Today’s 4-minute screencast, which explores Vista’s common feed system, serves multiple purposes. First, I wanted to familiarize myself with this stuff, and do so in a way that would elicit responses that help me understand how other folks are reacting to it. I am intensely interested in the reasons why people do or don’t take to the notion of reading RSS feeds. Mostly, as we know, they haven’t.

The assumption is that surfacing the concepts more prominently in the OS will help, and I think that’s true, but there’s a lot going on here. For example, even just explaining to people how feeds are like-but-unlike email is a huge challenge. When you start from the perspective of reading feeds versus reading email, it’s hard to see the difference. One key distinction — that feeds are by-invitation-only and can be easily and effectively shut down, versus email which is uninvited and can be very hard to deflect — is fairly abstract and hasn’t sunk in yet for most people.

When you start from the perspective of writing feeds versus writing email, the differences, and the benefits that flow from those differences, are even more compelling — at least to me. But the reasons why are even more abstract: manufactured serendipity, maximization of scope, awareness networking. How might Vista, or any desktop operating system, help surface these concepts?

I also made this screencast to find out what it’s like to make screencasts of Vista. I haven’t yet installed Camtasia on my newly-acquired Vaio laptop, because I want to repave that machine with a final version of Vista that I don’t have yet. But no worries, there’s always good old Windows Media Encoder. I’ve always said it’s an underappreciated jewel, and evidently that’s still true as it is not inclulded in Vista.

After capturing with Windows Media Encoder I transferred the file to my XP box for editing in Camtasia. As always, the process reminded me of Pascal’s famous quote: “If I had time, I would write a shorter letter.” Boiling a screencast down to its essence is really hard. One of the biggest challenges is meshing the video footage with the audio narration. I want to produce a series of screencasts that illustrate this process, but I’m not sure how best to separate out the kinds of general principles I outlined here from details of specific applications and delivery formats.

A couple of final points about the RSS features shown in the screencast. It shows how to acquire feeds one at a time into the common pool using IE, and how to acquire batches of feeds into Outlook by importing an OPML file, but there’s no obvious way to load a batch from OPML into the common pool. I know I could write that app, but is there one lying around somewhere that I’ve missed? Also, how do you batch-delete feeds from Outlook once you’ve acquired them via OPML?