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Spam Media The Internet

E-mail Newsletters Switching To RSS 244

prostoalex writes "The wide spread of unsolicited e-mails is leading publishers and site owners towards subscription-based RSS, the article says. Chris Pirillo from LockerGnome is quoted saying that people just do not subscribe to free e-mail newsletters anymore, making a broad assumption that anyone offering them would be a spammer. This short article on also argues for the RSS as preferred format for newsletters, site headlines and all sorts of updates that were e-mailed to customers before."
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E-mail Newsletters Switching To RSS

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  • Somewhat good. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HyperColor Underware ( 628462 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:15PM (#6847436)
    I run a newletter for a LAN Party out of Cleveland, and have already adopted this method.

    The only good thing that I can say will come from this is the fact that it will be much easier to distinguish spam from newsletters - however, this is a temporary solution, because the Spammers will easily have enough resources to learn how to generate false reports.

    Also, it's going to be tough to get everybody to switch to it, and it still won't fix the spam problem.

    But anything that tries to put a stop to Spam is ok, as long as it's not rampant blacklisting.
    • eh??

      you have to set your RSS reader to go to the rdf file. It doesn't arrive unsolicited unless you're looking at an aggregated feed.
    • Sigh (Score:5, Informative)

      by rkuris ( 541364 ) <rk@u[ ] ['nif' in gap]> on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @12:32AM (#6847989) Homepage
      Well, I can tell you from personal experience that the LockerGnome folks are not a good resource for telling you what works and what doesn't.

      When I first complained that SpamAssassin blocked their newsletter, and merely asked if they could look into it, I was laughed at, and they tried to convince me that I needed to whitelist them or, in their words, "...learn how to use your spam blocking software".

      Ironically, months later, they signed up for Habeas signatures [] on their emails.

      It's interesting that NOW they decide to look into RSS as a solution. I wonder if it is because Habeas isn't working.

  • hmm (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Trejkaz ( 615352 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:15PM (#6847439) Homepage
    I was under the impression RSS was a pull mechanism, not a subscription mechanism.
    • Re:hmm (Score:2, Interesting)

      Yes, you pull the material - which is exactly why this is a good method of subscribing to an e-mail newsletter. Rather than the author attempting to send out e-mails to all the list subscribers (which often are going to bounce back because of blacklisting and such) the user pulls the material using an RSS agent. You select what material to pull.

      The possible problems with this is that spammers may set up fake sites that you might want to subscribe to for a newsletter, and then feed you spam. Of course, you c

      • Re:hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Malc ( 1751 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:41PM (#6847546)
        For our mailing lists that go out on a more regular basis, we see bounce rates below 1%. RSS doesn't offer anything except more effort for the user.
        • Re:hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

          by GeorgeH ( 5469 ) * on Monday September 01, 2003 @11:38PM (#6847794) Homepage Journal
          How many of those mailings get eaten by spam filters? How many people don't sign up because they're worried about their email address being sold?
        • many corporate gateways can take a few hours to push email through, port 80 requests go in realtime.

          both have their uses, but RSS is for real in corporate communication.
        • RSS doesn't offer anything except more effort for the user.

          True at the moment, but as soon as more people get used to using rss readers, or they are built into desktops/menubars/launch docks/etc., this method might become the preferred means for most people to subscribe to lists and newsletters.

      • by Julian Morrison ( 5575 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @11:29PM (#6847761) in who is static and vulnerable, and who is ephemeral and concealed. Spam is push so the user is the one at a disadvantage. RSS spam is pull - it would be trivial to DDOS the (immobile) source into a smoking blob of molten electronics. I can see no future for nonconsensual spammers in RSS.

        On the other hand, there is a real future in RSS for genuine advertisers selling desirable product. People like informative, relevant, targetted adverts, especially in pull media (thus not having to put up with intrusive marketing databases). After all, what else is the typical opensource app's web site but informative, useful brochureware?
    • Re:hmm (Score:5, Informative)

      by Xformer ( 595973 ) <avalon73@caerleo n . us> on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:26PM (#6847470)
      RSS = Really Simple Syndication (or some variation of that)

      What is syndication, but a "subscription" to something that is available to the public (or a limited subset thereof)? Pull or push (as in email) mechanism, doesn't really matter.
      • Re:hmm (Score:3, Informative)

        by Trejkaz ( 615352 )
        When I think "subscription", I think something more like Publish/Subscribe. The community at large is screaming for this to work via various instant messaging protocols, it would make a lot of sense to make an RSS extension to Jabber so you didn't have to pull a stack of books off the shelf just to read the last page.
        • Re:hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Xformer ( 595973 ) <avalon73@caerleo n . us> on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:36PM (#6847524)
          "Publish" by presenting a publicly accessible RSS feed
          "Subscribe" by using an aggregator program or something else that polls that RSS feed

          I personally keep up with /. by using the RSS plugin for Trillian, and usually tend to look only at stories that look interesting from the titles that are displayed in its main window. How is that having "to pull a stack of books off the shelf just to read the last page"? If I see a link to a story that looks interesting, I can go straight to it, or I can go to the /. home page and look through everything.
          • Re:hmm (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Trejkaz ( 615352 )
            I was referring to the task of Trillian. Trillian itself has to pull down an entire library (though some of the books might be marked that they haven't been added to recently, so it can skip those), and it still browses through every book comparing every page to the ones it has seen before. Then, it displays the last page to your eyes.

