The Local Nature of Real-Time Means RSS Rules Forever

I wanted to make an observation about real-time and the Google Reader vs. Twitter war, about which Louis excellently summarizes the advantages of both in this post.GoogleReader.jpg

While real-time technology is removing all barriers to instant communication and information flow everywhere, there are geographical and biological limitations that it has not overcome yet. While announcements and press releases are being made from Silicon Valley, half the world who lives on the other side of the planet is sleeping.

Scoble, who doesn’t use Google Reader anymore, compares Techmeme with Twitter Lists, also noted:

If you don’t read tweets for eight hours, don’t worry, all the big stuff you missed will be on TechMeme.

My point exactly. Most of the world sleeps anywhere between 6-9 hours a day, and does many other things besides being on Twitter. When they wake up and want to get updated with the major tech news of the day, Twitter is of no help. This is not a limitation of Twitter, it’s just the local aspect of real-time.

When I observe who follows who on Twitter, sure there are millions of cases where people follow folks from around the world. But if someone were to make a statistical analysis of everyone on Twitter, I think it would be clear that the majority of follows are within their own country. The same may not be true of their Google Reader subscriptions or the links in their blogrolls on This is why, RSS will continue to rule, as long as the earth keeps rotating, we have nights and days, and need to sleep.

A real-life example encapsulating all this happened yesterday, when I felt earthquake tremors at home here in India. I tweeted about the earthquake from my personal Twitter account where I occasionally indulge in India-specific news, did not tweet from my tech-focused ScepticGeek account, and obviously did not bother to blog about it even on my personal blog.

There was no need for the rest of the world to know about those mild tremors, and it did not hit Techmeme. The Twitter feed of my personal account was filled with tweets about the earthquake, but this would have been “noise” to others. Those who follow me on Google Reader did not get any such noise.

This is the local nature of real-time. This is also why I agree with Mark Dykeman, who noted the difference between a reasonable time web and a real-time one.

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  • anu_buzzbox


    I agree with your post that everybody doesn't need to be on Twitter. The basic news is important to them. I wonder if people still feel like the basic news is also overwhelming and/or not relevant to them. Do you go to Techmeme and find you things you don't care about? Is that an issue for other people?

    Thanks, just trying to understand people's problems for my own company,

  • Anu,

    I don't think I said everybody doesn't need to be on Twitter. I was merely pointing out the local aspect of real-time and its implications.

    Regarding your other question, I don't think it behooves me to answer, since I work at Techmeme.

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