Share your OPML…just not quite yet

Yesterday, many voices in the blogosphere reported that Dave Winer‘s new service Share Your OPML has launched. It’s a great first step towards tracking attention in the blogosphere, and I hope it leads more innovation in this space.

OPML logo The service is pretty straightforward. You simply export a list of RSS feeds from your RSS reader, then upload that file to your account on the Share Your OPML site. The service then tracks which users are subscribing to which feeds. Much more data can be gleaned from that- for starters, the service is ranking most prolific subscribers, most subscribed feeds, and so on. In the future, I’d love to see a powerful recommending engine based on a variety of metrics. I don’t imagine it would be too hard for them to implement, and I’m sure Dave and whoever else may be working on this have already thought of many great ideas.

Interesting side note: as far as I can tell, the user account system and pages are all being powered by WordPress. If that’s the case it’s a big win in the fight for WordPress to position itself as a more fully-featured content management application.

As important as I think attention is (as I predicted in January), I’m not quite ready to jump into the already growing community at Share Your OPML. For starters, I think it’s a complete no-go to have to manually upload my data file. That’s fine for the first time- but it’s not fair to expect me as a user to continue to manually upload files, especially as often as my RSS reading list changes. Part of this problem is with existing reader services such as Bloglines, which don’t provide easy, secure access to user OPML files.

Another big issue I see with Share Your OPML at this early stage is filtering. The site allows me to upload a file, but I’m not given the option of marking particular feeds private or public. Ideally, there’d be some kind of standardized “public/private” tag that could be read by all RSS and OPML readers, but until that happens, I simply don’t have the time to manually filter an XML file to remove the feeds I don’t want to make public.

Because it aims to inject transparency (and community) into the attention-less world of RSS, the success of Share Your OPML will depend heavily on something very simple: how many users actually use it. Unless they can make it more usable for a wider audience, I’m afraid its most tremendous values may not emerge.

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