A little over two weeks ago I began experimenting with a new format for the default RSS feed1 here at Daring Fireball — pretty much putting the full content of the site in the feed, freely available to everyone, with week-long sponsorships to foot the bill.

My main concerns at the outset:

  • Would there be sufficient interest in the sponsorships?
  • Would the full-content feed severely deflate traffic to the web site?

The answers to both questions look good, so far. Sponsorships are selling briskly. Web page views for August are down slightly from July, but it’s still on pace to be the second-highest-traffic month in DF history. (And, I’ll note, August tends to be the least busy month of the year — a lot of vacations and not much news.)

So, let’s remove the “experimental” label and make it permanent.

I got a ton of terrific feedback from readers regarding the new feed format. Most, as I expected, was effusively positive, especially from those who’d been seeking to subscribe to the full-content feed in Google Reader. All of you who simply wrote to say thanks are very welcome.

There were, however, many well-reasoned suggestions and complaints. The most common was from readers who don’t want the frequent Linked List items in the feed. The idea being that they want to be notified via RSS when I’ve published a new article, but if they want to peruse my links, they’ll simply hit the web site. Put another way, they wanted the old feed back.

My goal is to maintain a balance between simplicity and reader satisfaction. Just one feed is as simple as it gets, but I agree there’s a need for a less-frenetic articles-only feed. So, as of about a week ago, I added a second sponsored feed, containing just the full articles. If you miss the old DF feed, check it out.

Linked List Format for Feeds

If you’re subscribed to the main feed, you may also have noticed last week that I played around with the format for Linked List entries in the feed. Originally, the main <link> element for each Linked List item in the feed pointed to the URL of what the item was pointing to. I.e. the feed was constructed similarly to how Linked List items appear on the web site — the title points away from, to what I’m linking to.

Many readers complained about this, asking instead for the items to point back to the Linked List item’s permalink here on Daring Fireball. So I implemented this, and within one day I’d received far more complaints about the change than I had gotten about the original format in the course of a week. I personally prefer the original style, with links pointing away from, and most readers do too, so I switched it back.

I suspect the reason some readers asked for the other style is that it’s what they’re accustomed to from other feeds. I’m convinced this is a better design, however. The point of the Linked List is to send you away from Daring Fireball to read or look at something elsewhere, and the feed format should reflect that.

Update: And I should point out that if you do want the permalink URL for a particular Linked List item in the feed, it’s at the bottom of the body, linked to “#”. I tried changing that to the more explicit “Permalink” last week, but it seemed too noisy.

Update 2: I’ve changed the permalink marker at the bottom of Linked List items in the feed from “#” to “★”, which matches what I’ve been doing on the web site for years.

  1. Technically, the new feeds are in Atom 1.0 format, but it’s far easier and better understood to simply call them “RSS feeds” than something like “syndicated XML feeds”. ↩︎