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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
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.)