Noisy feeds and bad news

Since the comming of rss feeds, the world is a better place for online people like me. I can select interesting newsfeeds I’d like to read, and compose my own newspaper. For newssites, this requires a new skill. For them to keep me as a reader, they need to keep the rss feed up to date, and with items I’d like to see. Because I can do research on the spot, the news items better be balanced, verified and unbiased (unless it’s funny ;-). Recently I dumped the nu.nl rss feed because of the constant re-posting of only slightly modified articles.

At this time, I am monitoring about 30 newsfeeds, which are mostly centered around programming and technology. I don’t care much for journalism in general, because I think nowadays it’s biased, often unverified, and very much geared to “get the most viewers”. This results in over-the-top dramatic and emotional articles, generally only covering death, hunger, war and preferably contains “shocking images”. Good news just doesn’t sell.

Up until now, I only had 1 rss feed covering local daily news, which was the nu.nl feed. A few weeks ago, I noticed that nu.nl had become more active. The rss feed kept popping up as having new items, but when I checked them, they looked familiar. At the time I thought it was a date-bug in either the reader or at the feedserver. Today, I checked more thourougly and found out that this is probably deliberate. 33% of the items in the nu.nl rss feed are re-posts or only slightly modified articles. Very irritating, and almost makes you think that the nu.nl journalists are freelancers which are payed per article. It gave me the feeling of a little kid who is telling you over-and-over again that it found a penny.

nu rss feed done right

I took a screenshot of the nu.nl feed in the Google Reader, and highlighted the double entries. Then I removed the articles which could have been prevented from showing up in the rss feed. The result is shown at the right. From the 33 articles in the original feed, only 22 contained new information. That means that 33% of the feed-alerts for the nu.nl feed makes me waste time to look at news I’ve allready seen.

If somebody tells me that people are dying somewere, it ruins my day. I can’t stand people hurting eachother. Since journalists are having the tendency to report people dying every 6 seconds (because it sells), and nu.nl also finds it necesary to make sure I read it by re-posting 33% of their content, I’ve dropped the feed. And actually it feels nice.

I’ve already almost stopped watching TV, because of the repetiteveness, and constant display of dead, dismembered people 24×7, regardless of viewer age or interest. Now, I’ve unsubscribed the last “real” newsfeed and I think my world will get brighter because of it.

Maybe someday the word “reality” is no longer related to 5000 top-payed reporters pointing their camera’s at a dying child without helping it. And I hope that that same day, the word “reality-TV” is no longer related to locking people inside a house, pointing camera’s at them while they fight eachother for a moneyprice. And maybe, just maybe, the word “news” could also include the good news, or wierd news, and every other kind of news to balance things out. And if that day is 19 September, we’d be in for a lot of fun.

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One Response to Noisy feeds and bad news

  1. guusbosman says:

    There are a few blogs in my blog readers that are in the habit of editing their articles after they have been placed, so they keep appearing. Something 3 or 4 times, which is somewhat annoying.

    Another blog I read has included the comment counter in the rss content field, so every time somebody posts a comment the rss feed with articles is renewed. Luckily the site doesn’t get a lot of comments 🙂

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