Thursday, November 12, 2009

Diagnosing Problems With Blog Feeds

Recently, we're seeing an assortment of complaints about blog feeds, either not working at all, or updating slowly. Whether presented in a browser display, in a Following Reading List / Google Reader, or in a bloglist gadget, the accuracy of the feed as displayed can be affected by a few issues.
  • Custom feed redirection.
  • Custom Domain redirection.
  • Classic vs New feed URL, and Blogger vs BlogSpot / domain served feed.
  • Feeds served by third party servers (FTP publishing).
  • Feeds from private blogs (which don't exist).
  • Cached feed content.


Custom Feed Redirection

A custom, redirected feed, redirected through FeedBurner or a similar service, will be affected by problems with the service. When you check out a problem with a redirected feed, it may be helpful to compare the redirected feed content with the non redirected feed content.

Custom Domain Redirection

A feed coming from a blog that's published to a custom domain will be affected by the custom domain DNS issues. Feeds redirected through DNS addresses that use spurious solutions, like frames or URL forwarding, will be slow to, or never, update.

When you check out a problem with a feed from a blog published to a custom domain, start by examining the DNS setup for the domain. For each person reporting a problem, see if they are using the BlogSpot URL, or the domain URL. If the former, check the BlogSpot to domain redirection.

Feed Format and Source

For any feed with a problem reported, find out if the problem is with a classic, or a new, feed URL. The exact feed URL may be relevant. Look at the 3 feeds served from this blog page, as provided in the blog header.

<link rel="alternate" type="application/atom+xml" title="The Real Blogger Status - Atom" href="http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/feeds/posts/default" />
<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="The Real Blogger Status - RSS" href="http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss" />
<link rel="service.post" type="application/atom+xml" title="The Real Blogger Status - Atom" href="http://www.blogger.com/feeds/24069595/posts/default" />
Here, we have 2 new URL feeds served from the custom domain, plus one feed served from Blogger.com.

Third Party (FTP Published) Feeds

When you're looking at feed URLs, watch out for a feed that comes from an external third party server. Feeds published from non Google servers may have many issues. Use of the Blogger based feed, vs the third party server served feed, may be especially significant. We've even recommended use of the Blogger served feed, as a workaround for feed problems in some FTP published blogs.

Feeds From Private Blogs

A feed coming from a private blog will never be updated. If the blog was just made private, you'll be seeing the blog feed as it was before the blog was made private, for a long time.

Effects Of Caching Upon Your Clients

Also, consider the effects of cache. Your readers that are affected by a local cache, or an upstream cache, will see irregular performance when they view a feed. Depending upon the nature of a blog, a given blog may have more readers who use a bloglist or feed reader, and who have Internet service that includes an upstream cache. A regional, or reader service, affinity may point to a cache issue.

Summary - When Reporting A Problem

Anybody reporting a problem with a feed viewed in somebody else's blog should state their geographical location, ISP name, and type of Internet service. Anybody subscribed to a feed with a problem should state the complete and precise URL of the feed. All of these details may be relevant to the problem.

All of these are details which will affect peoples access to any blog feed, and the displayed content in the bloglists and feed readers which they view.

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2 comments:

cadilacjax said...

Sorry bout my luck, as you didn't really tell me didley. a lot of rambling and no solution. I can spend all day or two or three like b4 attempting to follow your ramblings of a madman or I can just accept the fact that Google is not going to listen to it's user's and let us go to war with this issue in battle this , battle , check this, your , blahdy blah woo whoo woo is not cached, with the local third server party external feed classic url server private blogger based third party redirection classic external domain....Get my drift. We've tried these things sir friend and no positive outcome. Look how many ppl are having difficulty with this, ..can I be of some type of assistance? Seriously I'd like to be a part of the solution and not the problem. If I can do anything constructive to help I offer my services, otherwise I am going to advise folks not to add ppl to their profile blogroll with any kind of expectations of updated blogs! maybe you will maybe you won't be a lucky one who's blog shows updated post. It's your call. go look and see how many ppl are having this technical difficulty. Thanks for your time. Hope to hear from you ASAP...I think I'll go to twitter and ask around if others are having the same problems with googles help admins. Peace

Chuck said...

Hey CJ,

It's possible that your problem has another cause, that hasn't been diagnosed. Have you yet provided a blog URL, and tried to have the problem diagnosed? Do you have an open question in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, or in Nitecruzr Dot Net - Blogging? Peer support isn't invincible, but maybe you could give it a go and find out?