            Now, it doesn't look like a problem until every single user on the Internet is doing the same thing, and then you realise it might be better to have a real pub/sub system i
        • by Jerf ( 17166 )
          I (and some others) have looked into this; right now Jabber penetration isn't enough to make this worthwhile. People still see Jabber as an IM protocol, rather then a generalized messaging system with far-reaching applications.

          People, this is why you need to support Jabber rather then AIM, MSN, or ICQ; sure, in the short term more of your buddies may be on those (closed, proprietary, evil) services, but in the long term, w/ Jabber everywhere, the apps get a lot, lot cooler!
      • Yeah, I don't see much of a difference between getting Chris's content over RSS and simply going to his website... same text either way.
      • Matters a lot. (Score:5, Informative)

        by shamel ( 695259 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:50PM (#6847594)
        There is a big difference.

        For example a web page is "pull" meaning that you have to request it in order to have it. You know the address of the server you request info from.

        An email is "push" because anyone can send you email if they know your address.

        Pull is better in the sense that it permits you to only accept communication from the publishers you selected. You could do the same for email and only accept mail from ppl and publishers in your address book for example but in some case you do want "unkowns" to contact you. Whereas you positively dont want "unknowns" to contact you regarding "newsletters" and such.

        You might say then that we would be better off then reading the "newsletter" (or whatever) off the publishers web site. The thing is that RSS enables you to aggregate all those items from different sources together as opposed to going to all the websites.
    • So's POP3, all you need to do is pull frequently.
  • by strider3700 ( 109874 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:26PM (#6847469)
    I used to subscribe to a few mail lists. But I've found online forums to be vastly supperior. I don't get spam, on busy forums I get responces almost immediately. The moderators do a great job sorting misplaced posts and dealing with trolls. And there is a nice archive of everything stored on the server. I don't care how much they clean up email I won't be switching back for these types of things.
    • This is very true, although there are still some very usefull newsletters, however out of the millions of them out there only a handful are worth the time to read.
    • by Malc ( 1751 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:38PM (#6847533)
      I personally can't stand web forums and that ubiquitous UBB. The interface is shite, and a poor replacement for NNTP. It's all about control and things like integrating advertising. is far more production for searhing discussions than trying to go through those horrible web boards on A lot of the free software and GNU web boards have by far the worst interface too, and are even harder to follow threads on. Furthermore, I like having one consistent and well performing interface (either my email or news client) than having to deal with tonnes of horrendous web sites.

      Just say no to web boards and use a moderated mailing list or Usenet group. Actually, I don't see much spam on my ISPs news server, so they must do a good job filtering - completion on the text groups is good too (no idea about binaries).
      • I disagree... web boards when well administered trump Usenet usefulness for me. Remember if you want an answer quick it helps to have an interface that the normal web-citizen can understand.

        But seriously, What is your specific beef with UBB?

        • I don't like the color, the format, the stupid smilies, etc., depending on the forum. Only I can't do a damned thing about it because it's what everyone else likes. Bleh.

          Hell, Slashdot is guilty of the same, but thankfully it's sparse on the glittery features and has more configurable options than most web boards.
        • by Malc ( 1751 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @11:04PM (#6847658)
          It's slow. The UI is ugly. It depends on my browser. It's inefficient compared with my NNTP client. It's not even as functional as my NNTP client was 10 years ago. Web site owners have a tendency to use colours and graphics that irritate me - it irritates me further enabling and disabling features of my browser to use a web site. Searches are crap - they're slow, often return useless result, that's what google's for. Icons and emoticons are too easy to use and so people use them all over the place - grrr. Quoting and replying is like pulling teeth. Reoriding the view, kill files rules, etc are slow or just plain pathetic. NNTP clients exist for a reason... trying to get a browser to do the same job is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
        • Remember if you want an answer quick it helps to have an interface that the normal web-citizen can understand.

          Yes and no. When I want a computer question answered well and with alacrity, I usually avoid congregations of computer illiterati. On the other hand, when I have a question about non-geek stuff like home maintainance, construction, etc. the best forums are on web boards.
      • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:55PM (#6847615)
        I personally can't stand web forums...

        Posted to slashdot

        • LOL - thx!! You're lucky to get a response from me. /., unlike most web boards, doesn't expect people to come back to re-read things and continue a discussion after any significant length of time (> 60 minutes). No matter how many "Ask Slashdot" articles there are, it's definitely not number one on most people's resource list for searches. It seems to be mostly a fire and forget medium, which makes it a little different. ;)
      • I personally can't stand web forums and that ubiquitous UBB

        m3 t00. What *is* it with them? As near as I can figure, whoever wrote the first one had no experience with decent email or news readers, and just grew it out of a guest book or something. And then everybody cloned it, without really thinking about it.

        I'm in the process of writing a web forum program myself, partially because a lot of people don't like or understand mailing lists. But I'm trying to do it *right*. It's going to resemble some
  • Amphetadesk (Score:5, Informative)

    by starling ( 26204 ) <> on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:28PM (#6847484)
    I've found it a great way to keep track of all the RSS feeds out there. It's been stable for a while, but a good /.ing might spur them to add some new features ;)

    Here's the home page : amphetadesk []

    • Re:Amphetadesk (Score:3, Informative)

      by magores ( 208594 )
      I tried Amphetadesk. Nice deal if you like your RSS feeds in a web page.

