During the bar conversation after the Saturday Seattle Strobist Seminar, a bunch of including James Duncan Davidson and Eric Soroos were talking to David Hobby about full feeds on the Strobist site. In particular, we pointed him to John Gruber’s experiment with full feeds on Daring Fireball (preliminary report on John’s experience). So I was very happy to read that David has decided to try a full feed for Strobist as well.
Since David wanted some more power user full feed info, here’s my take on David’s situation.
The argument for full feeds is that it allows a reader to be more efficient because they can digest more information per unit time. At least that is true for me. The other big benefit is that it allows people who want / need to read offline to do so. The question is, “Doesn’t reader efficiency come at the expense of the publisher”? My answer is, no, not if your content is good. In fact, if your content is good, reader efficiency works in your favor. If your content is good, then you as the publisher doen’t want me to have to break my workflow (by switching to a browser, browser tab, or NetNewsWire tab) to determine that the content is good. If I have to break the flow, there’s much less chance that I will do command-shift-P (in NetNewsWire) to pop the your post into Ecto where I can quote it as part of my post (which ought to generate some additional traffic for you). There’s less chance that I will hit command-1 to pop your post’s title and permalink into Twitterific, where it can get pumped into the realtime information junkie network. And there’s less chance that I will hit command-control-’ to pop your post’s permalink into Pukka where I can quickly tag it and stick it into del.icio.us, where it can be immortalized as important, seen by my del.icio.us network, and pumped into my blog and tumblog. In other words, you make it hard for people like me to help you. Now you might not care about that, and that’s a completely rational choice. But since just about everything in the blogosphere (after your good original content) is about getting flow (which doesn’t just mean inbound clicks) from other people, it seems like a short sighted thing to make it hard for flow to happen.
There are a few other dynamics which I think are relevant to Strobist, which don’t apply to all blogs.
1. Strobist is not just a blog, it is a source of reference materials. If you metered my accesses to the Strobist site, you would see that I access the site much more as a reference site than as a daily blog. I read the daily blogs, but since I am learning something that requires practice, trial and error, and so forth, I am always pulling up old posts (and those Lighting 101 and 102 pulldown menus) are a godsend for that. Which you have to go the site for. Dropping the 1 click that you would have gotten by forcing me to follow from the partial feed is just noise compared to the other volume
2. The advertisers on Strobist aren’t getting the value from the ads. If you make me go to Strobist in Firefox, Adblock pwns you. I never even see your ads. If you want to get value from Strobist, do something that works with what David is doing. Nonetheless, I’ve ordered several times from the Midwest Photo Exchange, not because they advertise on the site, but because they are doing something that works with what David is doing – so well that David actually writes about it. You might think you need an ad, but what you really need is to do something that will get David to write about you. Strobist is becoming a community, and the advertisers / sponsors of the site will get the most value by being a part of the community (see yesterday’s post on Nikon for tips). And that means more than just doing ads.
3. I was less vehement about full feeds that night (and I do love my full feeds) because I don’t think that David’s audience is an RSS enabled audience. The small sample size at the bar bore that out. So full vs partial doesn’t make that much difference, really. I’ve been reading the blogs of some wedding photographers because I think that maybe someday I might like to take a crack at that. But one thing I’ve noticed is that the word on Strobist is out. I see the techniques being mentioned. People see off camera flash pictures and want to know how to do that. And the answer that invariably comes back is Strobist (or occasionally, the OneLight). You can be sure that this is happening in real life, maybe even more so than on line. So the flow net for Strobist has expanded beyond the RSS savvy crowd and into the real world. No amount of full vs partial RSS feed is gonna change that.
But just in case, click here to convince David of the value of a full RSS feed.