In 2007 I had an idea to build an aggregator for nursing blogs. At the time I was using an RSS reader to subscribe to blogs, but I felt like there was a better way to keep up with the content. I started trying to build it with a php based RSS tool called Simple Pie. At the same time Guy Kawasaki was putting together Alltop and someone suggested I contact him about creating a nurse category. I really wanted to make the thing myself but I was a new mom, with very little time on my hands, and a keen recognition of my technical limitations. I decided that if Guy Kawasaki was building something, he obviously could do the job better than I could. So I contacted him, gave him my collection of nurse feeds, and nursing.alltop.com was born. It was a good idea but I set it free.
A funny thing happened after that. I found that PixelRN got very little traffic from alltop. And as much as I thought the concept of alltop was great, I never found myself visiting it. I used Alltop here and there, but for some reason I just never found it a satisfying experience.
The idea of the stream (like twitter or facebook timeline) replacing the RSS reader was starting to emerge. I was skeptical. My twitter stream was still full of people tweeting about their lunch (which, silly me, I actually kind of enjoyed). But more and more I started following people for their links, rather than for their random thoughts. I was visiting my Google reader less and less, and getting dismayed by opening it up and seeing things like “you have 98 bazillion unread items.”
RIP Google Reader
Then google reader was scheduled for demo. This both frightened (will RSS survive?) and excited me. Now is the time to build something really cool and useful for RSS – use it or lose it, right? I started paying a lot more attention to Dave Winer (who invented RSS). He was tweeting about this thing called a river of news and I had this aha moment – Yes! That is what I wanted my original nurse blog aggregator to be like! And if alltop was structured more like that (rivers instead of grouped blogs) I might have used it more.
So I went back to work on my idea. Keep in mind, I am not a programmer. When I talk about building things, it means I am stringing something together with HTML, CSS, and snippets of php that someone else has already written. I break things often. I hunt and peck. But still I managed to put my river together, and here it is. I hope you find it useful.