So too must we confront the issues of this transition and find creative responses. Our lives as designers may depend on it!