      I stumbled across a 3-pane reader that I like MUCH more than a web page interface.

      Try SharpReader [] if you are are a Windows person. Worthy contender, IMHO.

      • Thanks, but I'm pretty much Linux only at work, which is where I run AmphetaDesk. Do they plan a Linux port?
      • I just downloaded Sharpreader, again. I'm impressed, not so much with the quality of the app (I still have a lot of issues with it) as with the fact that it's improved a lot since the last time I tried it. I don't remember most of what I disliked about it before, just that I deleted it with a sense of frustration and disgust -- something that's not gonna happen this time.
  • Newsgroups (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wsloand ( 176072 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:31PM (#6847493)
    Why do the publishers just not do something like a moderated newsgroup on a restricted server? It seems like that would provide a better solution and the end user tools are already out there (apparently in better forms than what the article describes the RSS tools of being).
    • Re:Newsgroups (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Reverberant ( 303566 )
      Why do the publishers just not do something like a moderated newsgroup on a restricted server?

      If you're talking about a web-based newsgroup, then the only way to effectively moderate it is to register users, which means giving out an email address, and you have that whole "providing an email address just to get spammed" issue again.

      If you're talking about a restricted NNTP server, then you have the issue with 1) people actually knowing what NNTP/Usenet is, and 2) people having to deal with multiple NNTP

  • by Malc ( 1751 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:32PM (#6847500)
    We have some opt-in lists that people are signing up for in the thousands. The smallest list has 6,000 subs, the largest 1.7 million. We get 20-55% open rates on a mailing (who knows how many are opening it as ASCII or using something like Mozilla that can block IMG tags in email) depending on the list. If they're only getting 5% open rates, they're probably not sending anything worthwhile.

    As for RSS, what are they proposing? Will they have a web site that aggragates for us? No thanks - I don't want to see unrelated advertising, nor do I want to have to put up with their quirks or have their layout and styling applied to everything I subscribe to. Netscape tried this with their portal, and I didn't find it very compelling. Alternatively, are they going to make us install a client application that aggragates? That will face some resistance too, as well as the normal platform specific issues. MSFT tried this with IE4 - it was gone by IE5. I guess not enough people signed up to the channels.

    I think email is still the best medium, and will remain so for many years. Portals are dead, and that's all an online RSS aggregator will be.
    • by swordgeek ( 112599 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:42PM (#6847551) Journal
      Who are "we?"

      I've seen some of the opt-in lists. I've been on a few, despite not having opted in.

      If you tell me that there are 1.7 million people in the entire world willing to be put on an opt-in advertising list, I call bullshit. The "Opt-in" lists as they exist now get subscribers by surreptitiousness (putting the "you will be added" on page 43 of a contest agreement form), deceit ("By not failing to have clicked in the position indicated, you are agreeing to not rescind the option to be excluded from..."), and flat out fraud (adding people who didn't ask for it, and claiming they did).

      That's how opt-in lists work. If you've got 1.7 million people on one list, then that's how you work, and that makes you a spammer.
      • You're just plain ignorant then. We have a download page for some of our software. From start to finish, it's probably no longer than your post. Right before the download button are a few check boxes for people to opt-in to a newsletter, product updates and third party promotions. It's simple. It's clear. On another web site, users have to go through several times to sign up to the newsletter, and it's not tied to anything else. Again, very clear and explicit. The lists also require confirmation bef
        • third party promotions

          So that's the politically correct word for spam these days?

          A lot of the complaints for spam I get at work are things that people signed up for and didn't know it meant they would be getting ads every other day. A lot of it is local clear channel radio stations, if you want to be a "preferred listener" and be elegible for contests you have to get on their spam lists.

          That said, I have little reason to believe you are a real spammer. I've noticed that real companies lately generally
          • Stop comparing apples to oranges. We took in to consideration the instructions on, and those of various entities like AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc., and ensured we complied. We don't want to be blacklisted, and do what we can to ensure we don't piss off our customers. All lists default to opt-out. The privacy statement is clear and concise (unlike's for instance), and explains what the options mean. There's no bumf to hide the information the customer is after. All lists are
        • Like the original poster, I call bullshit too. If you claim to have 1.7 million genuine opt-ins on your list, yet its so sensitive you aren't even prepared to say what the list is, you're hiding something.
        • Newsletter - Sales material
          Product updates - Bug fixes
          Third party promotions - Spam

          Sorry dude, while you appear to be making some effort to do the right thing (confirmation email and so on) you're mixing th good with the bad. If I downloaded a commonly used mainstream app - which your must be if you have that many folks who "opt-in" - I probably want updates. But I don't want to be hasseled by salesmen and spammed by people you've sold marketing rights to. Make your choice - Are you a software company or

