Weeding Feeds

Following up on last week’s thoughts on feed confusion and multiple XML feed formats, Nick Bradbury offered a handy tip in the comments that I’ve implemented here for this site.

And I quote Nick’s comment, which I think it worth repeating here in its own entry, for those that want to also trim down to one feed flavor:

If later on you find that a different format offers something you need, switch to it and permanently redirect (HTTP 301) the old feed to the new one. Most aggregators will automatically update a feed’s stored URL when a permanent redirect is encountered.

So, I’ve trimmed down the feeds for SimpleBits, now offering only RSS 2.0. This is partly for simplicity — I find the RSS format a bit more human readable than Atom, although I respect the latter’s reason for existing, and it could potentially replace RSS in the future.

Not wanting to abandon Atom subscribers completely, I’ve taken Nick’s advice, doing some quick research and adding the following to the root .htaccess file:

Redirect 301 /xml/atom.xml http://www.simplebits.com/xml/rss.xml

I’m told this will let any user agent know that this feed’s location has changed permantly to the RSS 2.0′s location (I have two other similar rules, one for each of the three feed options).

Now there’s one flavor. Simple. With that in mind, one may also want to investigate Feedburner as an uncomplicated way of offering multiple feed formats without worrying about templates, as many have suggested. Doug Bowman has also just written about Feedburner, offering an .htaccess solution for pointing multiple existing feed URLs to a single Feedburner URL.

And the feed goes on.

22 Comments

  1. R6MaY89 says:

    This does not work in Firefox. I have LiveBookmarks set up to use the ATOM feed of SimpleBits and it has not adjusted automatically to the RSS feed. While it still aggregates through HTTP forwarding, if you ever remove the .htaccess file, it will no longer work. I don’t know if there is a way to fix this but maybe someone else does?

  2. Tom says:

    Bloglines managed to pull this out ok, so I guess its safe to assume everything is AOK.
    R6MaY89: Perhaps its an issue with fox, you should file a bug report if thats the case.

  3. Steve Smith says:

    I recommend FeedBurner, and for those using WordPress 1.5, I’ve created a plugin to get your site up-and-running with FeedBurner in minutes.

  4. Patrick says:

    I’ve never understood why sites need to offer more than one feed. Isn’t it the feed readers that need to be able to parse the various formats? Aren’t most feed readers compatible with all the major versions?
    Each site should select the format of their feed that best suits their needs (until a standard emerges) and let the feed readers deal with parsing the various versions.
    It just confuses users when there are multiple links to different feeds. Most users have no idea what the difference is.
    Good move Dan.

  5. Lachlan Hunt says:

    There should have been no need to set up a redirect from the old file. I’ve found the best way to set up a feed is simply to make the URI /feed without a file extension and just serve one format under that URI. Then, in the future, if you decide to change formats, do so without changing the URI.
    Unfortunately most feed readers available today are too broken to even bother with content negotiation to make multiple versions useful, but I would personally go with Atom. It’s just a pity it’s not yet a standard, but it’s closer than any RSS format will ever be.

  6. James says:

    I use Opera’s newsfeed feature for reading feeds, and it still doesn’t support Atom, so I guess i’m just lucky that you didn’t choose that. (Damn Blogger)

  7. James says:

    also, are you now going to get rid of
    link rel="alternate" type="application/atom+xml" title="Atom" href="/xml/atom.xml"
    ?

  8. Graste says:

    “I use Opera’s newsfeed feature for reading feeds, and it still doesn’t support Atom…”
    Quote from Opera8 changelog:
    “Support for and auto-detection of Atom newsfeeds.”
    ;)

  9. What James said – you’re still advertising an Atom feed to autodiscovery clients. Probably not what you intend.

  10. James – Right. Silly of me to forget to remove that. Thanks.

  11. actionBERG says:

    Nice plug-in Steve. I am going to give it a try.

  12. Donnie Jeter says:

    Speaking of RSS, what do we think of SAGE?

  13. Tony says:

    I agree with your decision. I did the same thing on my site. It helps reduce all the unnecessary copies of basically the same content.

  14. Erik says:

    R6May89, I also use Firefox’s rss feeder, and it seemed to update Simplebits fine. Although I have noticed that sometimes it takes a restart to properly update them.

  15. R6MaY89 says:

    Erik: Really? I have restarted Firefox numerous times since then. Before, the feed I linked to was [http://www.simplebits.com/xml/atom.xml]. When I go to that LiveBookmark and right mouse click and go to Properties, it still says http://www.simplebits.com/xml/atom.xml and not rss.xml…

  16. Nathan Smith says:

    I use Textpattern to manage my site, and really didn’t used to pay any attention to Atom/RSS, since it is already automated. However, all this buzz around Feedburner has got me wondering – does anyone know of any Textpattern plugins for Feedburner?

  17. Brian says:

    I haven’t heard of any TXP plugins for Feedburner. The feeds in Textpattern aren’t in the greatest shape at the moment, either. But, you can easily use the rule Dan just put forward, and make it link to your Feedburner feed. Just make sure that in Feedburner you use your yoursite.com/?rss=1&section=blah URI.

  18. Wil says:

    I use Textpattern to manage my site, and really didn’t used to pay any attention to Atom/RSS, since it is already automated. However, all this buzz around Feedburner has got me wondering – does anyone know of any Textpattern plugins for Feedburner?
    you don’t really need a plug-in for it. You sign up for feedburner, point it to your feed(s) you currently have running, then change the links on your site to point to your feedburner feed link. Simple process takes about a minute to setup.

  19. Petr says:

    I have a problem with Firefox.

  20. Blake says:

    This reminds me of Beta vs VHS in the ’80s. Seems like Atom is losing ground and RSS is here to stay…

  21. James says:

    Graste: So it does, thankyou.
    I fall in love with opera again.

  22. Tyler says:

    I like Atom, but RSS 2.0 is still king. :P