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My RSS feed joins the twenty-first century

Started: 2010-01-02 14:26:32

Submitted: 2010-01-02 14:47:00

Visibility: World-readable

Now that the second decade of the twenty-first century has dawned, it's time to roll out a long-anticipated update to my RSS feed: Actual content inside the feed, making it possible to read my entries without leaving your RSS aggregator.

If you're already subscribed to my RSS feed, you shouldn't have to do anything for the new content to show up, though if your aggregator is caching old entries you won't see anything there. If you're not already subscribed to my feed, and you're into that sort of thing, look for the "RSS" links at the bottom of the page, or in whatever form your web browser displays the <link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" /> tags. Readers already subscribed to my entry feed may be interested in the brand-new comment feed, allowing you to keep up with what passes for discussion on this site.

If you're logged in while reading this page, and you look carefully at the RSS urls, you'll see an arbitrary 128-bit hex-encoded cookie in the url. (In this sentence, I'm using "cookie" in the generic sense of an arbitrary token, not an HTTP cookie.) This cookie allows my RSS feed to identify you and show your aggregator articles that might not be otherwise available to the public at large. This has its downsides: Certain RSS aggregators are known to have funny (and by "funny" I mean "broken") ideas of what a "private" RSS feed is. I spend a fair amount of effort making sure my online writings are targeted at the right audience, and all of this effort goes to waste when an aggregator decides to make my feeds searchable. (I rarely say anything about my job in public entries, but I say more where I'm fairly confident Google can't find it.) As a result, only world-readable entries (those one could read by visiting my site without logging in at all) are visible in their entirety in the RSS feed. Articles restricted to all logged-in users have their first paragraph included "above the fold" in the feed (up to the first blank line, which seemed close enough in practice) with a link to my site to log in and read more. Articles restricted to a subset of logged-in users have only a link back to my site.

(The same applies to comments. My "above-the-fold" parser isn't smart enough to find paragraph tags, but it'll find the first blank line and snip there for logged-in-user-only comments.)

Let me know if you run into any trouble with my feed. I hope this will portend a brave new era of RSS-based content aggregation.