        • Unless your method is closed-loop, it's spam. BY that I mean if I enter an email address and tick a box expressing interest, then you must send a plain email to that address confirming that the owner requested a newsletter. It must contain no advertising, and it also must have a unique token so that it cannot be spoofed. In order to be added to the mailing list the recipient must reply to this confirmation, and you must store the IP address that submitted the form along with this response email -- that i
      • BTW, that 1.7 million represents less than 10% of the customers who have registered the product, and only about 50% of customers register. Based on that, I have no idea whether that's good or bad for the company though.
  • by rmc6198 ( 701782 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:33PM (#6847510)
    This is another example of how spammers have infringed on everyone. The threat of spam is causing more and more people to change their habits. Sure you can come up with a new way to do newsgroups, but you and I shouldn't have to adjust to the assholes that are swamping the internet with untold billions of mass e-mailings. As far as I'm concerned, there shouldn't even be a need for a spam filter, much less the extreme caution we have to exercise in our online activities to avoid spammers' getting our e-mails. Spam is a social problem, but it requires a technical fix, because the internet is worldwide while the sovereingty of our own laws stay within our own borders. There should be a way to keep people from faking headers, and bulk e-mailing to thousands of addresses at a time. If I went and dumped one billion pieces of junk mail into the mail box at the post office, intervention by the post office keeps it from automatically sending that junk mail from going to every person out there--they would just trash it and probably come arrest or fine me. That is intelligent intervention on the front side, instead of filtering on the back side.
    • by daveo0331 ( 469843 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @11:05PM (#6847663) Homepage Journal
      If I went and dumped one billion pieces of junk mail into the mail box at the post office, intervention by the post office keeps it from automatically sending that junk mail from going to every person out there--they would just trash it and probably come arrest or fine me.

      Actually, the post office would happily collect your $370 million in postage (minus whatever the bulk mail discount is) and send the letters to their destination. The only thing that keeps postal junk mail in check is that the sender pays, unlike spam where the recipient pays.
  • by Plix ( 204304 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:35PM (#6847516) Homepage
    Seriously. One of the reasons that mailing lists and news letters were so widespread is that everyone had a mail reader. We're looking at the same problems right now with revising SMTP and rolling over to IPv6: it's simply impossible to move over such a large number of people to a new technology when there's already one in place that works (even if it doesn't work all that well). Sure, you're going to have a few early adopters, but beyond that it's probably going to stay pretty much the same.
    • You miss a critical point. If one person publishes an RSS file, and 10 people subscribe to it, and that's everyone who subscribes with "RSS" on the planet, then those 10 people are happy.

      If those same 10 people switch to IPv6, and perform normal activities, odds are they will never run into each other, and gain no benefit from the switch.

      Aggregators grow in value directly proportional to the number of people who support it, linearly or quadratically, but people who don't support it do not harm the system
  • by Khazunga ( 176423 ) * on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:35PM (#6847520)
    From what little I know about RSS, it's some form of XML format for content, usually served in a pull oriented fashion (as oposed to email's push method). The advantages related to spam avoidance are obvious, since users don't need to give out their address.

    However, I do question the ability of RSS to scale. Think of a scenario where millions of users need to poll hundreds of thousands of sources to check for updates on the feeds. How much unnecessary load does this pose to the network and servers? Is RSS really the best way to do it? Wouldn't we be better off with web based forums, or moderated usenet newsgroups? Or yet, extending email with the concept of task-oriented e-mail addresses -- which accept content coming from a defined set of servers only?

    In principle, push methods seem a lot more efficient for this kind of content distribution.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      If you're doing your RSS smart, and generate static pages to be server while checking and sending proper conditional headers, then it really doesn't require that many resources.
      • If you're doing your RSS smart, and generate static pages to be server while checking and sending proper conditional headers, then it really doesn't require that many resources.

        Or if your XML server has proper caching system, like AxKit [] which I use to make my simple weblog software AxBlog [].

    • There is no push (Score:4, Insightful)

      by putaro ( 235078 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:58PM (#6847630) Journal
      People have been talking about "push" for a number of years but when you actually look at most of the technologies they're really polling based. Client side e-mail is polling based (POP, IMAP) so what's the difference between polling e-mail servers and polling RSS servers?

      RSS must put a lot less load on the network than me checking out the CNN web page 2 or 3 times a day to see what's going on.
      • If you run your own mail server, email is push.
      • Re:There is no push (Score:3, Informative)

        by Hard_Code ( 49548 )
        When you poll your IMAP or POP server, you poll YOUR server, not everybody else's. That's why it scales well. That said, RSS docs are typically very small, and HTTP already has built-in cache support through the HEAD action, so all indications point to it not being a problem.
    • by Feztaa ( 633745 )
      However, I do question the ability of RSS to scale.

      You must have some serious reservations about the scalability of HTML, then :)

      RSS is just a way of paraphrasing the content of an HTML site, in a standard way that can be incorporated into other websites/clientside RSS readers. Reloading an RSS file once every hour is less bandwidth-intensive than reloading the HTML counterpart every hour.
    • However, I do question the ability of RSS to scale. Think of a scenario where millions of users need to poll hundreds of thousands of sources to check for updates on the feeds. How much unnecessary load does this pose to the network and servers?

      In this case, it might make sense to combine HTTP and BitTorrent technologies. HTTP is *very* instant, BT is *very* efficient, particularly with large amounts of bandwidth.

