Other people’s RSS feeds…

06/06/2003

A few things that drive me insane about some other people’s RSS feeds which make the experience of reading their posts via a newsreader like NetNewsWire less simple, pleasant and consistent:

  1. Excerpt-only RSS-feeds…
    Now before I start, yes I know that RSS feeds were originally designed to simply place site headlines on other people’s sites. I think we can also hold as axiomatic that there are probably problems with the large-scale delivery of RSS feeds. And yes – I do appreciate that there are problems in tracking the number of meaningful times a page has been viewed via an RSS reader and that there are consequences in ripping blocks of writing unceremoniously from their individual design contexts. Even know all of this, I think I can say with reasonable authority that providing full entries in your RSS feed has become a de facto standard (and those places that haven’t done that unilaterally are increasingly supplying multiple feeds). Providing full feeds makes it possible for people to easily sync your most recent content to their computer (if they’re using a desktop app) and read it in completely different places – like on the train or in the bus). More importantly, for those of us who read most of our regular sites through a newsreader, it’s just profoundly annoying.
  2. Not linking to comments (if enabled)…
    Not everyone can have comments on their sites. Not everyone wants comments on their sites. If they can and do want comments on their sites, they might not want them on every entry. Help us out! If there are going to be comments on your entry, then find a way to show us through your RSS feed. The code I use to include a link to the comments in my 0.91 RSS feed (for example) is: <description><$MTEntryBody encode_xml=”1″$> <MTEntryIfAllowComments><![CDATA[<p><a href=”<$MTEntryPermalink encode_xml=”1″$>#comments”>Read the comments</a></p>]]> </MTEntryIfAllowComments></description>
  3. Citing the number of comments after each entry…
    This may seem counter-intuitive, but think about it. Every time your entry changes, my newsreader picks up those changes and marks ‘read’ entries as ‘unread’. This is really useful if there’s been an update to that entry, but less useful if it’s going to happen every single time someone posts a new comment. Particularly if you subscribe to a number of different sites (or you’re tracking something like Jason’s Matrix Reloaded thread
  4. Only putting in two or three recent entries…
    I may only get the opportunity to catch up with my subscriptions once a day or maybe even once every couple of days. If you’re only going to show me the most recent two or three entries on your RSS feed, then it’s more than possible that I’d come to my reader to discover that every article on your feed remains unread. But what about the ones that have already dropped off? How will I ever know they exist unless I make a special effort to come to your site to check? And if that’s your hope, then give it up – more likely I’ll just never know that post existed.
  5. Making the link attribute refer to the site you’re talking about rather than the permalink for your entry…
    Again – I don’t care which is right and which is wrong. The de facto standard for the link attribute in your RSS entry should be its permalink on your site (if at all possible), otherwise an internal anchor to the specific post on your site’s front-page. If you take this second option could you please make sure that the front-page of your site has the same number (or more) of entries on it as your RSS feed…

I should point out – there’s an arcane quality to the mechanics behind RSS feeds and RDF that I understand only gesturally. If I’ve said something profoundly stupid, then I apologise straight-away… This post was partially inspired by the release of a new RSS reader: Shrook [via Tesugen].