RSS Feeds and Frustrations

So I stumbled across something on a blog that Netflix used to use as its communication from the head of the Community programming group with Netflix’s Community users that were into knowing what was going on. It was a short little video about the basics of RSS Feeds.

So the blog entry was written August 2007. I have been hearing about RSS feeds probably at least that long, but have never been able to figure them out. (Note: I haven’t tried very hard either.) How do I create one, how do I link to one? I have clicked on the RSS icon before, but nothing happens that makes sense to me.

Finally, this little video told me what I was missing! I needed an RSS reader! Oh, that’s the piece I didn’t know, which was why it was never going to work with the knowledge I had.

So I went to my Yahoo! account, which the video tells me is a common choice for readers, and went about setting it up per instructions. I copied the URL of a few blogs I read. And pasted into the reader in the add section. And it promptly told me to use a valid URL. Repeatedly. Was I doing something wrong? Was Yahoo! being stupid? Was it time for scheduled maintenance or something? Pooh on that!

I switched over to my gmail account, did exactly the same steps, and voila, I now have subscriptions. Yay me!

First thing I noticed is it isn’t the same as reading the websites. I have a laptop, so the more space it takes up on my screen, the more easily a thing is read and comprehended. The reader is a smaller window in the gmail reader screen, of my laptop screen. And some of the RSS feeds, particularly from media outlets, truncate the entries, and only when you click to see if there is more do you see how large the actual posting is. Oh.

The second thing I noticed was if I click the RSS feed icon to add the site to my reader automatically, it immediately messed things up and I had to go re-do it anyway as a copy/pasted URL. Hmm. Again, am I doing something wrong, or was the site just doing funkiness when I happened to be trying?

And thirdly, it is like podcasts in the sense that there is the initial start up of trying to catch up on everything so you have a baseline starting point. Otherwise it looks seriously overwhelming to see you have over 100 posts to read from the git-go! And I haven’t even finished adding all the blogs I would like to be reading.

I was disappointed that there doesn’t seem to be a way for the television shows I choose to watch on the internet to tell me when they are online. Some networks update at midnight of the night the show aired, some the next morning, and some have contractual obligations that prevent them from airing for another week or so. I thought that was the whole point of RSS subscriptions, was to relieve users of the drudgery of checking each site to see if anything has changed?

So as usual, even as a fan of technology, I am disappointed that what I imagined it could do for me does not presently meet my expectations. And this is after a couple of years of refining it, I am sure.

So at this rate, having now finally caught up with technology from a couple years ago, is there any hope that I will ever truly be caught up? What is that thing about Moore’s Law, where everything is increasing in speed, in bandwidth, in technology exponentially? Somehow, it seems so overwhelming that I will never catch up, the armchair enthusiast that I am. And this from someone who has no other distractions but whatever I choose to distract myself with!

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5 Responses to “RSS Feeds and Frustrations”

  1. steve Says:

    Ironic that I keep up with your blog by having an RSS tab for you on my Firefox window so I can just click up your recent postings there 🙂 So RSS is telling me to read you talking about RSS.

    I agree, though, RSS makes keeping up with stuff a lot easier. I’ve only occasionally had to hand-create my own RSS feeds (usually hosting sites offer it for you automatically). In this one case, has a “dashboard” page where you can see all the updates to the blogs you follow in one list, and can click on any of them to see the original article referenced. Trouble is, if your blog is set to “invited friends only” then blogger won’t even give you the option of publishing an RSS summary, even to those subscribed friends. (argh) So I ended up writing my own feed and serving it myself, which my blogger friends can still add to their subscription list back on the blogger dashboard, or google reader or whatever. The fact that this was as easy to do as it was, and “just worked” is a good point in favor of RSS’ design being simple, straightforward and just… works. 🙂

  2. redroomsalon Says:

    See, I’ve seen that blogger dashboard, and thought that would be what I would get. But wordpress doesn’t have that. And I did find a feed for some of my tv shows, only to now have a feed for the entire network and all its shows, not what I wanted at all.

    Any idea what the issue is that these things that seem obviously wanted haven’t been resolved? Is there a lot more going on behind the scenes that make it so easy, that make these other options more difficult? I’m just baffled.

    And thanks for reading. 🙂

  3. steve Says:

    Well, the “S” in RSS (okay, the first “S”) stands for “simple” and that’s one of RSS’s underlying features… it’s just a feed summarizing stuff you can subscribe to, with a way to get the full content if anything in that feed looks interesting. So at the RSS level itself, lots of things are possible for you to do with that information, but it’s not doing much of it for you. It’s just doing its simple job–keeping you informed about stuff happening.

    So really it’s a matter of what client software you want to use–the reader part, and finding one that provides you with what you want. Unfortunately, I haven’t really explored that too much. I’ve used the dashboard I mentioned, and have a few subscribed feeds on Firefox (which just show up on the toolbar so if I click on them I see the last several posts in whatever feed that’s tracking, and FF will open the full content in a new tab if I wanted to read it.

    The URL mentioned is the URL to the RSS feed of the blog or whatever, though,
    not the URL you usually use to read the content. You can usually get that from the RSS link somewhere on the page. For example, your blog here is at but your RSS URL is … if you’re getting a reader error like you mentioned, that might be why.

    The truncation is typical. RSS isn’t trying to deliver the content to you, just let you know it got published. Now your reader client might go the extra mile and fetch the full content of everything on the feed for you, or it might just summarize the feed and let you click on links to pull up what you’re interested in.

    I would have thought TV shows would have an RSS feed or something to let you know when content comes on line too. But maybe they’re choosing not to send that.

  4. redroomsalon Says:

    Ahhh! /feed, I’m sure that was the issue, not having that on there.

  5. steve Says:

    Although the url may vary between sites. it’s …blah…/feed on wordpress. Over on Blogger it’s something like …blah…/feeds/posts/default. Just look at each site’s RSS link offered on the page.

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