A suggestion: read your own syndication feed

February 1, 2006

I have a modest suggestion for everyone with a syndication feed (bloggers and otherwise, but especially bloggers): read your own syndication feeds. It saves embarrassment.

In theory this is unnecessary, because your blogging or publishing package makes syndication feeds just work. In practice I have seen all sorts of things happen, ranging from repeated entries to stray markup and text here and there. Reading your own feeds means that you find out about these sorts of things and can fix them.

(Counting on reader feedback to tell you about problems is optimistic. The people reading your feeds aren't normally hitting your site to start with, and errors mean they're probably not going to unless they really care. Even then, how easy have you made it for them to send feedback?)

Reading your own feeds also lets you check up on how well (or how badly) your formatting works in your entries. Again, there are surprises, some of them unpleasant (especially if you use a lot of CSS). As a bonus, those of you with partial-entry feeds can experience how annoying they are to users.

I strongly recommend that you use a feed reader that bitches about badly formed feeds; if your feed is malformed, some portion of your readers are getting garbled results. A local feed reader is better than a web-based one, because you can force updates whenever you need to. Keeners and people who do this professionally will want to check with multiple feed readers, minimally a popular local one and a web-based one such as Bloglines.

(You can also use the Feed Validator, although these days it insists on Atom 1.0 instead of the older Atom 0.3. Feedvalidator will even auto-discover your feeds off your web page, so you can check if that works too.)

I do this myself; it's found several problems, and otherwise I have the reassurance of knowing that everything really is working right.

Written on 01 February 2006.
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Last modified: Wed Feb 1 01:50:05 2006
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