Really Simple Syndication (RSS) may be really simple for publishers in terms of providing a quick alternate content delivery stream and it may be a relatively simple way to help avoid inbox info-glut, but it isn't always so simple to integrate into an information-gathering routine. For the most part, RSS readers provide only the most basic functionality to do just that: read feeds. However, a few RSS readers out there are trying to do more—like help info-seekers find appropriate feeds, manage the incoming information for future use, and access it in different ways that suit a variety of needs.
Pluck is one such feisty RSS reader, and with version 2.0 the company believes it has taken its basic tenets—to improve how people consume, control, and create information on the Web through a browser-based application—and extended the product's capabilities to help information reach readers wherever they are in a more usable (and useful) way.
As Pluck's CEO Dave Panos says, "It's always about helping people streamline the information-gathering process. This version really focuses on that." The company takes an approach to RSS that's not about just reading, but also about finding. With version 2.0, Pluck integrates its feed-finder directly into the reader, which means the user doesn't need to leave the comfort of the reader to find content of interest. In addition, Pluck has added several other content discovery mechanisms including editorial picks, which are culled from the most popular feeds, a taxonomy, and reader favorites, as well as native search capabilities.
According to Panos, finding and subscribing have been among the largest user stumbling blocks for RSS adoption. "There hasn't been a single easy way to subscribe to feeds," he says. "We had drag-and-drop subscriptions in the previous version, but now we've added a preview function, which let's you see what a feed will look like before you subscribe." Thus, instead of being confronted with unappealing XML strings, users can get a real look at a feed before committing, then just drag and drop the increasingly familiar orange icon to subscribe.
Most RSS readers offer installed software that sit on a desktop or aggregate content into Outlook, though some also provide a Web portal view option. While it does use downloadable readers, Pluck has focused on a synchronized portal-view model, with an emphasis on bringing all of the user's saved content, folders, views, and bookmarks along with their feeds, to wherever they might happen to be working. Panos says, "You want your Web world to follow you wherever you go." With this version, he says that "if you go home and use a Mac, you can log in through the Web edition, which allows you to synchronize your home collection to what you built on your PC at the office."
In order to strengthen both its Mac user base and its follow-the-user philosophy, Pluck 2.0 now supports the Firefox browser, particularly leveraging the Firefox Live Bookmark feature. This way, according to Panos, with Firefox, "when you are on a Web page that has a feed associated with it, you'll see an orange button. With Pluck installed, you can click the button, and a dialog pops up that lets you decide where you want to store it in Pluck, and you are subscribed."
With 2.0, Pluck readers will continue to be free for download. Panos says, "We are trying to offer features that business audiences will appreciate, but our goal is to get to the masses, so we start by satisfying the needs of early adopters." He continues, saying, "Our model is about monetizing commerce-related interactions, which we broker. If you find things on eBay or Amazon through Pluck, we get paid—as opposed to selling Pluck as a service." In the near future, Panos expects to be announcing partnerships that will help Pluck reach significant numbers of new customers by embedding the product in mass market sites. "We are viewed as a syndication partner as well as a technology partner," Panos says, and with version 2.0, Pluck hopes to be viewed a whole lot more.