Excerpted RSS Feeds

I’ve been beating the drum for full text RSS feeds for years, enough to have burned myself out on the subject multiple times. Years later, it’s still about where it always has been and still swirls at about the same rate. Let me strip down my end of the argument to a non-moral, completely empirical set of observations.

  • When I read postings in my RSS reader, it takes effectively no time to move from item to item because they have all already been downloaded before I look at them.
  • When I open the webpage of an item from that feed it takes time, usually from 1 to 10 seconds per item.
  • When I sit down to read my feeds, I typically have between 40 and 200 individual items in there. At an average load time of 3 seconds per item , that would add from 2 to 10 minutes to my reading time just in waiting for pages to load if everyone did this.
  • Most excerpted feeds are really excerpted. Here’s a real world example of something that came down a feed, the information I was given to decide whether I want to pursue reading this or not:

    While Wharton claims he may now have been “assimilated” into the culture of Action Greensboro, I seriously doubt it. While I, too, attended last night’s follow-up meetin

  • If you knew how often I looked at the first 18 words of your post and decided that although I care enough to subscribe to your RSS feed I don’t care enough to chase this post down, it would probably hurt your feelings. Sorry kids, you have to make tough calls in this life.
  • I’m actually becoming a full-text hardass again, and by the end of the week will be purging out all the excerpted feeds from my newsreader. If you don’t care enough to make it easy on me trying to follow lots of information, I don’t care enough to read your stuff. That’s harsh, but quid pro quo often is.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

10 thoughts on “Excerpted RSS Feeds”

  1. Don Moore says:

    How do you handle the sites that auto-load full page graphics, ads and crap. There are a few sites that (at least in Sharpe Reader) do full page loads when I click the headline?

  2. Steve Sergeant says:

    The problem for the web page publisher is that they probably need page-load metrics, either for the purposes of their advertiser or other justification of their existence. Putting ads into RSS feeds is not a very widespread technology yet. If their business model requires this, then they see RSS as a way to drive traffic to their web site.

  3. hugh says:

    I have no interest in headlines-only feeds. My newsreader (Sage) offers a headline-only view in the left pane. The only thing I use it for is to easily spot updated articles instead of scrolling through the older articles. I also don’t want excerpts. There are a few sites (Evil Genius C. is one of them) that I currently prefer to look at in a browser. It would be nice if I could set the reader to go grab the page for those sites and only use the RSS to tell when it needed to do so.

  4. hugh says:

    Steve- Those business models are doomed, along with the ones that involve requiring you to view/hear a specific channel at a specific time, or to only use a work under arbitrary restrictions set by the publisher, that exceed the rights that copyright grants the publisher.

  5. dave says:

    Don, I’m not sure what you are saying. Is this in the RSS feed or the webpage?

    Steve, let’s rephrase what you are saying into a statement from the publisher’s perspective. “We’re going to use this mechanism that exists to provide you a convenient way to get our content and make it less useful for you, because we make more money when you are inconvenienced and we don’t mind wasting your time for a little more money.” If that’s the way they feel, fuck them. In the post-scarcity world, nobody’s content is that essential to me. I have a finite amount of time and it is the most precious resource there is to me. If someone is willing to waste it and jack me off to “monetize my eyeballs” then I choose not to engage in a relationship with them.

    Hugh, I’m with you brother on everything except looking at this site in the browser? Why is that? Other than the commenting function, what do you gain? I actually read my own RSS to look for typos dispassionately after publication and if I were a third party I’d never come to this site.

  6. Ken Nelson says:

    As a very green blogger, I thought my feed was full text, but it wasn’t. I think I’ve got it fixed; looks OK in NNW to me. With single-digit readership like mine, feeds should be, and are, the least of my problems now. I’m just trying to learn how to drive a weblog.

    Steve, regarding ads in the feeds themselves; I’ve had luck hacking up NNW style sheets to trim the ads out. If the task gets too onerous, my “unsubscribe” button is second from the left. Problem solved.

  7. Eddie Dickey says:

    Full text is easier to read when I have little time. Showing headlines is like dipping your toe in the water. Jump in!

  8. Don Moore says:

    For some reason, my RSS reader opens up webpages in the right lower pane of some feeds. Yours opens as rich text, others as plain text and a few as full web pages. (I use Sharpe Reader.) Somewhere along the way either my installation is weird or I am reading poorly formed RSS feeds.

    FYI, yours are fine.

  9. Dave – you are not alone.
    I have written at length on this (http://www.halvorsen.org/computers/internet/on_the_web/weblogs/tools/) since early this year.

    The problem to me seems to be that even software vendors (including NetNewsWire) do not really understand what they are doing. It’s not only clueless bloggers.

    Not going to teach anyone to suck eggs, but for those others:
    If there is no description tag in the feed then the RSS-reader should display the whole article; and there shouldn’t be a description tag unless you have a very long article. Since the readers are so crap the feed providers have started filling the description field with the WHOLE article to force stupid RSS-reader programs to display the whole article and thus we find ourselves in the mess we are now …

    What I try to argue for is “lightweight RSS” feeds. If there is no description tag, then the reader should ALWAYS show the whole article.

  10. This is what I want the reader to do. If I select an article, I want to read the whole of it or to decide for myself when to stop reading. I do not want to see five lines of the article and then press “see more” or “read more”. I have already chosen to read the article.

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