API, RSS, and The Ability To Look At Your Company Through An External Lens
21 Apr 2016
A huge pet peeve for me is when a company has a blog, but not provide an RSS feed--it really grinds my gears! Although it is something that aggravates me, I understand many of the reasons behind it. People just don't see their blog through an outside lens. They visit other company blogs when they want to read them, usually via a bookmark, or possibly rely on an email digest once a week--they aren't RSS reader users. RSS consumers were always a niche (that almost went mainstream), but is one that has taken a big hit with the closing of Google Reader.
I'm sure most of the companies would immediately turn on an RSS feed if I dropped them an email, but I'd rather write about it, and reach just the cream (my readers) on top of the API space. One of the most important side effects of being on the API journey in my opinion, is that expansion, evolution, and fine tuning of your powers for empathy that will occur along the way. Your API developer portal becomes a front line for conversations with the outside world, where you will carefully(hopefully) share your most precious internal resources, and entertain external views on how they should be exposed and put to use.
In my experience companies who are able to think outside the corporate firewall, do the best with APIs, with those who are open to culture change in close second--everyone else will falter. I can't help but feel that RSS is a very 101 example of this in action. I want you to read my blog, but because I didn't think beyond what I do, and my peers, when it comes to providing and consuming blogs, having an RSS feed didn't occur to me. If I was an RSS reader user, and the absence of RSS was a pain point, my tune would be different.
You can see this awareness in play over at the risk, audit, finance, and compliance platform Workiva. It is one of the few places I've seen RSS at work in such a useful, and transparent way:
This is a level of RSS, and corporate accessibility that I only dream of. If I had an RSS feed for the press releases, event schedule, and SEC filings for every company I track on, I'd be in heaven. However with Workiva, the dream ends there--their blog doesn't have an RSS feed, or at least one that I can easily find. Which for me demonstrates where the average company invests in, and will develop empathy. It is usually developed around their own pain points in their operation, and within their own industry. Workiva is in the the business of monitoring corporations, and they see the value in having RSS for the signals that matter the most to them--blog, obviously not that important of a signal in this game yet.
I do not expect every company to cater to every need the long tail of what the public will want, nor do I expect all companies to be able to see their company through an external lens right out of the gate, but for me, the existence of RSS is one signal I tune into--similar to the signals having an API, or not having an API sends. I understand that many of my readers see RSS as a pretty insignificant thing, but for me having a blog, but not considering the wider syndication, distribution, and consumption of said blog, contributes to how I view a company's ability to think outside their firewall, and empathize with their customers, the public, and external players like me.