thing 8: RSS

The first part of the assignment is to set up a feed reader. I’ve used a variety of feed readers, from desktop readers to online readers, and by far I prefer the online readers. The mobility alone makes them a winner, since I read feeds using several different computers. Here’s my current OPML file, which has been slightly edited and reorganized for public consumption (i.e. you don’t need to know about my ego feeds).

Over the years, have had to cull my feeds periodically. There are several news sites or blogs that I would love to be able to keep up with, but I don’t have the time to process the volume of content they generate on a daily basis. Currently, I have about 231 subscriptions, several of which are for dead feeds that I haven’t cleaned out yet.

I am perpetually behind on reading all of my subscriptions. There are a few that I hit regularly, but the rest are saved for times when I need to take my mind off of whatever problem I am working on at the moment. With this many feeds, RSS is a time shifting or bookmarking tool, and I’m okay with that. Twitter has become my source for the latest OMG news.

blogs are old skool?

I read a post in The Chronicle of Higher Education blog that declared that the end of blogs is near. Perhaps, but I think we have a few more months at least.

One of the tools that the writer points to is Shyftr, which looks like it could be as cool an RSS reader as Google Reader, and as handy a comment aggregator as coComment, but all in one place. Unfortunately, they don’t (yet) have a way to import an OPML file, so I’ll be leaving my nearly 250 feeds in Google Reader for now.

Eric Berlin, the Online Media Cultist, has some interesting things to say about Shyftr and its ilk.

CiL 2008: What’s Hot in RSS & Social Software

Speaker: Steven M. “I’m just sayin'” Cohen

[More links to cool stuff that I did not included can be found at the presentation wiki linked above.]

Google Reader is now more popular than Bloglines, which Cohen thinks has to do with the amount of money that Google can sink into it. Both have tools that tell you how many people are subscribed/reading it, which can be helpful in convincing administrators to support the use of RSS feeds from various sources. Offline feed readers don’t make much sense, since so often the things you are reading will direct you to other sources online.

If you’re not using Google Reader, do it now.

No, really. Steven says to do it.

Google + Feedburner = advertisements on your feeds, which means that they are now revenue generating, like the ads on your website. RSS is no longer sucking away your revenue source, so get over it and add feeds for your content! Plus, anyone using Page2RSS can scrape your content and turn it into a feed, so really, you should give them something that benefits you, too.

LibWorm is a site that indexes library-related blogs and news sources, and it provides RSS feeds, so use it for keeping current if you’re not already doing so.

Follow what is been twittered on your topic of choice using TweetScan. Follow all of your friends’ online activities at FriendFeed (notification once a day, which seems possibly even reasonably infrequent enough that I might actually use it).

Go check out his top ten eleven twelve favorite tools. They’re all really cool and worth playing with.

everything is fine, except for the feed

FeedBurner is taking a loooooooooong time to update the DNS information, which means they keep looking at my old site, and are blind to this one. Sorry for the trouble — hopefully it will be resolved soon.

Edited: Aaaaand… we’re back!

subscribe via email

I’ve reinstated the option to subscribe to updates via email. It wasn’t used much in the past, so I quit bothering with it and took it off of menu. Now I’m making use of a service called RMail that takes the automatically generated RSS feed and turns it into an email message sent to subscribers. … Continue reading “subscribe via email”

I’ve reinstated the option to subscribe to updates via email. It wasn’t used much in the past, so I quit bothering with it and took it off of menu. Now I’m making use of a service called RMail that takes the automatically generated RSS feed and turns it into an email message sent to subscribers. You can sign up using the text box in the left column on the main page of this blog (scroll down a bit). It doesn’t like FeedBurner, so I had to create a new feed just for this.

update:
Well, that was odd. Yesterday I got a weird database error when I tried the form using my FeedBurner feed, but today after reading the comment below, I tried it again and it worked fine. Just so you know, you won’t get a confirmation page from RMail, it just sends you back to the page you signed up on. However, you will need to confirm the subscription via email.

rss agregator

I have been using Feed on Feeds as my RSS agregator for the past month, but I have decided to go back to using Bloglines. I liked the clean lines of Feed on Feeds, as well as the ability to host my feeds on my own website. However, it uses Magpie RSS to parse the … Continue reading “rss agregator”

