Feedless bloggers frustrate

It’s very interesting watching someone use an RSS Aggregator for the first time. Maryam finally got interested in it after hearing me talk for the past three years about how much more productive it is to read people’s blogs in a news aggregator.

She just frustrated me asking “how come I can’t find a feed on Anita Rowland’s blog?” I answered back “if your feed reader was decent it should just tell you that there’s a feed there.”

But, personally, I hate blogs that don’t have an orange icon to explain they have a feed. Here are the two icons you should have on your page if you have a feed (choose one — I like the “old-school” XML icon, but that’s just me — the trick is to have at least ONE of these on your page so that visually your readers will know instantly that you have an RSS or Atom feed to subscribe to): 28 by 28 pixel feed icon [XML] 

The BBC goes with an “RSS” orange icon, which is OK with me, since it’s still simple to figure out. I LOVE how they handle the icon (far better than how I do it on my blog). They put a “What is RSS?” link next to the icon. I should do that here.

Anyway, Maryam finally whined enough to get me to pull up Anita’s blog in both IE and Firefox, looking for a freaking feed. NewsGator and Attensa can’t find one. I can’t find one.

Blogs without RSS feeds piss me off. But now I remember why I don’t read Anita anymore even though everytime I’m at her blog I like what she writes about.

Non-English bloggers have another problem: they might have a feed but their feed might break RSS News Aggregators. For instance, this Persian blogger’s feed breaks Apple’s Safari, which is how Maryam is trying to subscribe to various feeds.

If you don’t make your RSS feed easy to find and use, you’re losing readers.

Oh, and please do subscribe to my feed.

Comments

  1. A further comment — the link/button to subscribe should is so important in my opinion, it should be at the top of the page or at least above the fold, visible prominent, accessible as soon as you hit the page — not part way down hidden in some other random stuff that you have to scroll to find it.

  2. A further comment — the link/button to subscribe should is so important in my opinion, it should be at the top of the page or at least above the fold, visible prominent, accessible as soon as you hit the page — not part way down hidden in some other random stuff that you have to scroll to find it.

  3. I don’t think that blog even has an RSS feed set up… I searched the source code for “RSS” (to see if I could find the link) and found nothing.

    RSS is pretty much the most amazing recent (well, relatively recent) web development. RSS is what powers blogs, podcasts, video podcasts, and all sorts of other “Web 2.0ish” developments.

    RSS-tastic!

  4. I don’t think that blog even has an RSS feed set up… I searched the source code for “RSS” (to see if I could find the link) and found nothing.

    RSS is pretty much the most amazing recent (well, relatively recent) web development. RSS is what powers blogs, podcasts, video podcasts, and all sorts of other “Web 2.0ish” developments.

    RSS-tastic!

  5. I believe that the underlying blog app, Greymatter, does not offer RSS.

    My sister’s blog is Greymatter and she doesn’t have RSS either…and it is such a painintheass to open a browser to her blog to see if she has had anything good to say recently.

  6. I believe that the underlying blog app, Greymatter, does not offer RSS.

    My sister’s blog is Greymatter and she doesn’t have RSS either…and it is such a painintheass to open a browser to her blog to see if she has had anything good to say recently.

  7. Blogger blogs are really bad about this. About a quarter of the ones I go to don’t have their feeds turned on. It drives me nuts.

    Sometimes, however, autodiscovery doesn’t work well from your chosen feed reader tool. I and others are running into problems with adding feeds to Google Reader that are hosted on FeedBurner. Several users have complained that GR grabs one of my OTHER FeedBurner feeds, and not the one I supplied. I’ve noticed this happen on Weblogs, Inc. blogs too, which also use FeedBurner. I attempted to add http://www.thatsfit.com/ this morning, and Reader brought up TVSquad’s blog.

    Argh.

    If feeds are going to work for the masses (and I see them as the future of content consumption), autodiscovery must work SEAMLESSLY.

