How to Explain RSS to Your Mom

I am a virtual attendee of Podcamp Toronto 2008. Sadly I was not able to be there in person, so this is the next best thing.

Chris Brogan presents at Podcamp Toronto 2008
I just sat in on a session lead by social media guru Chris Brogan. One thing Chris is great at is putting things into a context that anyone can understand. This means he has some great quotes. Here are my Brogan-isms from the past hour:

“Mainstream media is not afraid of social media, they just don’t know what to do with it.”

“No one has to be granted the authority [to make a blog, a podcast, or contribute to a conversation].”

“The thing about social networking is, the more we help people feel good about themselves the more they do good things.”

I’ve been troubled by something for the past little while. I now consider myself to be an “intermediate” level user of social media. I’m at the point where I’m pretty well versed on many of the popular tools and sites, I have a pretty good network of social media experts around me to answer my questions and open my eyes to new things, and I now have the confidence to start talking about what I know with other people.

I get RSS. I get Twitter. I get podcasting, Oovoo, and WordPress. But I can’t figure out for the life of me how to explain it all to my Mom. Ok, my Mom is a bad example because she has a Facebook page, reads blogs and uses Instant Messaging. But she is the exception of her generation, not the rule.

This morning’s Podcamp session has got me thinking…social media is now becoming more mainstream, because mainstream media is starting to catch on. Fast Company is doing it. USA Today is doing it. Now, people who get their news the old fashioned way are being given an opportunity to take advantage to the biggest thing to happen on the Internet since …well…ever!

My challenge is not in explaining the technology, but in explaining the VALUE. The value in using an RSS aggregator like Google Reader. The VALUE in using Oovoo to host a conversation. The VALUE in posting your own blog and contributing to other people’s blogs.

Social networking is one of those things that people don’t get until they try it.

So maybe, the question do we get them into the social media space in the first place?

To Procrastinate or to Incubate?
Making a Case for Social Media


  • February 23, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    The Google Reader is great, but so are other rss feeders. I personally use and love Firefox’s Thunderbird programme because I can check my email and grab my feeds just by clicking on my email link from desktop or system tray. I can also hit Get New for any folder I want to check downloads for on the fly. I love this robust software. I recommend it to customers who have been using the recently defuncted Netscape for browsing, surfing blogs and email. We’re talking a good chunk of those users being seniors who have been using Netscape since it was first introduced. I get a lot of positive reponses to my suggestion.

  • February 24, 2008 at 12:08 am

    If you want to explain RSS to your mom, there’s only one way to do it: have her watch this video.

  • February 24, 2008 at 7:13 am

    I tend to frame RSS in terms of that old idea of the “Daily Me”. Sit down at your computer with your coffee in the morning, pull up- your Bloglines, Newsgator et al page and read the news that interests you. Brought to you from multiple sources onto a single page.

  • February 25, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    Ditto what Monty said, and you didn’t tell me you were peeking. : )

  • […] something so useful, it’s pretty hard to explain why people should use RSS. Lots of people try to do it. This is my take on it. It’s 2008 and explaining RSS should be much simpler […]

  • October 6, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    I am fairly new to Google Reader. I get it. I love it. I had to watch the tutorials a few times to figure it out.

    With that being said, how do you explain RSS feed to other newbies in simple terms? I was thinking about blogging about it so will have to give it some deep thought.

    Great question you brought up, by the way.



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