I have been using Feed on Feeds as my RSS agregator for the past month, but I have decided to go back to using Bloglines. I liked the clean lines of Feed on Feeds, as well as the ability to host my feeds on my own website. However, it uses Magpie RSS to parse the feeds, and it can be quite persnickety if the feed does not completely validate. This limited me in the feeds I could track, as well as causing headaches every time I tried to update the feeds. Also, I couldn’t get the silent update feature to work. I tweaked my crontab file until I was blue in the face, but nothing worked. Overall, Bloglines requires less maintenance or headaches on my part. Feed on Feeds has great potential, but for now, I will give it some time to mature.

redirects

I set up my feed on FeedBurner to pick up the index.xml file, and then I stupidly created an .htaccess redirect for that file that sent agents to the FeedBurner feed. Thus, the FeedBurner feed was stuck in a loop and wasn’t being updated. I fixed that just now by creating a copy of the … Continue reading “redirects”

I set up my feed on FeedBurner to pick up the index.xml file, and then I stupidly created an .htaccess redirect for that file that sent agents to the FeedBurner feed. Thus, the FeedBurner feed was stuck in a loop and wasn’t being updated. I fixed that just now by creating a copy of the index.xml feed and directing FeedBurner to pick that up instead. Those of you reading this blog via RSS will suddenly have several new posts.

D’oh.

feedburner

One of the problems of offering RSS feeds instead of making people come to one’s website to read stuff is that one does not have any good way to measure the number of eyes one is reaching. Thus, I was pleased to learn about a beta service called FeedBurner that will keep stats for you, … Continue reading “feedburner”

One of the problems of offering RSS feeds instead of making people come to one’s website to read stuff is that one does not have any good way to measure the number of eyes one is reaching. Thus, I was pleased to learn about a beta service called FeedBurner that will keep stats for you, and even throw in some Amazon links and ads for revenue purposes, if you like. I prefer the vanilla for this site, as it is only a labor of love. I am now serving my feeds through FeedBurner and as soon as my host fixes some intermittent FTP issues, I’ll be redirecting my current feeds through FeedBurner. However, you can get ahead of the game by subscribing now. [thanks wil]

overloading the ‘net

Will RSS feeds overload the ‘net?

Wired News has a short article about RSS feed readers and the potential they have for increasing web traffic. I knew about this article because it was listed in the RSS feed that I get from Wired. Go figure. Anyway, the author and others are concerned that because aggregators are becoming more and more popular among those who like to read regularly published electronic content, eventually a large chunk of web traffic will consists of desktop aggregators regularly downloading that data throughout the day.

The trouble is, aggregators are greedy. They constantly check websites that use RSS, always searching for new content. Whereas a human reader may scan headlines on The New York Times website once a day, aggregators check the site hourly or even more frequently.

If all RSS fans used a central server to gather their feeds (such as Bloglines or Shrook), then there wouldn’t be as much traffic, because these services check feeds once per hour at most, regardless of the number of subscribers. So, if you have 100 people subscribed to your feed, rather than getting 100 hits every hour (or some other frequency), you would only get one. The article notes two difficulties with this scenario. First, a lot of RSS fans prefer their desktop aggregators to a web-based aggregator such as Bloglines. Second, the Shrook aggregator is not free, and probably that will be the model that its competitors will take.

I don’t completely agree with the premise that having a central server distributing content to feed subscribers will reduce the flow of traffic on the ‘net anymore than it currently is. Whether my aggregator checks my feeds once an hour or whether Bloglines does it for me, I still use up bandwidth when I log in and read the content on the Bloglines site. For some feeds, if I want to read the whole entry or article, I still have to click to the site. Frankly, I think the problem has more to do with aggregators that “are not complying with specifications that reduce how often large files are requested.”

Readers are supposed to check if the RSS file has been updated since the last visit. If there has been no update, the website returns a very small “no” message to the reader.

But Murphy says the programs often don’t remember when they last checked, or use the local computer’s clock instead of the website’s clock, causing the reader to download entries over and over.

Perhaps the best thing for us to do is to educate ourselves about which RSS aggregator we use and how it may affect the bandwidth of the feeds we download through it.

rss feed

I have some good news for those of you who read this blog through an RSS subscription feed reader like SharpReader – I finally figured out how to fix my template so that the full content of each entry shows up in the reader! The button on the left for RSS 1.0 will now give … Continue reading “rss feed”

I have some good news for those of you who read this blog through an RSS subscription feed reader like SharpReader – I finally figured out how to fix my template so that the full content of each entry shows up in the reader! The button on the left for RSS 1.0 will now give you a full-content feed. For those who still want headers only, RSS 0.91 is there for you.