  8. Blogger blogs are really bad about this. About a quarter of the ones I go to don’t have their feeds turned on. It drives me nuts.

    Sometimes, however, autodiscovery doesn’t work well from your chosen feed reader tool. I and others are running into problems with adding feeds to Google Reader that are hosted on FeedBurner. Several users have complained that GR grabs one of my OTHER FeedBurner feeds, and not the one I supplied. I’ve noticed this happen on Weblogs, Inc. blogs too, which also use FeedBurner. I attempted to add http://www.thatsfit.com/ this morning, and Reader brought up TVSquad’s blog.

    Argh.

    If feeds are going to work for the masses (and I see them as the future of content consumption), autodiscovery must work SEAMLESSLY.

  9. *Robert* – What feed aggregator do you use? Have you tried more than one and do you have a preference?

  10. *Robert* – What feed aggregator do you use? Have you tried more than one and do you have a preference?

  11. Re #8: Hey Anita, I have some ASP.net code (written on a weekend) that generates an RSS feed from a SQL DB of blog entries. If you (or anyone else is interested,) ping me offline at rsscode [at] wuxx [dot] com.

  12. Re #8: Hey Anita, I have some ASP.net code (written on a weekend) that generates an RSS feed from a SQL DB of blog entries. If you (or anyone else is interested,) ping me offline at rsscode [at] wuxx [dot] com.

  13. The Persian RSS feed is unfortunately encoded with UTF-16. Safari would understand if they changed to UTF-8, which is really the universal standard for XML files.

  14. The Persian RSS feed is unfortunately encoded with UTF-16. Safari would understand if they changed to UTF-8, which is really the universal standard for XML files.

  15. Hahah, making the prosecutions case for itself, eh? Talk about a test case example of why RSS will never mainstream…

    And Digg and other link-farms have already taken up that purpose. How so 1996, eh? Ten years later and the web is just more ‘Webcrawler’ link farms. The geeks fiddling and warring away with their fancy syndicational formats, but only them…

    Compare Digg users to RSS users…game over already. But I do so want a Pointcast 2006 style, please, pretty please.

  16. Hahah, making the prosecutions case for itself, eh? Talk about a test case example of why RSS will never mainstream…

    And Digg and other link-farms have already taken up that purpose. How so 1996, eh? Ten years later and the web is just more ‘Webcrawler’ link farms. The geeks fiddling and warring away with their fancy syndicational formats, but only them…

    Compare Digg users to RSS users…game over already. But I do so want a Pointcast 2006 style, please, pretty please.

  17. BBC News – http://news.bbc.co.uk/ – has gone to the standard feed icon and the help text now says ‘Feed’ instead of ‘RSS’.

    Since they’ve adopted it, the BBC’s handling of RSS has been examplary (go click on a feed if you haven’t already). I know the company I work for were inspired *ahem* by their stylesheet when they added RSS support.

  18. BBC News – http://news.bbc.co.uk/ – has gone to the standard feed icon and the help text now says ‘Feed’ instead of ‘RSS’.

    Since they’ve adopted it, the BBC’s handling of RSS has been examplary (go click on a feed if you haven’t already). I know the company I work for were inspired *ahem* by their stylesheet when they added RSS support.

  19. That’s the problem though with the buttons on the screen. There is no standard behavior for what to do when someone clicks on it. Just show them the XML feed? Or take them somewhere else? Or have a “feed://” type of link that is technically not a real standard?

    I just look for Firefox to indicate whether it senses a feed. Regardless, I just hit a Subscribe with Bloglines link on my browser and it finds one if it’s there.

    Brian above suggests a “subscribe” button… but what should that button do? And this is the one problem with RSS… nobody “gets it” until they’ve used it. So ultimately, I am not convinced it really needs to be on my page if every feed reading tool out there is going to detect my feed anyway. If the feed tool needs an exact URL to the feed, you better find a better tool.