      However, using checksumming (a la sha1) would all but guarantee that you get an accurate fe
  • Realization at last? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by discHead ( 3226 ) <> on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:39PM (#6847537) Homepage
    Perhaps, in RSS, we are finally finding realization of all of that "push" hype put forth long ago?
    • Well, in one way, you are right. RSS is a pull technology, the client has to request the feed. Very few, if any, of the "push" technologies that I have seen are in fact really just a pull. A good example of this is "push" Active Directory replication on a Windows network. As named, a server should idealy send out data without a client requesting it. Instead, in Microsoft's implementation, the client requests the push from the server, then the server sends its data. Sounds like pull technology to me.
    • by amcguinn ( 549297 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @05:34AM (#6848738) Journal

      The whole point of RSS is that, unlike email, it is not push.

      In fact, "push" vs "pull" is not very descriptive. You have a newsletter, a publisher who controls the content, and subscribers who read it. There is only one important question: where is the subscription recorded?

      There are effectively three models:

      1. The subscription is recorded in the subscriber's brain. The subscriber has to make a point of going after the content. This is the model for web pages. I am "subscribed" to publications like The Risks Digest [] and Crypto-gram [] because I make a point of viewing the web pages regularly. This model is of little value to a lot of publishers, because their content is not valuable enough that users will make a point of keeping up in this way
      2. The subscription is recorded in the publisher's system. This is how email newsletters work. It's fine for the publisher, but unsatisfactory for the reader as he can get subscribed to things he doesn't want. Separating bona-fide subscribed content from spam is very difficult for filtering systems, and the result is that delivery failure rates are rising. This is where we are now, this is where we want to get away from.
      3. The subscription is recorded in the subscriber's software. This is the ideal. I can choose to subscribe to something, and no-one can make me subscribe to anything I don't want. The subscribed content will appear in front of me without my needing to remember it or pick it out of a list of a hundred browser bookmarks. RSS falls into this category.

      My pet theory is that there is another method that fits in the third category: email retrieved directly from the publisher's system by the subscriber's system using POP3. I subscribe to the content by adding an account to my mail client with the publisher's POP server, and a username of my choice. Doing a "get email" on my mail client will bring down the newsletter along with my other email. (IMAP or NNTP could be used the same way). The advantage of this over RSS is that the clients are already widespread, although ideally they would be enhanced to support this model more smoothly.

  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:40PM (#6847544) Homepage
    People have recognized for a long time that the basic cause of spam is that spamming is free, as opposed to other forms of marketing that cost money to the sender. A sensible response has obviously been to make the sender of an e-mail pay money [].

    Some objections to this have been (1) how do you process the payments without giving control over the internet to some evil corporation? (2) it's impractical to redesign the e-mail protocols and infrastructure, (3) mailing list operators can't pay to send every e-mail. Well, #1 is obviated by schemes like hashcash, where there's no real money involved. Re #2, this RSS example shows that the e-mail infrastrucure can and will be replaced, and there are ways to do it without having to make everybody change over to a new system overnight -- it can be done piecemeal. The RSS system may also show that #3 is not such a big deal, because maybe newsletters shouldn't go through the same channels as e-mail. (Note that the US postal service doesn't deliver newspapers.) Also, #3 was kind of silly anyway, because people can have a whitelist, and exempt people on their whitelist from paying to send them e-mail.

    • Another big problem is that many spammers no longer use their own or paid-for/acquired servers, but viruses, trojans and exploited servers. This would not stop the spam from causing traffic problems on the web.
    • RSS is a great replacement for one-way email newsletters (many of which just say "here's what's new on our site this week" -- exactly what RSS was designed for), but it's not useful for interactive mailing lists. Some people have claimed that RSS reader software will eventually be able to thread weblog posts into coherent mailing-list-like conversations, but I haven't seen it yet.
  • by Boogaroo ( 604901 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:43PM (#6847557) Homepage
    As far as I can gather from the article, RSS uses XML and can be read by web-browser or specialized client. Special RSS providers are the only way to access these "feeds."

    How many people want to buy or download yet ANOTHER program for their communication needs? We already have AIM, MSN, ICQ, YIM,IRC, five different proprietary video clients, and newsreaders. If using a web browser, who wants to visit twenty different websites to read their mailing lists(Yahoo Groups is bad enough isn't it?) On top of that, email still must be dealt with.

    I can understand the benefits of it I think: Locked down feeds presenting a huge hurdle for spammers, XML for flexible programming, and a download as you go structure(like newsgroups).

    I like email lists the way they are personally. I find spam to be easily identifiable so I don't lose tons of messages like the article mentions. I don't know if I'd go for it if it's like blogs. Email lists can get off topic, but blogs seem like they're always rambling. I've looked at the blogs of the people that belong to mailing lists I'm on, and there's no way they'd ever replace the email list.

    Anybody care to give a good explanation about RSS?

    • I tend to agree. I've been receiving my lockergnome posts via email for, what 5 or 6 years? Since I tend to fall behind in my reading, I'd rather have a few messages waiting in my inbox than to have to pull the latest feed then backtrack thru the issues missed.
  • RSS Via Jabber (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Isomer ( 48061 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:46PM (#6847574) Homepage
    Jabber supports "headlines" and there are several transports around that support sending RSS updates as jabber "headlines". You get a nice descrete notification that somethings happened (new story on slashdot?) and you can deal with it if you like.

    You can publish almost anything as a RSS feed, for instance URL's mentioned on an IRC channel.

