|Do you plan on providing an RSS feed for each thread on the new SI?|
I am a recent convert.
RSS = "rich site summary" or "really simple syndication", depending on who you talk to. Look at any news site or blog and you will see those little RSS or XML icons.
RSS works particularly well on sites that have a "news" or "article" format, as well as online discussion sites and blogs.
RSS allows users to see a summary of new items on multiple web sites, consolidated into a single screen. The user's feed reader periodically polls the web sites to get updates. You see a headline and summary for each item. If you click on the headline, you then go to the website, which, depending on the RSS reader, can be displayed either in the reader itself or in a external browser. (I perfer external browser).
I have replaced my daily routine of visiting various tech and hard news sites (news.com, slashdot.com, tomshardware.com, uniontribine.com, nyt.com, etc.) with a quick glance at the headlines in my RSS reader, choosing to see "unread" articles. I then read what I am interested in, and mark everything as "read".
There are other ways of managing article presentation. You can choose to see "today's articles", "last 24 hours", etc. Some browsers support "tagging", if you prefer to scan first and then read. (Scan headlines, mark the ones you are interested in, then show tagged articles. Handy if you don't want to take the time to read the articles right now, but want to do so eventually.)
One implementation note - a few sites don't seem to grasp the concept of an original date and an update date, and making them both meaningful. (Most readers will show an updated article with some kind of highlighting - for example, italics.) For example, the San Diego Union Tribine apparently refreshes it's RSS pages on a periodic basis, and always stamps them with the current time. This makes the "show unread" feature completely useless for their feeds.
I'm using FeedDemon. Not perfect - I especially don't like the lack of a multi-level feed heirarachy (then author seems to have a mental block about this, and I suspect he will eventually come around :) ) but I like the look and feel better than the other RSS feed readers I have tried.
This is not very difficult to do. You need to provide a single web page, in a specific XML format for each message board. This contains the headings, summaries, and date/time stamps for each post in the message board. (Usually, sites limit this to the most recent "n" items, say, 200 at most.) You also need to provide some mechanism for the user to capture the URL for this page. This might be done with a "RSS" icon on each board's entry page, or might be done from a more central location (e.g. the "Message Boards" page.
That is all you have to do. The feed readers of users who have "subscribed" will periodically poll the RSS pages associated with their subscriptions. (You can set a minimum interval.) While you may have some concern about additional hits, I think that RSS generally will REDUCE web server load, because it eliminates unnecessary entries to the main page, which tends to be top-heavy with images. If used heavily, you may need to re-think ad placement, as these users will be bypassing the home page most of the time.