  20. That’s the problem though with the buttons on the screen. There is no standard behavior for what to do when someone clicks on it. Just show them the XML feed? Or take them somewhere else? Or have a “feed://” type of link that is technically not a real standard?

    I just look for Firefox to indicate whether it senses a feed. Regardless, I just hit a Subscribe with Bloglines link on my browser and it finds one if it’s there.

    Brian above suggests a “subscribe” button… but what should that button do? And this is the one problem with RSS… nobody “gets it” until they’ve used it. So ultimately, I am not convinced it really needs to be on my page if every feed reading tool out there is going to detect my feed anyway. If the feed tool needs an exact URL to the feed, you better find a better tool.

  21. Another way to detect feeds is the Google Toolbar. I use it to add feeds to bloglines (I recently switched from Sage when I found I was using different computers).

    … and yes, whenever I need to introduce anyone to RSS, I send them to the BBC site. They do such a wonderful job.

  22. Another way to detect feeds is the Google Toolbar. I use it to add feeds to bloglines (I recently switched from Sage when I found I was using different computers).

    … and yes, whenever I need to introduce anyone to RSS, I send them to the BBC site. They do such a wonderful job.

  23. Okay! Add feed! Add icon!

    (Whatever he says, I guess. Now, where’s that feed? … ouch! who left their skateboard in the middle of the f… How about here? No… here? This cupboard? No. The cabinet over the TV? Naw. Ah! I’ll have to make my
    own, because I use a WordPress linear (on-line) (free) blog, and the feed is, oh…… I see, that’s easy….)

    Now, I’ve subscribed to your feed, so you (I guess) should subscribe to mine. (Here:

    http://suppositious.wordpress.com/feed)

    Which reminds me: You know why they call ‘em “seniors”? Because by the time you’re that old, the answer to “Show me yours and I’ll show you mine?” is: “I’ve seen yours.”

    I’m still looking for a better looking icon for the feed. Whatever you want, Robert. Anything. My favorite reader.

    ‘sup!
    suppositio.us
    feed: http://suppositious.wordpress.com/feed

  24. Okay! Add feed! Add icon!

    (Whatever he says, I guess. Now, where’s that feed? … ouch! who left their skateboard in the middle of the f… How about here? No… here? This cupboard? No. The cabinet over the TV? Naw. Ah! I’ll have to make my
    own, because I use a WordPress linear (on-line) (free) blog, and the feed is, oh…… I see, that’s easy….)

    Now, I’ve subscribed to your feed, so you (I guess) should subscribe to mine. (Here:

    http://suppositious.wordpress.com/feed)

    Which reminds me: You know why they call ‘em “seniors”? Because by the time you’re that old, the answer to “Show me yours and I’ll show you mine?” is: “I’ve seen yours.”

    I’m still looking for a better looking icon for the feed. Whatever you want, Robert. Anything. My favorite reader.

    ‘sup!
    suppositio.us
    feed: http://suppositious.wordpress.com/feed

  25. I am annoyed by websites that have RSS feeds but do not put the complete post in the feed. So the feed just has a part of the post and to get the whole post you have to go to the website anyway. Even BBC does not have the complete post in RSS.

  26. I am annoyed by websites that have RSS feeds but do not put the complete post in the feed. So the feed just has a part of the post and to get the whole post you have to go to the website anyway. Even BBC does not have the complete post in RSS.

  27. @ScW: That’s what’s actually so great about the BBC’s implementation. Their feed icon links to the XML feed so an experienced user can just copy the link and paste it into their feed reader.

    However, if you click the icon, you are not scared away by an ugly XML display but you see a nicely designed page — the BBC uses XSLT (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XSLT) to display the feed in a browser-friendly way. Have a look at line #2 of their XML file. Well done, BBC!

    I suppose a similar behavior could be accomplished by the web server (or the blog application, for that matter) analysing the client’s HTTP Accept header and then serving XHTML to web browsers and RSS to feed readers. This approach would only work though if browsers and feed readers did actually send meaningful accept headers which I think is not the case.

