New Year’s Resolution

There are things I am doing to change my life, but I’m not calling them resolutions. I do have one thing I’m comfortable calling that. As of today, I’m dropping any RSS feeds from my aggregator that have excerpted feeds. If you want to include me in the conversation, stopping in mid-sentence is not cool. If you require me to come to your house to have the conversation, then we aren’t really friends. You cost me a fair bit of extra time trying to follow you if I have to load up your web page to finish what the RSS feed started. If you aren’t respectful of my time, I’m not interested in conversing with you.

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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 “New Year’s Resolution”

  1. I think it depends on how you use feeds. To offer another perspective, I really hate it when people post a really long text entirely in the RSS feed description. It’s because I use a web based reader (Bloglines) to skim an aggregated page of feeds rather than a desktop client. I skim headlines and open them in new tabs in Firefox. So jumping to somebody’s site isn’t a big deal to me. But one long entry defeats my ability to quickly skim. Especially if I wouldn’t have normally wanted to read that entry.

  2. Does this mean that you’ll be adding more RSS feeds to your aggregator that you aren’t currently subscribed to, that contain full feeds? I’m sure there’s a lot of conversations that you’ve been missing.

    Also, do you plan on publishing your OPML, once you’re done, so we know who you’re reading?

  3. This joins an interesting conversation, and prompted me to write quite a bit more about it on my blog, too… What about advertiser-supported sites. Are RSS Ads the answer here? I’m not yet convinced they are… but they should be, so how do we make them work properly without destroying that which RSS has become?

  4. Paul, Bloglines or any aggregator can always excerpt things beyond a certain length. What they can’t do is add in information that is missing.

    Tom, That doesn’t logically follow. Full feed is the minimum to maintain my attention via the aggregator, not that I am looking for full feeds for the sake of their fullness. I used to publish my OPML but I have a lot of things that are not public like things with unique keys or work specific stuff that it is too big a pain to maintain.

    Dave, I think this is indicative that maybe the wrong thing is being monetized. Everyone that is trying to keep from losing web traffic to RSS is monetizing the delivery method not the content itself. I don’t have an answer, just the question on what could be more appropriate. To me, the strategy of saying “your convenience makes us less money, so we have decided to make things less convenient” is not the long term solution.

  5. I think the whole excerpted feed problem is simply an expression of the “look how fast I can skim!” mentality. It seems some people see this as the value in RSS. I think that’s quite short-sighted, but whatever.

    Still, there are situations (online newspaper or magazine) where an excerpted feed makes sense.

    What really annoys me, is when some poor mindless clods, for lack of a better term, lets their blogging app excerpt the feed for them. And it’s set to some ridiculous low threshold, like 10 words, or worse, to some arbitrary number of characters. Then they write their screed, and think themselves quite the geniuses for it.

    Then they ruin it completely and come out like the dunces they are, when their first sentence is cut off halfway. The “best” of the lot are the ones that have a word cut off halfway, in the middle of their sentence. This invariable leaves me wondering why they bothered in the first place.

    Not that I’m bitter or anything. 🙂

  6. As for ads in the feed, I don’t mind it so much. They’re usually at the beginning, the middle, or the end of the feed. And at least in the feeds I read, they’re always a feed item, instead of text or a “blinking banner of death” appearing halfway through the feed entry (that would be really annoying). So the ads can be easily ignored.

    The smart ones filter them out by proxying the feed through a script on their own server.



    If you want to do this and are wondering about bandwidth: As long as you don’t give out the filter URL to anyone, and as long as you don’t check hundreds of feeds a hundred times a day, the traffic from this should be negligible. You could even host this at home on a cheapo PC clone, NAT’ing it to some unused port.

    But I wouldn’t know about that. I don’t even know what half that stuff means. 😀

  7. What I meant to say above, is that instead of subscribing to the feed URL, you subscribe to the feed URL filtered through that script.

    Another advantage of hosting the “solution” through your home DSL/cable, is that you can develop it in just about anything you want. Free or cheap hosting solutions often restrict you to CGI or PHP as your only choices.

    Of course, you get to write the script yourself, as I don’t know what I’m saying. ;-p

  8. Geez PJ. “poor mindless clods” and “dunces” are harsh words for a mentor to use aren’t they? 😉 I excerpt my first paragraph manually. If you aren’t interested with the title and first graph of an entry, then I’ll have wasted no more of your time or bandwidth.

    What’s short sighted about the quick skim aspect of aggregators? To me, it’s THE selling point of adding yet another technology and acronymn to our life. I’m not trying to argue, I’d love to hear other methods and advantages. Are you saying that RSS should be viewed as a text based content delivery device that allows you to choose what content (in it’s entirety) is sent to you with some chronological reference? Sounds like email lists to me, brother.

  9. We’ve been going back and forth on this one for a long time. I’ve been summarizing, but I’ll try going to full text for a while, at least the before-the-jump part of the articles… I think that’s a good compromise.

  10. Paul,

    Sorry to put you in the defensive. What I meant was, that some people see that as the ONLY value in RSS. That’s what I consider short-sighted.

    If you like to skim through your aggregated content, that’s fine. I do it when I read stuff like Wired, iPodlounge, BBC news feeds. I don’t want to read every story. But I don’t do that for all my feeds.

    As for the harsh words, that was specifically for people that let the blogging server excerpt for them. I consider it rather mindless, bordering on idiotic. Excerpting the first paragraph manually takes thinking. I can appreciate that. Tim Bray and Joel Spolsky do that on their feeds, and it never disappoints. Their full content is well thought out and worth the browsing over.

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