Still, it's better than standing on the ground I suppose.
I am not the Supergeek who won’t answer the phone. In fact, I’m not really a supergeek at all. I just want to point that out in case anyone should read Brian’s two pieces (here and here) about his return to blogging and put two and two together. And get to five.
However, I have been doing a bit of work for him here and there - mainly in the way of changing a font here and sorting out a template there.
In doing so I have been trying to get to the bottom of a problem that’s been really bugging a few of us - namely, that when you subscribe to Brian Micklethwait on Bloglines, posts frequently get lost. Indeed, recently, I haven’t been getting any Brian posts at all.
I had assumed that the problem was at the Brian Micklethwait end but after numerous tests I came to the conclusion it wasn’t. It is, in fact a Bloglines problem. It would also appear that it is not unique - although still rare. Even so, I know of no other blog so afflicted. Bearing in mind that Bloglines is currently in the throes of moving over to its all-singing, all-dancing new version, I get the impression that it’s not a problem that’s going to be solved anytime soon.
Anyway, there is a workaround. I’ve set Brian up with a Feedburner account which creates a feed that does (at least for the time being) seem to work on Bloglines.
So, if you’re a Brian and a Bloglines fan I suggest you subscribe to that.
First it was Guido, then Alice, and then Samizdata and Dumb Jon. Don’t know what I am talking about? Well, I’ll tell you. In the space of one miraculous month they have all adopted full text feeds. This means that those of us who use aggregators to read our blogs are relieved of the hassle of having to work out on the basis of the 40 or so words we are offered by inferior feeds, whether it’s worth clicking the link and waiting, waiting, waiting or not.
This sort of thing deserves to be encouraged. So, if either you or a blog you know has chosen the path of RSS righteousness, please let us know.
Recently, my thoughts have been turning towards podcasting. But, if I am going to do it I’d like to be able to set up the feeds correctly so that an aggregator knows what to do with it. In the case of the Bloglines aggregator, if it recognises a podcast as a podcast, it can do a couple of funky things one of which is to stream the podcast - useful for the listener if the podcast goes into tens of megabytes, which so many do.
Anyway, after a number of experiments and a sharp learning curve, I think I’ve figured out a way of doing it as well as integrating the podcast feed with the regular blog feed. So, if you’re reading this via RSS you should at least get an enclosure, if you’re reading this via Bloglines you should get a play button below and if you’re reading this all regular like a link should appear below.
We shall see…
The podcast in question is me talking to Brian about Emmanuel Todd. Which is worth republishing in and of itself.
Update Well, it works in RSS 2.0 but not Atom. Not a complete disaster given that not a lot of people subscribe to Atom but still, not good.
Blithering Bunny has been on hiatus for ages but that’s just fine because he’s still right up there near the top of my Bloglines feed list. And so, when he does decide to show up for duty once again I am amongst the first to know about it. Which is good. It would be even better, mind, if he had a full text feed but, I guess you can’t have it all.
This is really worth a category all of its own. Jackie once again raises the issue linking to this guy who makes most of the points I made but better. I particularly liked the quote from Robert Scoble:
‘[...] If you don’t have an RSS feed, your site is lame because you’ve told the connectors (er, superusers, er influentials) that they don’t matter. When I see a site that doesn’t have an RSS feed I see a site that says “Mr. Scoble you aren’t welcome here and we don’t ever want you to come back again.“‘
Update. And now it does have a category of its own.
Tim Worstall has his own reasons (see comments) for not publishing full posts to his RSS feed:
I know none of us britbloggers are anywhere close to making money out of this yet but the time will come when some are and it will be advertising driven. Got to get people to come to the actual site.
I suppose it depends on why you blog. I blog to get my ideas across and to be read. But if were paid to do it then I would be able to blog more and, therefore, get more ideas across and be read more. So, I could be in a bind here if it weren’t for my naive belief that if you make it as easy as possible for people to read you then the money (if there is any) will follow.
That is why I am such a big advocate of RSS feeds - they make it easier to be read. And that is why I believe they will be the future. Indeed, I think the day is not far off when RSS feeds supplant blogs altogether.
Strangely enough, only yesterday, Pejman Yousefzadah, writing for Tech Central Station was suggesting that not long from now bloggers will get paid for their RSS feeds as aggregators share the proceeds of advertising.
Respoding to my post of a couple of days ago Alan Little suggests that it isn’t always such a good idea to include the full text of a posting especially if that posting also includes lots of images. Which is a fair point but if the consideration should apply to the RSS feed then it should also apply to the original blog posting. In other words, the content of the RSS feed should be exactly the same as the front page blog posting. If part of that posting is placed in a “Read More” section (something I am usually against) then the same should apply to the RSS feed.
Incidentally, I understand that Brian Micklethwait’s archives will be up and running Real Soon Now.
This is a request to all of you out there with RSS feeds. Please ensure that they contain the full text of each posting. Why’s that? Because, if, like me, you read blogs via aggregators such as Bloglines which in turn rely on RSS feeds then there are few things more frustrating than only being able to read the title and a couple of sentences of the entry. Even if the entry looks good (and frankly, few do at that stage) there is a period of hesitancy while the reader weighs up the pros and cons: “...well, it looks good but then again I have to click and it opens up a new window and then I have to wait and then there’s the slightly disconcerting change of font, colour and background and after all that the entire article might only last five more words.” It’s the sort of debate that often ends with: “Nah, can’t be bothered.”
Anyway, I guess there are some bloggers reading this who while pretty much accepting the argument are unsure of how to make this happen or even if this is a problem for them. If you are one of them then to you I’ll make this rash promise: if you are prepared to give me a log-in with administrator privileges then (if I can) I will make the necessary adjustments, assuming they have to be made. Can’t say fairer than that now, can you?
Interesting comment from Phelps - he prefers extracts - and there I was thinking I was doing readers a favour. Golly, hadn’t expected that (expect the unexpected, Ed).
So, that means I now have to produce two feeds. Easier said than done - Expression Engine doesn’t do word-limited extracts - they have to be done manually. Talk about being hoist by your own petard.
What we really need is aggregators that do the extracting for you though that would only work for web-based aggregators. Maybe those clever people at Bloglines will come up with something.
Mind you, it does illustrate a general rule that (in a different context) I’ve remarked upon before: the web experience is very diverse. Surfers use different operating systems, different resolutions, different browsers, different connection speeds and different chips. In the context of RSS feeds, different aggregators.
I’ve just added another link from the sidebar (entitled What’s this?) to my piece explaining feeds. For a long time I found those buttons rather baffling and wanted an explanation. And I guess if I did so do a lot of other people.
As you can see from the sidebar we now have some feeds. "But what do they do?" I hear you ask. Well, what I do with them is to add them to my Bloglines account. Then, every time I go into my Bloglines account it will tell me which blogs have new stuff and give me a summary of that new stuff. Much easier than logging onto each of your favourite blogs on the off chance.
Why so many? What do they do? To tell you the truth I have no idea and the one time I did try to find out I got very confused indeed. Apparently RSS 1.0 and RSS 2.0 have nothing to do with one another (or was it RSS 0.98 and RSS 1.1?). The only practical difference I can find is that with RSS 2.0 and Atom you get links. In RSS 1.0 any link in the text disappears. Oh, and by the way, right now RSS 1.0 isn’t working. Wonder why I bothered putting it up.
If you click the button it’ll (almost) automatically subscribe you to this blog with an RSS 2.0 feed, just so long as you have an account with them.