    What the BBC does not so well: they do not provide RSS auto discovery (see http://www.kottke.org/02/06/automatic-discovery-of-rss-feeds), which should be the standard way of telling users that your site offers a feed. Firefox uses the autodiscovery links in the HTML header to display the feed icon in the address bar. Doesn’t work on the BBC site. Bloglines is a little cleverer and still finds the feed, perhaps by scanning the HTML for links to XML files (this is the only way to do it that I can think of).

  28. @ScW: That’s what’s actually so great about the BBC’s implementation. Their feed icon links to the XML feed so an experienced user can just copy the link and paste it into their feed reader.

    However, if you click the icon, you are not scared away by an ugly XML display but you see a nicely designed page — the BBC uses XSLT (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XSLT) to display the feed in a browser-friendly way. Have a look at line #2 of their XML file. Well done, BBC!

    I suppose a similar behavior could be accomplished by the web server (or the blog application, for that matter) analysing the client’s HTTP Accept header and then serving XHTML to web browsers and RSS to feed readers. This approach would only work though if browsers and feed readers did actually send meaningful accept headers which I think is not the case.

    What the BBC does not so well: they do not provide RSS auto discovery (see http://www.kottke.org/02/06/automatic-discovery-of-rss-feeds), which should be the standard way of telling users that your site offers a feed. Firefox uses the autodiscovery links in the HTML header to display the feed icon in the address bar. Doesn’t work on the BBC site. Bloglines is a little cleverer and still finds the feed, perhaps by scanning the HTML for links to XML files (this is the only way to do it that I can think of).

  29. Here is a quick story that has been happening to me since I started my blog, and only figured it out a few days ago.

    Problem was that indexing sites such as Technorati were not taking any notice of my blog’s pings to them (the blog is a standard WordPress, nothing fancy). Hard as I looked and tried things, I just could not get it to work. I even got thinking it may have been the .am domain block being in some known spammers list.

    It turns out that the theme I picked for the blog had *no* RSS feed at all. It was simply not implemented, not even in hidden tags on the HTML header. I edited my sidebar to show the icon and feed link, I also added hidden links to the feed in the header, and voila! – instant index in Technorati.

    Lesson learned: check your feeds, and check your templates!

    Sorry if I pissed you off during the time I had no feed up :)

    Regards,

  30. Here is a quick story that has been happening to me since I started my blog, and only figured it out a few days ago.

    Problem was that indexing sites such as Technorati were not taking any notice of my blog’s pings to them (the blog is a standard WordPress, nothing fancy). Hard as I looked and tried things, I just could not get it to work. I even got thinking it may have been the .am domain block being in some known spammers list.

    It turns out that the theme I picked for the blog had *no* RSS feed at all. It was simply not implemented, not even in hidden tags on the HTML header. I edited my sidebar to show the icon and feed link, I also added hidden links to the feed in the header, and voila! – instant index in Technorati.

    Lesson learned: check your feeds, and check your templates!

    Sorry if I pissed you off during the time I had no feed up :)

    Regards,

  31. [...] I created a cool widget, see it at the bottom of my sidebar. It has links to subscribe to my blog, and to explain what “subscribe to my blog” even means. It’s also got a way to get my new posts in your email, automagically! Yay for magic internet stuff!  (This was partially motivated by a reminder of a post from Robert Scoble, whose posts I keep running into lately.) [...]

  32. i downloaded desktop sidebar and your rss feed was already in the newsroom and I added a few of my own feeds and it’s great

    have you ever thought about changing your times new roman font, i hate it – good thing you have an rss feed

  33. i downloaded desktop sidebar and your rss feed was already in the newsroom and I added a few of my own feeds and it’s great

    have you ever thought about changing your times new roman font, i hate it – good thing you have an rss feed

  34. I settled on:
    - the icon
    - “Subscribe to my feed”
    - “Learn about Subscription, Feeds, RSS, Podcasts” link

    I removed all the service specific icons as thought they just create clutter but not sure if that’s the right move?

