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Thursday, July 22, 2004

Return of Push

Lots of material out there on the Push model of dissemination. Syndication using feeds in RSS or Atom format is popularly viewed as Push.

Various blogs have objected to this.

But push/pull depends what we're comparing it with. Creating a feed is more pushy than simply updating your website and hoping someone notices. But it is less pushy than emailing everyone.

Well, that's not quite true. Some blogs and other websites produce twitchy feeds, notifying subscribers every time they correct a spelling mistake. (When I first got a newsreader, I made the mistake of subscribing to a few WIKIs, which generated long and boring change control logs.) But it's generally much easier to unsubscribe (via your newsreader) than to remove yourself from a mailing list.

As an industry analyst, I receive vast amounts of marketing material by email. I am subscribed to more newsletters and vendor mailing lists than I can keep track of. Much of this turns up in my inbox.

Wherever possible, I subscribe to a syndication feed instead of an email list. This is picked up by my newsreader, and I find I can organize and read this material much more conveniently.

Dissemination by feed is an example of the publish/subscribe model of dissemination. It requires active collaboration between publisher and subscriber - not just pull, not just push, but a bit of both.

The publish/subscribe model is used not just for information dissemination, but for knowledge transfer, technology dissemination and technology transfer. For example, it is used (with mixed success) for software upgrades and patches.

The great thing about publish/subscribe is that it doesn't require synchronization between writer and reader, between producer and consumer. It's an extremely well-known pattern for loose coupling.

And yet the odd thing about blogs and newsreaders is the focus on currency and community, which undermines the loose coupling. Since there is so much stuff on the Internet, let's limit our horizons by only reading the material that was posted in the last 24 hours, , within our own blogrolls. And if someone wants to comment, they feel they have to get their comment out within 12 hours. No wonder there is so much ill-considered, me-too blog posting.

1 comment:

  1. > Creating a feed is more pushy than simply updating your website and hoping someone notices.

    In what sense do you mean this?

    In fact, creating a "feed" is *exactly* as pushy as updating your website, because the two processes are identical. That is to say, there is nothing pushy about either process. An RSS feed is not sent to the user in any sense differently than a web page is "sent" to a user. Both are passively requested by the client and pulled to them. If you accept this definition of push:

    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 and
    2) Something about you - at least your address.

    Then you must agree that RSS satisfies neither of these criteria.

    - scot