Wandering Thoughts archives


Some ways to break your syndication feed

To follow up my previous entry, here's the sort of thing I mean by the term 'broken feeds', as taken from things I've been frustrated by in the wild:

Technically I should count things like removing your feed or having a feed that doesn't validate or has mangled formatting, but I don't really; those are relatively easy for me to see and deal with. The kind of stuff that I really consider broken is stuff that either causes silent information loss (the first four) or makes me do extra work for nothing (the latter two).

(I have actually seen feeds that had both missing entries and extra entries, with the net effect that I had to read both the feed and the site to get a full picture.)

tech/HowToBreakFeeds written at 23:26:37; Add Comment

Broken syndication feeds are worse than no feed

Over the time I've been using syndication feeds a lot, I've had to deal with various sorts of feed problems. And I've come to a conclusion: broken feeds are usually worse than no feed at all.

Broken feeds invite you to trust them, but then betray that trust; you wind up doing extra work to make sure that you're actually seeing everything and what you're seeing is actually there. (Broken feeds are also frustrating; if only they weren't broken, they would be so useful. A shiny thing is being dangled in front of you that you can't have.)

Or to put it another way: if a site has no feed, at least I don't have to waste my time trying to use it and get annoyed at its problems.

So, if you've got an incomplete, erroneous feed, please do everyone a favour and shut it off (with a notice about it!) until you can make it work reliably. How can you detect that your feed's got problems? Well, let me suggest that you read your feed.

As a corollary: if you are going to shut down your feed or stop updating it while your site keeps going, please do put up a final entry in the feed about it. Don't assume that just removing your feed URL will be noticed by everyone, because there are any number of online feed reader interfaces that don't show that to the user.

tech/BrokenFeedsProblem written at 13:24:25; Add Comment

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