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Can I (auto)discover you?

Is your blog set up properly that I can use one click subscription with it?

As more and more people start using aggregators to follow their favorite blogs, many of them are using easy services like Bloglines or a tool build into their browser.

Yesterday for example, Microsoft showed at Gnomedex how their Internet Explorer 7 will read RSS feeds and make it subscribeable right out of IE.

Well, so far, nothing overwhelmingly new, because many tools are available to subscribe to RSS feeds. But the new thing with IE is, that suddenly a lot of not very tech savy people will discover the fun of subscribing to blogs and websites. They will get use to just hitting this new “subscribe” button and expect the blog to be in their IE favorites then and be updated automatically.

And will get disappointed at many blog sites, because the blogs are not “ready” for this. Will they be disappointed by your blog, too?
In order for the tools to auto-subscribe to your blog, your web page needs to deliver the information on how to do that in a special part of your website. Today, most of the RSS users know how to get around this, if a site does not offer autodiscovery (although it is annoying when the page does not provide it).

Unless the following snippet is presented in the web page, none of the ‘magic’ can happen. If you have a bloglines account, you can use their easy subscribe bookmarklet (info page here) to test it on your blogs. If you use Firefox, you might have wondered what this little orange icon at the lower right is – that is working autodiscovery.

How is autodiscovery implemented?
In the <head> segment of your html code, check if you have a statement like this in it:

<link rel=”alternate” type=”application/rss+xml”
title=”Insert a title for your page” href=”link to your feed” >

If this is available, any autodiscovery tool knows what to do: Take the link given, put it into the favorites and do it under the title suggested.

If you offer different feeds (for example for different categories), you can duplicate those line and just adapt it to your needs. In case you can’t edit the templates for your blog – this might be a good time to think about changing to a software where you can. :)

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Comments

  1. IO ERROR says:

    I think you’ve grossly understated the importance of RSS. :)

    RSS is the way to subscribe to news, information and other regularly updated sources. I suspect it will eventually supplant email for many types of subscriptions. And your RSS subscribers are people who plan to visit your site over and over again, thereby giving you wider exposure through word of mouth and inbound links which will make you more money.

    If you’re using WordPress then it manages your site’s RSS feeds automatically; you don’t have to do anything but publish! Yes, I said feeds. Not only can WordPress do a feed for your site, and a feed for site comments, it can also do a feed for each individual category, a feed for each blog author, and a feed for comments on each post. And to top it all off, WordPress can do a feed for search results on your site! This gives your visitors far more flexibility in how they can subscribe to you than a simple mailing list, and since they don’t have to give their email address, they don’t have to worry about spam, so you may well get more subscribers.

  2. Cary says:

    IO ERROR, did you even read the post? Isn’t that what she was saying, that RSS is important, and it’s going to get even more important as less tech-savvy people get easier access to it?

    Did I miss something?

    Great post. I’ve been fumbling with this for the last week. I finally got the auto-discovery all working, but now bloglines isn’t updating my pages except for every few days…what use is that? Uggh, the rest of the readers I’ve tried work great though!

  3. Nicole Simon says:

    IO, thanks for giving more examples of the usage for RSS.

    But, no, you don’t automatically always have a feed in WordPress, I have seen at least WP blogs where the information for automatic feed discovery was taken out.

    This has nothing to do with if the blog software produces the feed(s) which it still did. But when talking to the two blog owners in question, both said something like “oh, but my feed is there! And I link it from my page! I did not want the code to be so cluttered and removed this line from my head information!”.

    If you do so, you can have as many feeds as you like. The upcoming IE-USers and many others will click “Search for RSS” or what ever it will be called – as long as the above snippet is not available in your html, the software will not find anything. :)

    Cary, you ran into another problem: Bloglines does have feedinformation for you from your old feeds and I imagine, you did not make a redirect for your old feed addresses?

  4. Cary says:

    Thanks Nicole,

    Actually I am subscribed to my feedburner feeds through bloglines, and they are only getting updated ever three or even four days. I Googled it and found quite a few others are having the same problem…the feed is updating fine via other aggregators, but bloglines isn’t updating theirs : ( For instance…I canceled and then resubscribed to my feed via the sub with bloglines button that is on my blog. The feedburner feed address, which is the correct one, shows up as the subscription feed. However, it is showing the latest post as being from Thursday. There have been many posts since then, and they all show up through other services like NewsWire, etc.

