Every so often one of the IT pundits will make the claim that "we have all the processing power we need" on the desktop already". One of those guys should talk to Ted Leung about the present and future of news aggregators:
If I take out software development activities, the application that is pushing the limits of my hardware is my RSS aggregator. This is not in any way a slam on NetNewsWire, which is very, very, fine application. It's a reflection of the way that my relationship to the web has changed. I hardly use a standalone browser anymore -- mostly for searching or printing. I don't have time to go and visit all the web sites that have information that is useful to me. Fortunately, the aggregator takes care of that. Once the aggregator has the information, I want it to fold, spindle, and mutilate it. I'm at over 1000 feeds, and on an average day, it's not uncommon to have 4000 new items flow through the aggregator. It takes 25 minutes (spread out over two sessions) just to pull the data down and process it -- and I have a very fast connection. NetNewswire uses WebKit to render HTML in line -- a feature that makes it easy to cut through piles of entries, but one which is demanding of CPU and memory.
But that's just the basics. What happens when we start doing Bayesian stuff on 4000 items a day? Latent Semantic Indexing? Clustering? Reinforcement Learning? Oh, and I want to do all of those things on all the stuff that I ever pulled down, not just the new stuff. What happens if I want to build a "real-time" trend analyzer using RSS feed data as the input? The processor vendors should be licking their chops...
Now, I'm not pushing as hard as Scoble and Ted are - I'm sitting at 255 feeds right now (down from 300). Still, my aggregator (BottomFeeder) is using more resources than anything else I run - and with the sorts of capabilities that Ted is talking about, it will push even harder. Hmm.