Bobcasting (and Google Reader)

I’ve been a fan of RSS for a long time, and I’ve been just waiting for it to reach its potential. Most of the readers of this blog read it via RSS, (if you don’t, click here–more confusing than it needs to be, isn’t it?)

Here’s what’s I think has been holding back RSS: the name (initials!) and the lack of a standard way to read a feed and to add a feed. We need one button, not twenty or thirty. I think both problems have been solved by RSS inside of Google Reader. (Click the link for a lens on an any easy way to get started). As the acceptance of Google Reader approaches ubiquity, marketers and managers now have the chance to take this technology to a totally new place.

Dave Winer, the pioneer of RSS, had a brilliancy about seven years ago that led to podcasting. Podcasting is just an RSS feed of music, with an easy interface (iTunes). Podcasting took off because it had the good parts of RSS without the hassles. But that’s music, not text.

I want to suggest something that takes no new technology but could have a big impact on the way you do business: Bobcasting.

I call it that because instead of reaching the masses, it’s just about reaching Bob. Or Tiasha. Or any individual or small group.

The future of online communication is micro-pockets of people getting RSS feeds in their Google Reader or on their Google home page. Amazon updates? Bobcast em to me. Fogbugz summaries for the customer service manager? Bobcast her three times a day.

Yes, Twitter is just an example of Bobcasting, but with a different interface. You only twit the people who want to hear from you, and you do it without spam filters or other noise.

What happens to your team when you have an RSS feed that can put a message or update in front of them without noise? And because the Reader separates the inputs by source, I can queue up my messages from you and read them in sequence. Compare that to the noisy disaster we call an inbox.

Facebook feels seductive, until you realize that the messages from those hundreds of friends are all sort of BlendTecked together. Yes, the spam is missing, but so is control.

With Bobcasting, I can have a feed for my Fedex packages, a feed updating me on the status of my frequent flyer miles at American, a feed from the project manager on the construction of my treehouse… anything that is primarily a one way piece of communication, anything where status updates instead of dialog are the goal.

If we are really living in a one to one future, then Bob (and our interactions with him) represent the asset we need to obsess over. Using RSS and Google Reader (and yes, there will be other, better readers to come) to do Bobcasting feels like a smart asset to build.