    When combining technologies such as these you can get some real neat stuff happening. Sometime I want to write some scripts using naive bayes to sort out the RSS information I'm interested in vs the stuff I'm not and then have it subscribe to lots of RSS feeds :)
  • by TheViewFromTheGround ( 607422 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:48PM (#6847587) Homepage

    I run a website (The View From The Ground []) that uses an email newsletter that monitors what the city, police, and other agencies are doing in Chicago public housing (the projects) because there is absolutely no public accountability. We don't spam, don't release our email list to anybody. We're very disciplined about the privacy of our list.

    We've thought about going to RSS, but there are big advantages to using an email newsletter for such a purpose.

    While our email publication is "unwelcome" in places like the police department in the sense that they rarely like what we have to say, everyone from top administrators to low level officers read it because it scares them. There have already been several successful lawsuits and many major news stories (in the Chicago locals like the Tribune and Sun-Times and some nationals like the New York Times) that generate public scrutiny.

    Now, imagine people at the police department or the Chicago Housing Authority, whose technical proficiency is often, uh, lacking, setting up an RSS reader and subscribing to our feed in order to receive our publication. Further, email is easy to forward, and we often get feedback that reveals a long and sordid chain of forwards until it reaches the person in question. We have received amusing lawsuit threats (one from a major company president for "deflamation") with such histories attached. RSS feeds don't have the same forward-ability as email.

    Not all email that is received in a spirit of hostility is spam, and sometimes, even if the receiver hates the message, they have to read it. But that's only if they get it. RSS significantly raises the barrier of entry, particularly for people without lots of Net savvy.

    This isn't not to say we're not working on implementing RSS. We are, and expect it to dominate the friendly/sympathetic side of our distribution list once we implement it as a distribution method this fall.

    The point is that email is still a killer application of the Internet for distributing journalistic content, and that RSS and email can coexist in a mutually beneficial way.

    I hate to say it, but the only way we'd become RSS exclusive would be if the next version of IE (which may not appear for years) ships with a super-easy RSS feed reader because almost every city agency in Chicago is MS-exclusive. Until then, we'll do both.

    • Not all email that is received in a spirit of hostility is spam, and sometimes, even if the receiver hates the message, they have to read it. But that's only if they get it. RSS significantly raises the barrier of entry, particularly for people without lots of Net savvy..

      Agreed. However, I would point out that Microsoft has recently started offering RSS feeds []. If they find it to be a useful technology, I'll bet we'll see an RSS aggregator integrated into Outlook or MSIE. If that happens, the barrier of e

  • by sakusha ( 441986 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:55PM (#6847616)
    There's only one problem with RSS compared to email, you have no way to control distribution, anyone can read the RSS. But with a listserv, you can control your distribution list easily. RSS is not a substitute for listservs. Everyone can get email, it's simple, but not everyone can grok an RSS aggregator.
    • Distribution can be controlled using HTTP auth and perhaps SSL. The aggregators aren't really that complicated, and the interfaces are improving over time. Wtht the one I use, all it takes is to drag one of those little orange icons to the dock, I maybe type in a name for the feed, and its done.
      • That's a good idea, now go write an RSS aggregator that supports HTTP auth, and then go convince everyone to support it in their servers. But first, you might want to think about how auth will interfere with RSS discovery (which is already screwed up enough).
        • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @01:07AM (#6848076) Journal
          That's a good idea, now go write an RSS aggregator that supports HTTP auth,

          You mean like this []?

          and then go convince everyone to support it in their servers.

          No, only people who want private RSS files need to support it in their servers. And it's not like HTTP autentication is some sort of mystery, all reasonable web servers support it out of the box. After all, guess what, it's part of HTTP/1.0 [].

          But first, you might want to think about how auth will interfere with RSS discovery (which is already screwed up enough).

          Easy, it doesn't. Either you can get to the RSS feed or you can't, either way the aggregator has to handle it (people type in wrong URLs all the time, for instance, so any real aggregator has to handle errors).

          You seriously overestimate the difficulty of this. Unusual, usually people underestimate difficulties. I hope you aren't a professional coder.
          • I am laughing my ass off that you cite Userland's piece o'crap software as your example. It is hardly possible to UNDERestimate the difficulties involved, when Dave Winer is in the picture. You KNOW it's primarily because of Dave's sheer assholery that a replacement for RSS is in development. I'd personally wait until they get the new standard out the door before converting listserv-style products to syndicated feeds.
            But anyway, you know damn well that RSS discover is poorly implemented, your average user i
  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:56PM (#6847622) Journal
    Personally, I find that I almost never subscribe to any email-based newsletters anymore because it just isn't the best mechanism for it.

    When I check my email, it's nice to know that everything that comes in (short of spam) is targeted specifically at me. The newsletters, however useful and informative, tend to be lengthy and not the sort of thing I often have time to read when I'm trying to read and reply to my personal emails.

    I realize the standard answer people give is to set up mailbox rules so the newsletters get tossed into their own folders. Sure, I can do that (and have often done so), but then I end up with a huge folder filled with overwhelming amounts of text to sift through. If I don't get time to read them for a few weeks, a lot of it ends up getting mass deleted. (It's not usually important enough to justify a marathon reading session to try to catch up with all the back messages piled up in there.)