    This happened last week also, and I e-mailed them and it got fixed for about three days, but now it is doing it again. I e-mailed them again this morning, so maybe by the time someone reads this it will be fixed, but it would be really helpful if a couple of folks would try subscribing to my site via the bloglines button, and tell me if the latest post is indeed from Thursday : D

    If a feedburner feed shows up then the auto-discovery is indeed working, and it’s a problem as bloglines : (

    Thanks!

  5. Cary says:

    About the redirects…I am using typepad, and have no idea if there is any way for me to do a redirect. I do have the auto-discovery in my html set up to point to my feedburner feeds, but the old feed that shows up in bloglines as one of the three feeds for my site, was probably picked up before I started using feedburner. Is there a way to get this removed? Same stand with the no feedburner feed, but I guess I can live with this one as long as it’s up to date. As it stands, none of them are up to date : (

    I’d love to get some help on this.

    -Cary

  6. Cary Miller says:

    Sure enough, after e-mailing them this morning, my feeds have been updated again, but I don’t have much hope they will stay that way…we shall see!

  7. Cary says:

    BTW Nicole, I just tried sunscribing to your feed in bloglines and got a choice between what I assume is your original feed, and your feedburner feed. Maybe you have your original feed being re-directed, but if not I thought you’d want to know : )

    If you look at the soure code for my page you will see that I have stripped nearly everything out of the header section, just to see if I could get rid of those other feeds showing up in bloglines…this worked instantly on my wife’s blogger blog, but did not work on my typepad blog. In spite of the fact that I only reference a single feedburner feed in the head section, bloglines still lists two other feed sources, so they must have this stuff indexed, and are not pulling in from my page.

    Sad Cary : (

  8. Cary says:

    UPDATE: I honestly don’t mean to be hogging these comments, but thought someone might find this useful. I e-mailed bloglines about the multiple feeds showing up, asked them to delete the old ones, and then I followed the “quickstart for typepad” instructions at feedburner, which basically had me make the same changes I had already made in the head section of my html, but also had me delete this line:

    atom.xml” />

    I had originally had this line in my html, but had changed it to point at my feedburner feed, via some instructions at the feedburner forum. Anyway, I don’t know if it was the e-mail I sent to bloglines, or the change I made to my page source, but my auto-discovery via bloglines now only shows one feed, the feedburner feed…Yay!!!!

    Hope this might help someone in the future : )

  9. Nicole Simon says:

    Thanks Cary for your step by step descriptions, yes bloglines is getting very unusable these day. And the information, that they show up the feedburner feed now, is very very ugly!

    Thanks for bringing that to my attention, I will look into that. :(

  10. Anonymous says:

    Nice site, I have bookmarked your site yet and I will come back again ! You have a gratest site!

  11. Nate says:

    I am reasonably new to blogging (properly that is) and this is all quite useful info seemingly. It appears that staying up to date is pretty important… as well as not being boring :)

  12. exinco says:

    i always get an error from commentluv. the error was
    you site failed to return a feed. i use default setting on wordpress.

  13. Thanks Nicole, this has been driving me nuts for a couple of weeks, my CommentLuv links have been completely off without this little bit of code.

  14. pcmemoirs says:

    My commentluv is enabled and the code is there too, but all of a sudden I get the error “a feed could not be found…” It worked just the other day… ???

  15. Armand says:

    Yup, I got a problem with commentluv, too. It can not find my feed every time I post a comment on a commentluv-enabled blogs. Thanks for the tip, I think I should modify my theme :)

  16. Kim Dion says:

    I am still confused on that…have to read more on that. I have a self hosted wordpress blog. We have different pages and I am not sure where to put that code.

    I appreciate you bringing it to my attention and I better get caught up.

  17. Great post! This is why I love blogging. Always something interesting to read, watch and enjoy. It keeps the mind active. Thanks, Amy x.

  18. Simon P. says:

    I’ve learned a lot from this site – I hope you continue writing because I love your stuff!

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