Why FP Doesn’t Have a Full-Text Web Feed

J.D. Roth commented in a recent post that he’d like Fascination Place to have a full-text web feed. In principle, I’d like this too, but I have several problems with full feeds, and while none of them is compelling by itself, they add up to my decision to go with a partial feed. Here’s an edited version of the reasons which I sent to J.D. in e-mail:

  1. Loss of content. Some information doesn’t come through in a feed. For instance, an entry with a YouTube embedded video won’t show the video in the feed. This seems contrary to the promise of a “full feed”. At the least, the feed should include a placeholder for items it can’t render so that people can actually tell that there’s something missing.
  2. Loss of formatting. Feeds often don’t reflect the formatting, e.g. of embedded images or other typical CSS tricks, of the content they’re displaying. For instance, floating images of books I review end up showing up in odd places in a full feed, rather than floating to the right like they’re supposed to. I find this annoying as both a content provider and a content consumer; formatting does matter.
  3. Hit tracking. This is admittedly a completely selfish reason: I like to see who’s coming in and reading which entries, which is difficult to do if people are reading only the feed. (I know J.D. use Feedburner for this, but my experience as a consumer is that Feedburner goes down a lot, and/or has serious performance issues sometimes, so I see it as a mediocre solution at best. I’m also reluctant to use a third party for feeds.)
  4. LiveJournal syndication. LJ syndication is nifty in that it’s fairly well automated, but annoying in that there’s no way (that I know of) to subscribe to the comments on a syndication account. With full feeds, people can (and probably will) comment on my entries and I’ll probably never see them. Using summary feeds essentially sidesteps the issue.

    (Plus, of course, if I switch to a full feed, then the LJ syndication account for FP will get spammed with new copies of all the recent entries available in the feed. Although, that would be a one-time – if ugly – thing.)

Basically, I think that feeds are still a young technology, with issues yet to be worked out. They’re still tremendously useful, but still require some compromises to be made. So I’ve chosen the compromise that works best for me. (I could probably address some of these issues through coding of my own, but time rarely permits such efforts these days.)

If people know of simple solutions to some or all of these solutions, I would consider them.

(BTW, if you have no idea what I’m talking about here, you can read the Wikipedia entry on web feeds. Two good ways to subscribe to feeds on the Mac are to use Safari RSS on Tiger – which is what I use – or to download NetNewsWire Lite.)

5 thoughts on “Why FP Doesn’t Have a Full-Text Web Feed”

  1. The feed from Valleywag includes YouTube videos, so it’s possible somehow.

    For my blog, I see both web views and aggregator views, so I do get to see all of my traffic. So, again, it’s possible somehow, but I don’t know how. We’re currently running on Community Server.

    So I don’t really have answers for you, just observations that at least two of your issues are solveable somehow.

  2. I’m with you on preferring partial feeds, with #3 being a not-insignificant reason due to decreased impressions for advertisers and fewer opportunities for readers to see other content on your site. As a reader, I prefer them for the same reason I prefer people who use cut tags on LJ; I don’t want to scroll past an entire post I have no interest in.

  3. I’d also like to point out that, from a usability standpoint, all of these reasons involve “how they affect Michael” and not “how they affect the reader”. That is, none of these is a drawback to a reader, but a partial feed is.

    Leaving the dead horse now…

  4. The difference might be in our perception of what feeds are for.

    I see feeds as being primarily a notification mechanism, i.e., a signal that says “Hey, there’s new content here! Come and see!” In other words, it’s a mechanical replacement for notification e-mail lists which journallers used in the Olden Days.

    I do not see feeds as being primarily a content delivery mechanism. Even as a reader, I don’t see them as being such.

    Also, as a reader, I find the loss-of-formatting point I made above to be a significant issue. It’s pretty annoying to read a feed and realize that there was some formatting lost which is detracting from my reading experience, especially since a common problem in that area is the loss of floating images, which results in extremely poor use of vertical real estate, and a much more cumbersome reading experience.

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