Blogging and RSS

In my last post, I described how I use akregator to follow blogs.  One of things that I have noticed is that some blogs provide a full copy of new posts in their RSS feed, while some provide only a summary.  Here, I want to discuss how that affects me.

I’ll note that WordPress has a setting for this blog (under “Reading Settings”) where I can specify whether I want to provide the full text of a post or just a summary.  The default was to provide the full text, and I have left it that way.

My overall conclusion, which I will discuss below, is that it is preferable to provide a full feed.  I’ll note that others have reached the same conclusion, as for example here:

It may well be true, that reading a post with an RSS reader is not counted in the statistics on visitors to your blog.  I presume that those who provide only a summary are doing so in an attempt to encourage visits to the full site.

Here’s my experience.  If I see a feed with only a summary, then I will visit the site only if the summary shows provides enough information to persuade me that it is worth reading the full page.  Several of the sites that I have been following with akregator, have provided only useless summaries.  The only thing that a useless summary does, in inform me that there is a new post at that site.  If that happens to me a must read site for me, perhaps that’s enough.  However, in most case, I don’t bother to visit.  And, after a while, I decide that the feed itself is useless to me, so I delete that feed from akregator.

For sites that do provide a full feed, I am sometimes satisfied with just reading what is in the feed.  But if the topic is of particular interest, I prefer to browse to that page where it is better formatted and does a better job of showing all of the graphics.

There are a few sites that I now visit less often with my browser, because the full feed content is enough to determine that a post is not something I want to spend time on.  But, overall, I am visiting more blog posts in my browser now, than I was before I started using akregator.  The full text of the post is part of what is persuading me to browse to that site.

Of the sites that I still follow, and which provide only summaries, distrowatch (not really a blog) is the best.  It’s summary is succinct and to the point.  I can quickly see whether I want to read the full report.

If you are intent on only providing summaries, then make sure that your summary contains enough detail about the post to allow a reader to decide whether it is worth reading the full post.  For many blogs, the summary is derived from the first few lines of the post, so that is where you must be detailed.

That’s my experience.



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About Neil Rickert

Retired mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

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