Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Thoughts on RSS Feeds

I spent a lot of energy to make Emergent Chaos look nice. And how do you all repay me? You read the RSS feeds. Most of my readership (85% or so) are reading via RSS.
Which is nice. It says that there’s a core of folks who are interested in what I have to say, and keep coming back.

But you don’t seem to care about how the site looks. Which almost brings me to my point.

Before I get there, let me say I actually like reading blogs in a web browser, seeing the post roughly the way the author wants it. Getting the visual clues as to who I’m reading. Associating their words with their other words. But there are simply too many feeds I want to read to read them that way. So I use NetNewsWire to read them. Well, most of them. Most of the time.

I’m flying a lot this week. (4 flights in 6 days, maybe 6 in 8.) As I do, I read my RSS feeds on the airplane. (Here, we, or at least I, arrive at my actual point. Who knows if you’re still with me?) And so those folks whose feeds are “excerpt only” are losing my attention. Because I have to mark your post as unread, and come back to it later. If you’re brilliant, then it may be worth doing. But it adds a lot of effort for me.

Why publish an excerpt-only feed? What’s your upside?

12 comments on "Thoughts on RSS Feeds"

  • Justin Mason says:

    Hi Adam —
    I think the major upside is that it saves bandwidth, in that the RSS file is smaller; also, historical accident.
    when RSS 0.9 was created by Netscape, iirc it had no excerpts or bodies, just the headlines and links. excerpts were added later, and presumably it seemed wasteful to include the entire body text in that.
    I totally agree it now doesn’t work with how RSS readers work, and are used.

  • SteveC says:

    Excerpts were (or still are) the default setting on Movable Type, which led to a lot of them.

  • Well, I read your blog in LiveJournal, and click in when I want to leave a comment. I wish I could comment there, though.

  • Adam says:

    Sorry about that. LJ doesn’t provide a good API which I can use to take comments out and make them available here. Maybe that will change as 6A advances the merger. As an interaction tool, LJ is far more advanced than blogs.

  • Ed says:

    Yeah, I had meant to ask you how you were getting the site to look so pretty. I can’t seem to even get whitespace to show up in NetNewsWire – let alone links. 🙁 I suppose a afew afternoons’ reading of the MT wiki would get me at least part of the way there, but my first such afternoon had a zero yield.

  • Nudecybot says:

    I suspect it has to do with driving web traffic up which allows a lot of people to benefit from hosting Google adwords (or other some such) and use a web log analysis tool to understand their visitors/readership.
    Personally I dislike excerpts – I read everything I can in the Opera newsreader views. And I also don’t like advertising on personal blogs but I think I’m ok with unobtrusive advertising on corporate blogs.

  • dbs says:

    For the record, I -do- read your site in a web browser. Via Sage and RSS though. The only reason to use excerpt-only postings is to drive traffic to your site to up ad revenue, or to help with tracking issues. Neither of those are things you’re interested in pursuing, I believe.
    The flipside is, the site -should- look good (and yours does), and due to how MT works things, you still need to view the site to add or read comments. So tehre’s something to be said about making the site look nice as well.

  • Iang says:

    I have a similar blog and spend a lot of time writing articles. I face the reverse problem in that I feel terribly guilty getting into blogging tech because it is time spent away from “real code”. Consequently, I know things aren’t working but I have no idea what it is that isn’t working and even less idea how to fix it.
    I just had a look, and yes, there is this option in my MT blog that says that excerpts are set at 40 words. So I set it to 9999 words and we’ll see what happens. But I’m more or less in the dark as I don’t know where and how these excerpts are seen, I read blogs either by following links or in thunderbird (never really got any other RSS reader to work).
    I really only find problems out when someone directly points them out…

  • Adam says:

    Ed, The site looks like it does because of CSS. I started from a style called “Tiny green,” and hacked it up extensively. Read I like the tutorials.

  • Adam says:

    You should look at the templates, and replace $MTEntryExcerpt with $MTEntryBody to make it offer up the whole of the entry.

  • Adam says:

    Ian, Dave,
    Thanks for the reminder that there are browsers that use rss. Does Opera or Mozilla take my css, or use its own?

  • Chris says:

    I use Thunderbird as my RSS reader – it uses your css.

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