Mild science, tech news, stories, reviews, opinion, maps and humor

08 October 2010

FeedBurner Security and Sensibility

Universal Feed Symbol

Feed Security

For any blogger or creator of syndicated content who might happen to pass by The Annex, I'd like to pass on this tip about the importance of keeping your Feed Bulletin feed private.

Feed Function

Confirm that your feed is working correctly and captures the intended content, whether headlines only, headlines plus content etc.

The best way to accomplish this is with a periodic feed check-up. Once every month or every other month is usually adequate.

Two reputable sites offering secure feed validation are:
To use either, simply enter the address of your feed and click Validate. Any errors are listed, with suggested remedies for repair.

Feed Sense and Faux-pas Avoidance

Problem: Why is the Posterous website overstating my subscription count? I only subscribed to ten blogs. Yet my profile indicates that I have 20 subscriptions! See image below.

Root-Cause: Carelessness by the blog owner or administrator! Note that the blogs written by journalists, who earn their living through digital publishing, have but a single entry on the list. The Laughing Squid is the only exception. He has two entries. One is a link recommendation list. The other is the actual publication. It is possible that I am at fault for selecting both rather than the blog (publication) alone.

Screen Shot of my blog subscriptions.  Click on image to enlarge.

The other websites are run by experienced bloggers or website developers. They are not journalists, nor earn the majority of their income from writing. Yet they should know better than to make this mistake. But it is a very easy mistake to make, even for the savvy.

How did this happen?

This can occur if burning multiple feeds for the same blog, but forgetting to delete the old feeds. Or creating new blogs, and not tracking carefully enough which blogs have feeds already. It can be avoided by taking care to keep track of the names and resources used for one's feeds.

Glance again at the example image. Despite my fondness for Adam Rifkin's wit, I don't need four versions of his blog. Some are very puzzling e.g. who is "Trout Girl"?

The same can be said for Dustin Curtis's design and usability insights. One subscription is sufficient. This is how an unintentional spam-like duplication (or quadruplication) effect can occur, sometimes exacerbated for those who choose to subscribe by email rather than RSS feed. Such effect is one of the fastest ways of alienating readers. I have first hand experience, inflicting this (accidentally) on my own subscribers!

Note that all individuals mentioned by name are prominent in their fields of expertise. I did not disclose information, nor negatively impact professional reputations. All are well-established.

Better to learn from their mistakes. It is far more damaging for a novice to commit feed faux-pas!

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