So, Robert Scoble recently posted on why he is such an extremist (my own words) when it comes to being pro-RSS.  He claims that it builds relationships.  Brian Tinkler commented on his blog that, while RSS is a great and important technology, it could never replace the human element when it comes to relationships.  In Scoble’s follow-up post he says that he is “getting beaten up” by Brian’s comments.

Here is what I posted as a comment on Scoble’s blog:

I don’t think Brian Tinkler was discrediting the use and importance of blogs or RSS. He was just stating a truth that technology can never replace the human factor when it comes to building relationships. I subscribe to [Scoble’s blog] via RSS, but have no relationship with Scoble, and I doubt that my subscription would ever cause him to do any type of business with me.

However, if I got to know him, and had conversations with him — then I would be building a relationship. I used to work at a newspaper, and I had no more relationship with the authors of the articles that I read than I do with Scoble, or any other blogger, or any other company with an RSS feed.

Reading the articles, blogs or RSS items may help me learn more about the provider (author, company, etc.), but doesn’t go very far in creating a relationship.

On the other hand, if I already had a relationship with Scoble, then me subscribing to him and him subscribing to me very well could help strengthen our relationship.

But until we create artifical intelligence, technology will never “create” relationships — merely transfer information and possibly discover possible relationships.

[Edited and styled for use in this post.]

Like Brian, I, too, am a fan of Scoble overall, and I still plan to read him everyday because I see a lot of things there that I might otherwise miss. However, in my own opinion, Scoble is using the phrase “building relationships” in place of “gathering information”.  I can read internal blogs, personal blogs, press releases, newsletters, newspapers, journals, magazines or any other written information 24 hours a day, but have absolutely no relationship with the provider.

A relationship is a two-way connection or association.  I have a relationship with my wife, Kelly.  I have a relationship with my boss.  I have a relationship with my bank.  I have a relationship with my mortgage company.

I don’t have a relationship with Scoble, or any other supplier of some RSS that I comsume.  Likewise, just because you are reading my blog, doesn’t imply that you have a relationship with me.

Maybe it’s just semantics, but as ardent as Scoble has been on the topic lately, I’m tending to think that he is under the impression that he is actually building relationships by consuming RSS.  I have no doubt of the importance of RSS, and that it can play a critical role in supplying information in a timely, standardized manner, but let’s not lose scope of things.  It’s just XML — angle brackets, letters, numbers and a few equals signs and quotation marks. I’m a software developer and have written a number of CRM systems, and even those, with the word “Relationship” (Customer/Contact Relationship Management) in their name, don’t really build relationships — they are just a tool to track them.

The relationship comes from communication.  Anyone agree or disagree?  Leave a comment or e-mail me and let’s begin building our own relationships.


(P.S.  Just to be clear, I personally know Brian Tinkler through my involvement in the WI .NET Users Group.)