    If you click on my feed icon/link FeedBurner serves up a web view + explanation of RSS and all those service specific icons. That’s nice as I remember doing that & getting xml, till I read about RSS wondered what it was all about.
    I’m doing a presentation on Blogs/RSS in a couple of weeks so the comments here are of interest.

  35. I settled on:
    - the icon
    - “Subscribe to my feed”
    - “Learn about Subscription, Feeds, RSS, Podcasts” link

    I removed all the service specific icons as thought they just create clutter but not sure if that’s the right move?

    If you click on my feed icon/link FeedBurner serves up a web view + explanation of RSS and all those service specific icons. That’s nice as I remember doing that & getting xml, till I read about RSS wondered what it was all about.
    I’m doing a presentation on Blogs/RSS in a couple of weeks so the comments here are of interest.

  36. Brian, thanks for the link to copyblogger. It’s just what I was looking for. Robert, thanks for the motivation. I got my RSS cleaned up and presented nicely, with a bow on top, after stumbling across your article. :)

  37. Brian, thanks for the link to copyblogger. It’s just what I was looking for. Robert, thanks for the motivation. I got my RSS cleaned up and presented nicely, with a bow on top, after stumbling across your article. :)

  38. Symantec has a security “blog” but it didn’t have a feed forcing you to visit the page each time you wanted to read it (by design I imagine as well). Never subscribed and I gave them some pointed feedback as well. I will consume your content in the way that best suites me – not you! Now they have a feed link but it is still not intuitive. It just links to other RSS feeds that are “site wide.”

  39. Symantec has a security “blog” but it didn’t have a feed forcing you to visit the page each time you wanted to read it (by design I imagine as well). Never subscribed and I gave them some pointed feedback as well. I will consume your content in the way that best suites me – not you! Now they have a feed link but it is still not intuitive. It just links to other RSS feeds that are “site wide.”

  40. I like sticking with orange symbol also. And I would also suggest, as you alluded to your wife, that one should setup the autodiscovery tag in their sites.

  41. I like sticking with orange symbol also. And I would also suggest, as you alluded to your wife, that one should setup the autodiscovery tag in their sites.

  42. Ole – autodiscovery on the BBC website does work … my Firefox definitely shows the RSS icon in the address bar when I look at the BBC News website …

  43. Ole – autodiscovery on the BBC website does work … my Firefox definitely shows the RSS icon in the address bar when I look at the BBC News website …

  44. [...] Feedless bloggers frustrate: “It’s very interesting watching someone use an RSS Aggregator for the first time. Maryam finally got interested in it after hearing me talk for the past three years about how much more productive it is to read people’s blogs in a news …” [...]

  45. I think the problem is that feeds are still not as popular as blogs. And feedreaders are not as popular as browsers. Feeds are still in the tech zone probably, while blogs are household names.

  46. I think the problem is that feeds are still not as popular as blogs. And feedreaders are not as popular as browsers. Feeds are still in the tech zone probably, while blogs are household names.

  47. And that’s somewhat counterintuitive, since feeds are probably more useful in some ways and extend beyond blogs.

    I would like to see one development. Feeds that can be filtered. Some sites allow users to set up queries which can then be converted into feeds. I find these most useful. Perhaps RSS 3.0 can include this in the standard?

  48. And that’s somewhat counterintuitive, since feeds are probably more useful in some ways and extend beyond blogs.

    I would like to see one development. Feeds that can be filtered. Some sites allow users to set up queries which can then be converted into feeds. I find these most useful. Perhaps RSS 3.0 can include this in the standard?

  49. Luv my browser (IE7 Beta2) auto-discovering the feeds available on the page.

    No lap-lapping the whole page to search for one. I’m a lazy moron.

  50. Luv my browser (IE7 Beta2) auto-discovering the feeds available on the page.

    No lap-lapping the whole page to search for one. I’m a lazy moron.