Two small rants about how we use our web feeds. It would be nice if we could completely ignore this stuff, but blog publishers need to be concerned with how they appear to their readers, whether they visit the website directly or read through any number of aggregators. If you only read blogs, you may ignore me.
By the way, feel free to let me know I'm off my rocker. Or even worse, that I am being hypocritical because me feeds are broken or don't follow these rules.
1. Please be sure your web feed is what you think it is. I've stopped at a number of weblogs recently where the primary feed was an excerpt feed, even though the blogger intended to provide full text. (And if you mean to provide excerpts, please provide useful excerpts.) How do you check this? Look at the source code of your blog's main page: near the top will be lines like this:
<link href="http://blog.jackvinson.com/atom.xml" type="application/rss+xml" rel="alternate">
Check the location of that file to make sure it is in the right place and provides the content you intend. If you run on TypePad or Blogspot, you may not even know that you get a web feed by default at your.domainname.com/atom.xml. So far, smart aggregators only see the first rel="alternate" link, so if you have five web feeds listed, be sure the first one is the "best."
And for the time being, bloggers still need to let people know that the feed exists, so create a link to it somewhere obvious on your website. That is frequently in the sidebar or at the header or footer of the main page. For example:
<a href="http://blog.jackvinson.com/atom.xml" title="Atom-based web feed">site feed</a>
You can call it whatever you like, of course. And you can add those funny orange XML logos, if you feel the need.
2. Let people know when you are moving. I have a couple hundred feeds coming into my aggregator and recently did some pruning of blogs into a "probably dead" category. I checked several that I thought were still active and found that they had simply relocated their web feed without mentioning it. Or they had pulled up stakes and moved to a new domain without providing sufficient notice to their readers.
If you have site statistics, you can check to see if people are attempting to access old locations for your web feed. If you have access and knowledge, you can set up automatic redirects that point to the right locations. If you've moved sites, and still have access at the old one, consider posting a note at the old location after a few weeks or a month to catch people who may have missed the first note.
For example, I recently switched to FeedBurner for my standard and extended web feeds. I've set up redirects, so aggregators that are looking for http://blog.jackvinson.com/atom.xml or http://blog.jackvinson.com/atom_w_comments.xml are silently sent to FeedBurner.