A wee tweak to my feed links

As I said the other day, I’m quite happy with Morten’s Syndication Subscription Service as a solution to all sorts of “what should clicking on a link to an RSS feed do?” problems: if you have an aggregator (that behaves itself decently), then you can set a cookie and it turns into one-click subscription, if you don’t have an aggregator then you don’t come face to face with fairly raw XML, or an “Open or Save” prompt, or worst of all a “feed: is not a registered protocol” alert. But there was one way it wasn’t quite satisfying.

The reason we have actual links to raw XML that we don’t ever expect anyone to look at (unless we’ve asked them to fix what we’ve broken) is because sometimes dealing with a link in all the normal link ways short of clicking it is just what someone wants: dragging it to another application, or right-clicking to copy the link location, is quite often the quickest and simplest way to subscribe. Generally, the autodiscovery in the SynSubServ pages makes copying a link to them work just about as well as the direct link to the feed a person might have expected they were copying, but sometimes it doesn’t (in at least one case, I saw someone advertising the SynSubServ link as being my feed link, in their blogroll).

But, one of the nice things about hanging around on the fringes of the Mozilla project is that you get a rather different attitude toward JavaScript than the one you’re likely to pick up hanging around web standardistas. After all, we build a good share of our browser in JavaScript, especially the parts you can touch and tweak, and while I don’t ever have any interaction with him, JavaScript’s daddy is always around. And with that attitude, it’s obvious what to do:

<a href="http://philringnalda.com/index.xml" onclick="location.href='http://purl.org/net/syndication/subscribe/?rss=' + this.href; return false;" rel="nofollow">

Copy it or drag it, it’s a link. Click it the way the average user will, with JavaScript enabled, and it gives you at least some idea what you ought to do with it, without being too baffling. Click it with JavaScript disabled, and you get what you deserve. Consider following it if you are a search engine which won’t understand it, but will still pretend to know when it is and isn’t a useful result, and you’ll be gently shooed away.


Comment by Randy Charles Morin #
2005-01-26 09:20:50

I don’t really see how this helps. It’s highly unlikely that blog hosting services are gonna deploy a vendor specific subscription service.

Comment by Phil Ringnalda #
2005-01-26 21:18:45

And how many divisions have the blog hosting services?

Suppose that you get agreement from Blogger, Typepad, and LiveJournal, in Steve’s timeframe (6-8 months, wasn’t it?), and from every desktop aggregator vendor. You’ve now covered maybe three or four things in Bloglines’ list of most popular feeds, because the rest are homegrown or running Slashcode or Scoop or something else, very few of them blogs (and Bloglines’ list is way more techy and bloggy than most online aggregators’ lists would be). Plus, you’ve had another 6-8 months of more BigPubs launching feeds, and 6-8 months of MyYahoo and MyMSN and Gfeeds picking up users. So, you say to the team at USA Today, and their PHB, that they should link to something which will present an ”Open or Save?” prompt to anyone without an aggregator installed, rather than linking to the big three online aggregators, and they look at their stats, see that the big three account for 98% of their readers, and you say…

Me, I say ”here’s a web service you can hit, returns a list of every known aggregator and the URL to subscribe, you just grab it as often as you like and replace every %s with your feed URL, then you’re set to build a page that will work for absolutely everyone, with no whining support emails about ’it says to Save or Open but I want to Read’ or ’what about my program?’ and nobody complaining about being left out, link this way and the clued-in people can use your link the right way, while the clueless will get your HTML page-o’-links.”

Comment by Randy Charles Morin #
2005-02-06 08:12:05

Oops, sorry Phil, missed your response.

Let me ask you what happens when the user clicks on a PDF and doesn’t have a PDF viewer? We didn’t need javascript to solve that problem. We just need to tell the user where to go next.

Your RSS feed should be an orange little chicklet with the words (What is this?) to one side that links to an explanation of what to do next. See ”The RSS Blog” for one example or FeedBurner Browser-Friendly page for another.

Anyhow, I don’t expect to convince anyone. It’s just my opinion. I’ll push the USM solution, you push the javascript solution, Dare’ll push the feed URI scheme and we’ll all meet at the finish line. The users will win either way.

Trackback by you've been HAACKED #
2005-01-25 08:50:41

Drag and Drop an RSS (or ATOM) Link Into RSS Bandit

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