Jack‘s ongoing struggle with selecting a suitable RSS reader, is symptomatic for the outdated usability objectives of many software products:
“my fingers and my brain aren’t gelling with that mode of operation.”
Modern cognitive tools should offer several modes of operation, one for each major cognitive style, rather than to try and optimize for the imaginative average user (#105).
No wonder that it is still not possible to find a decent standard RSS reader to recommend for the entire enterprise: Blog reader software is particularly sensitive to different cognitive styles, since blogs are a fine-balanced hybrid between email postings and personal web pages: Too much bias towards either of these two (such as mere appending to an email client or a web browser) spoils the serendipituous mix, but personal preferences expose just such bias. In particular,
- how much the generated output should resemble a compact web page that enables to skim through wordy people’s information flood, with as little as possible manipulative operations necessary (“one click” aggregation), or
- how much the individual postings can be “touched” (e.g. marked, hidden, shown, collapsed, expanded) according to the “direct manipulation” metaphors, and be processed in a way that the connections among these postings and among their authors can optimally be engrained and remembered,
these opposite characteristics determine much of the value that blogs add to daily email and web reading, and whether the instrumentation becomes a cognitive burden or a pleasure.