Freedom From Algorithms: How To Use a Feed Reader

RSS pls

Behold, my excellent editorial illustration skills.

Freedom from algorithmic news feed requires just two steps:

  1. Content creators need to put their content on a site they can fully control, rather than on restrictive social media platforms. These sites should generate an appropriate web feed (e.g. RSS) allowing for open syndication.
  2. Audiences, fans, and followers need to embrace neutral, third-party aggregators (e.g. feed readers) that can pull from those independently controlled sources and put everything together in a feed controlled by only its specific user.

Both of these steps are easier said than done, and there’s a bit of catch-22 involved. But the second step is actually easier than the first because it’s cheaper (even free!), and some existing sites and platforms are compatible with feed readers, so users don’t necessarily need to wait for their favourite creators to self-host first.

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The Only Way to Beat Algorithms is to Retrain Your Audience

The Internet in 1999 was comprised mostly of individual websites run by individual people. WYSIWYG website builders were new and exciting, allowing laypeople and ten year-olds to make sites without much technical expertise. People of similar interests found each other through webrings and message boards and chat rooms. Digital word-of-mouth was limited, and virality wasn’t possible.

I’ve had a personal website since this bygone era, and in those days, if people wanted to know when I updated with new art, they needed to go to the site manually and check. The Internet was small, so this wasn’t too arduous a task.

Manually announced site updates from 2002, wowee. Thanks, Wayback Machine.

Manually announced site updates from 2002, wowee. Thanks, Wayback Machine.

Nowadays, the Internet is pretty big.

It’s not practical to manually check lots of individual sites anymore. Besides, while most creators posting stuff online in 1999 had websites, this isn’t true of their 2019 brethren. Some might have both, but many artists now only have social media accounts. Social media is convenient. Not only do you not need any technical expertise, you don’t have to build anything at all. It’s much easier for people to find you, and they don’t have to manually check your feed every day. Everyone they follow is combined into one feed. So handy!

But: algorithms

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