    I think of newsletters as publications, so as such, they're best published to the web - so viewers can access them at will. Don't take up everyone's disk space sending out hundreds (or thousands?) of copies of the same newsletter via email.
  • Anyone know of any good Web-based (ideally PHP-based) RSS news aggregators? I'm looking for something I can install on my website and customize to my liking.
    • by JPVann ( 237559 )
      Try "Feed Demon" from the author of Topstyle and Homesite. It is in beta right now, but very stable and a killer app!

      Essentially creates "newspapers" of RSS feeds you are interested in - great product.
    • Have you tried Magpie []?

      I set it up for our web designers who needed a way of putting newsfeeds on a site they were building. It handles caching etc, and just puts the rss content into an a php array for you to display how you like.
  • by exhilaration ( 587191 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:59PM (#6847640)
    So I keep reading all these articles about RSS news feeds and blogs, but I can't really find any good stuff to read.

    So what does the Slashdot crowd recommend?

  • by Feztaa ( 633745 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @11:05PM (#6847665) Homepage
    It seems to me that email lists are trying to do what usenet was designed for. In that way, it's sort of a broken idea: newsgroups are for sending a message to a self-selecting group of people, email is for sending a message to one person. Trying to implement a mailing list in email is sort of a waste of resources, IMO.
    • I am not sure I agree with that. In principle, it sounds ok, but in practice it's a lot different. The signal to noise ratio is a lot higher on many usenet groups than it is on lists in general. (Though I do see some noisy lists too.)

      Lists have a privacy aspect that is kind of nice. Usenet is too public for some things where a list can stay nice and private under the radar. Isn't it easier to control distribution and new content via list compared to usenet group?

      Of course, forums are a nice alternati
  • by Goyuix ( 698012 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @11:08PM (#6847678) Homepage
    Now, there are problems associated with this, but I think people are missing the point that this isn't (yet) a drop in replacement for grandma to get her quilting newsletter.

    RSS is a relatively new creation, especially in terms of popularity and I think there are a large number of geeks like myself that will definitely like being able to pull the few newsletters or lists we like. Especially if they pull headlines and still make you request delivery or actually visit a web site.

    I personally have loved watching readers (aggregators) develop and mature, as well as more sites coming online with content for them. I think this is certainly one of the things to watch as it is morphing the way we use the web.

    Kind of like the evolution of blog style web sites that report news and commentary, so I don't have to hit the estimated 50 billion hardware review sites each day just to see what they have been playing with. Used with a /. style comment system and the newsletters could become quite an interesting niche in the internet over the next few years.

    And yes, if it is popular Microsoft will probably make a stand alone reader or more likely bundle it with IE or Outlook Express.
  • "E-mail is dead, period," declares Chris Pirillo, the Internet entrepreneur who distributes about 400,000 e-mail newsletters weekly. "I don't care what kind of legislation goes through, people aren't signing up for newsletters anymore. People are assuming that every e-mail publisher is a spammer."

    I subscribe to the InternetNews daily newsletter and I heard about RSS through it. I guess Pirillo should be glad about that.
  • Irony (Score:5, Insightful)

    by babbage ( 61057 ) <> on Monday September 01, 2003 @11:46PM (#6847824) Homepage Journal
    People are moving from email to RSS? That's ironic -- I know someone that just released a service that translates RSS feeds to email [], which seems like a knocking good idea to me.

    Maybe the real lesson isn't "email bad, rss good", but that RSS has the nice property of allowing the user to select how she would prefer to access the resource in question -- maybe as email, maybe in a custom web page via Amphetadesk [], or maybe in a special purpose application such as NetNewsWire []. For that matter, maybe they'd like receiving info on a non-traditional device, such as a PDA or video game console, and RSS feeds can be more adaptable than other channels.

    Personally, I like email, I've got processes for handling a silly volume of it, and the ability to get RSS feeds I'm interested mailed to me on some kind of schedule appeals to me -- even though the idea hadn't occurred to me before this weekend.

    So the next question for me then is, for those of you that like RSS but don't care for email, how would you prefer to access such data? What software are you using today? What problems, if any, do you have with the way your RSS aggregator works? What properties would you like to see in such software tomorrow?

  • Disposable (Score:3, Funny)

    by KevinMS ( 209602 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @11:51PM (#6847841)
    Just dont ask for a persons address, ask them to use a disposable one instead, so they feel better, and theres no pressure on you. Few years ago Sneakemail tried to make an interface just for this purpose to make it easier, but nobody cared, see my sig for the link. Everybody is handling spam so badly and now people want to scrap the whole thing. If I left my car in a bad neighborhood with the windows rolled down who's fault is it when it gets stolen? Do I whine for more car theft legislation? Do I stop driving my car? Same with email, stop whoring your address everywhere.

