Trenchant comments on extremely picky feed consumption habits from Chris Wetherell that far too many people don’t acknowledge, know about or understand

I read a great deal about what people have to say about feeds, RSS and Google Reader. What Chris Wetherell had to say in 2008 is by far the most important and interesting:

3. Reading styles for feeds are pre-established and generally inflexible.

On this point I'm relying on data that is attainable at Google because of size and market dominance as well as having routine user studies and follow-up. So because of this data I'm making an assertion that there is something inherently different about the inflexibility of feed reading styles than compared with other software. It's something borne out in every user test we've ever had and by Reader's development and seems worth academic inquiry at some point.

People of all stripes including those who've used feed readers, those who haven't, as well as those who understand the underlying architecture and those who don't all seem to have a pre-determined reading style that they find incredibly difficult to change.

The persistence of inflexibility is a little strange. There are many times when people can adapt to software experiences that don't match their expectation so long as they're still strongly identified as useful. You can probably imagine some personal examples.

However, in Reader changing a reading style is often very difficult. People can see the usefulness of opposing views ("Oh, I can see how a list view makes sense") and not change whatsoever ("Yeah, I could NEVER EVER use that") Generally, I've come to believe that people will not use a feed reader if it does not exactly accommodate their reading style. I readily concede that inflexibility in reading styles may only be a problem local to Reader though I suspect a new feed reader may encounter the same behavior. This is possibly due to the ease of switching to services which highlight the specific style the user prefers. Subscription data is portable and there are many simple instructions on how to move from service to service.


Go read the whole post, including his thoughts on polymorphism and a listing of people’s deal-breakers.

There’s something far deeper in his findings about the inflexibility of preferences for content use that’s worth meditating on in relation to the larger areas of media and services in general, both online and offline, and how that relates to flexible filters.