The Full Feed Problem Again

by Krishna on July 10, 2007

Steve McConnell, the author of the programming Bible, “Code Complete”, has a blog called “10x Software Development”. I am a huge fan of McConnell and actually buy his books to use as reference material, instead of my usual method of borrowing them from a library. His blog is pretty good and I would encourage you to subscribe to it, except that it has the irritating flaw of not offering a full RSS feed.

So if you want to read his article, you have to click through to the blog website. The only advantage of subscribing to his blog is to know when he has posted a new article. McConnell is not the only one to do this — others include the web design site A List Apart, the New York Times technology Pogue's Posts site and Paul Graham. Also, people like Jakob Nielsen do not even seem to believe in blogs or feeds; instead, Nielsen loves email newsletters.

I don’t understand this for several reasons:

  1. First of all, some of these sites do not seem to have any tangible benefit for the author by forcing you to visit the website to read the article. As far as I could see, there didn’t seem to be any ads on McConnell’s and Graham’s sites.
  2. A typical user who reads blogs subscribes to many blogs. It is very tiresome to keep switching from the blog reading software to separate browser windows or tabs to read the articles. This increases the probability of losing readers, especially during inevitable periods of poor quality posts.
  3. The number of feed subscribers is a small minority of the total readers of a blog. So offering full subscription does not hurt page views or visitor count at all. At the same time, it offers a great benefit to people who like your content.
  4. Feed subscribers are more tech-savvy. They may have blogs themselves and link to you, share your post or email it to others. For example, Google Reader offers the ability to email a post directly from within the application. When there is no full feed, it takes more effort to do the same thing and many people do not bother.
  5. Feed subscribers are more likely to participate in the conversation. If you have a good post, they will come to your website and post comments, or email you. That increases the value of your blog.
  6. There are many ways of getting people to visit your website even if you offer full feeds. You can provide links to similar articles in the past. You can also have ads in your feeds if your intention is to make money. You can blog about your work or company if it brings value to your audience.
  7. Finally, offering only partial feeds affects search results in blog search engines like Google Blogsearch, Ask and Technorati. Don’t believe me? Search for the heading of the blog — you will find it. Search for some words within the content — the post will be missing.

I could get mad and unsubscribe from these blogs. But that is rash — many of the articles on these sites are really high-quality and I wouldn’t want to miss them. But I sincerely wish that they would make it easier. Turning off full feeds just seems like a really unnecessary thing to do.

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