Scoble Sucks (and WordPress RSS)

Not really, but I’m just trying to get in Memeorandum. πŸ˜‰ (Fortunately the trick only seems to work on Sunday nights.)

It’s never good to wake up in the morning, fire up your aggregator, and see “WordPress.com” and “sucks” in the same headline, but WordPress.com-hosted Robert Scoble has declared that our RSS feeds suck. There are a bunch of different things being talked about both in the entry and the comments, so I’ll try to address each one in order.

First Scoble comments on our use of CDATA, which is a more readable way of escaping things in XML. I actually didn’t realize what he was talking about at first, as when you load up the feed in Firefox it doesn’t even show CDATA anywhere, it hides it as any XML processor should, but when you load the feed in Internet Explorer it does indeed format the CDATA sections differently, though I don’t know why. I’m going to have to pass on this one, because CDATA has been a part of XML since I was in middle school and no one should see that anyway. If anything it’s an argument for getting a nice XSL stylesheet for our feeds like Feedburner does.

He then says something about validation, but everything seems to validate and the entry was updated to reflect that, so I guess everything is green on that front.

There seems to be some confusion about Scoble’s default RSS being full-text, which of course it is because I read it full-text inside of Bloglines. (Along with 1,000+ other subscribers to the new feed.) Where is the confusion? Probably related to the fact that WordPress puts a summary in the element and the full content into a element, and has done this for over 2 years. (That means there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of feeds that work like this.) I asked Dave if this was valid back when the whole “funky RSS” thing was going around, and his email said it was a perfectly valid use of RSS 2.0. (This also allows aggregators to show excerpts which may be hand-crafted where appropiate, for instance on a mobile phone.)

Scoble then claims we prefer Atom over RSS, which is silly because RSS 2.0 is the default in every WordPress installation in the world. If we were biased toward Atom then it would show Atom when you type in /feed/. Actually we’re probably behind on Atom because we haven’t upgrade to Atom 1.0 yet.

Before we go any further, I would like to point out that WordPress has the most comprehensive RSS support of any product I’ve seen: we produce a regular site feed, a site comments feed, a feed for every category, a comments feed for every post, a feed for every search, a feed for every month, and you can even combine and exclude categories to create a very customized category feed. All in 4+ flavors of RSS and Atom, with RSS 2.0 being the default. WordPress has Burger King feeds, you can have it your way. πŸ™‚

I suspect that two things happened, one might have been a server glitch related to the datacenter move on Friday/Saturday that caused errors in the way headers were sent. In that case I apologize and the problem has been fixed. The other confusion is probably related to aggregators that read the description element but ignore content:encoded. Now I must admit here I can’t find an aggregator that does that, and if you read the comments on Scoble’s entry it’s a bunch of people saying it works fine for them. In every aggregator I have access to — Bloglines, FeedDemon, NetNewsWire, Newsgator, Onfolio, Rojo, FeedLounge — everything works fine, but we can’t test everything so if anyone finds an aggregator it doesn’t work please let me know and I’ll look into it. Though I can fix WP.com immediately, there are still 700,000+ copies of WordPress somewhere that the aggregator developer will probably want to be compatible with.

A few people in the comments seem to be worried about Scoble being on a subdomain of WordPress.com, we have an FAQ about domain mapping, as soon as the feature is done it’ll be made available to Scoble and everybody. (Yes it will even redirect off of WP.com entirely.)

Finally, since we’re blogging at each other instead of talking: Scoble, I had already replied to your email on this from Saturday, don’t ambush us on a Sunday night!

I think that’s everything to do with RSS on WordPress that I can think of at the moment, but feel free to ask questions in the comments if you have any more.

Published by Matt

In 2002 I started contributing to Open Source software, and life has just gotten better from there. Co-founder of WordPress, founder Automattic.

23 thoughts on “Scoble Sucks (and WordPress RSS)

  1. If I had my way, I’d have ATOM fees only on both articles and comments and discard RSS as a mistake of history.

    (ATOM is RSS done right. If they called it RSS 3.0 instead, there would probably be no argument.)

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  2. Aaron,

    I just added “/feed” to the end of one of my URL’s for a “Page” on my blog (WP 1.5.2) and it pulled a valid RSS 2.0 feed. Not sure what else you might be looking for.

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  3. To be fair, when I pull up a WordPress.com feed in Firefox, I see the CDATA. I’m running Windows XP, and Firefox 1.0.7. Though it could be one or two of my extensions that breaks it.

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  4. Two things:

    Small post typo here:

    Actually we’re probably behind on Atom because we haven’t upgrade to Atom 1.0 yet.

    I think you need to add a “d” to “upgrade” :).

    Second — Yahoo! Plus will not allow me to add my comments feed (http://urbansemiotic.com/comments/feed/) for online reading — Yahoo! claims it is an invalid URL. I can, however, add that same URL just fine to Bloglines and Newsburst and the new Google RSS reader. I am using K2 Beta 96 on the latest WordPress installation.

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  5. I wouldn’t take stock of any complaints based on results seen in IE6 or Outlook or any other Microsoft product. They’re an absolute disaster when it comes to standards compliance.

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  6. I assume Atom 1.0 feeds will be in the next release? The only issue I’ve seen so far in implementing them is how Atom 1.0 deals with “enclosures” as compared to RSS 2.0. So even though I have a valid Atom 1.0 feed with how people have told me enclosures should work, I don’t know of any aggregator that uses it. Yet.

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  7. Gotta admit, I think Scoble jumped the gun in blogging his complaints on this one. Sure he’s entitled to his opinion, but I think he was just being sort of silly with how “stern” is wording was…

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  8. Like raster above, here’s another vote for Atom 1.0 support. The version currently in trac validates on the surface, but only for the main site feed. CDATA should also be unnecessary in Atom 1.0, since WordPress outputs XHTML.

    A really great Atom 1.0 feed in WordPress is so close; it might even be worth it to have it show up as /feed/ by default.

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  9. Here is how to get a WordPress Posts and Comments RSS URL added to Yahoo! Plus (burning the URL through FeedBurner is easier.)

    1. Choose to add your RSS feed via URL.

    2. Yahoo! will report back there is nothing on that URL and then ask if you want to try to add it by hand.

    3. Answer yes, go to the next screen and force add your URL. Yahoo! will think about it awhile, tell you nothing is coming out of that URL.

    4. HIT THE BACK BUTTON on your browser and hit ADD URL again.

    5. If you keep getting denied, keep going back and eventually Yahoo! will eventually find and load your feed and permit you to add the feed. My posts feed took 5 tries before it was added. My comments feed took 8 attempts.

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  10. There is a bug with 1.5.x RSS Feeds.

    It *should* turn relative links into absolute links, as feed validator says is necessary. Most readers adjust automatically, but not all.

    should happen for all links and images.

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  11. Yes, it would be nice if the feed generator converted them to absolute URLs! But I don’t think it’s a requirement – the content is the author’s responsibility, after all. Or am I mistaken?

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  12. What’s not so obvious is how to make use of this hidden flexibility—in particular, how to exclude feed categories and combine them. It’s very hard to find any description in the Codex or Support Forum; after several aborted attempts I finally learned that cat=-(n) where n = the category to be exclude worked in WP 1.x, but broke in WP 2.x.

    Eventually I worked out a solution.

    Like

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