  • by markfletcher ( 612245 ) on Monday September 01, 2003 @11:53PM (#6847846) Homepage
    Our web-based aggregator, Bloglines, is an easy way to try out aggregation. No need to download and install a program. We have a search engine and a list of top RSS feeds to make finding syndicated content easier. See [] for more info.
  • by marko123 ( 131635 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @12:34AM (#6847994) Homepage
    It was a .bom startup from around 1996 that used "push" technology, which was really a client "pulling" info using an RSS type protocol.
  • by sakusha ( 441986 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @02:26AM (#6848272)
    Did it ever occur to anyone that most Listservs are TWO-WAY systems, and RSS syndication is a ONE-WAY system? If I want to reply to a list, I just reply via email, on most systems the message is instantly distributed to the list. This will never ever happen with RSS. RSS is a one-to-many distribution system, mailing lists are many-to-many systems. RSS is an implementation of a hierarchical authority structure, oh boy I just need more of that like I need more spam.
    Ya know, I remember in the early days when there was no WWW, and listservs were considered a killer app. It's no different today, many people want an internet connection just to access and interact on specialized lists. Let us hope that this never goes away. The internet is not designed for us to all subscribe to the same RSS feeds, the internet is designed for us to talk to EACH OTHER.
    • by lelnet ( 702245 ) <mbl&lelnet,com> on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @06:00AM (#6848812)
      Yes. Thank you for being the one person on slashdot who hasn't drank whatever kool-aid convinces people that the internet is (and ought to be) divided into "content producers" and "content consumers". The internet's greatest virtue lies in its facilities for _completely_ interactive communication, where every participant has the same position in the conversation as every other.

      Email lists are the quintessential example of this phenomenon.

      Putting up web pages may be easy and cheap enough to be an option for everybody, but it doesn't provide the same level of interactivity as a mailing list can. A world in which everyone can be a producer as well as a consumer is not the same thing as a world in which everyone can be an equal participant. The latter is what we have, where the former is what replacing mailing lists with RSS feeds would give us in even the best case.

      Mailing lists are delivered to the users' own mailboxes, at which point their data becomes unavailable only when the recipients decide to delete it. Web pages, on the other hand, are stored on central servers and are thus vulnerable not only to network outages but to gratuitous changes made server-side by webmasters, as well as other sorts of problems. For certain types of content (advertising newsletters would be a good example), this is not a meaningful limitation because the content itself is worthless if it's out of date...but that does not describe the sum total of discussion on mailing lists, and it does not make sense to introduce such unnecessary vulnerabilities.

      RSS is good for what it's designed for...but please let's not try to throw away a working technology and substitute a kludged one in its place.
  • by skinfitz ( 564041 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @02:50AM (#6848340) Journal
    ...people just do not subscribe to free e-mail newsletters anymore, making a broad assumption that anyone offering them would be a spammer.

    Sadly though this is often the case. The solution however is simple - create a different email address in your domain for each newsletter or company that you sign up for (for example "") and use this for transactions. When the spam starts arriving (you WILL get spammed if you use ticketmaster by the way - read the ToS) then redirect the address to the relevant abuse email. Voila - the people responsible for the spam report themselves.
  • Livejournal (Score:4, Informative)

    by samael ( 12612 ) <> on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @03:00AM (#6848375) Homepage
    Personally I use Livejournal as my newsreader. It's got pretty much the perfect system for me, as I can set up the layout how I like and it does all the checking for me. I can also check my news feeds from wherever I happen to be.

    You can see the results at
    or the comics I receive over RSS at mics
  • by amcguinn ( 549297 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @03:56AM (#6848537) Journal

    This is a sensible direction to go in. Legitimate bulk email needs to move to a model where the subscriber rather than the publisher controls the subscription, and RSS is one such system.

    The problem at the moment is the low spread of RSS clients/viewers (I have never even seen one).

    Another subscriber-controlled method of publication would be for each subscriber to have a mailbox on the publisher's system, accessible with POP3 (or IMAP or even NNTP).

    This has the advantage that it is workable with today's email clients that everybody already has -- you just add a new POP server and username into your client config.

    It is not ideal with most modern clients, but it works, and the clients can easily be enhanced to make it easier to add another subscription and have the messages dropped into your main mailbox for viewing.

  • RSS via NNTP (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hephro ( 166117 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @08:04AM (#6849118) Homepage
    News readers tend to be much more powerful than RSS agregators or email programs with RSS capability (e.g. evolution).

    nntp//rss [] is a nice tool for reading RSS feeds with your favorite newsreader.

    IMHO this is a good replacement for (mostly) read-only mailing lists: it is much easier for the average person to set up a web forum with RSS than a NNTP server or even a (self-hosted) mailing list.

    For interactive mailing lists, Gmane [] is the tool of my choice.

  • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @09:26AM (#6849632) Homepage

    From the article:

    "People are assuming that every e-mail publisher is a spammer."

    That's not necessarily the issue. Instead, I think, lots of people just don't want to have to deal with separating the newsletter they want from the spam they don't want. And lots of others might be afraid their email address will leak (be sold) to a spammer. Unique mailbox addresses to sign up with might help, but most people don't have these nor know how to create them.

    In some cases, signups to legitimate newsletters or mailing lists are failing because they are hosted by providers that have had, or maybe still have, spammers operating, and some ISPs are blocking them. Other disadvantages of email include the hassle of having to do a confirmation cycle (switch to the mail program) to sign up.

    RSS seems like an interesting solution, but it's basically a one way feed although you can hyperlink to a web submission form if the newsletter provides two-way communication. Many have suggested NNTP (running isolated from the global USENET) for the more discussion oriented mailing lists. And another option is for the mailing list operator to host the mailboxes (stored shared) with access via IMAP. Perhaps integrating all of these into a web browser will make it all work better. Oh wait...

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