Should I Switch from a Full to a Partial RSS Feed?

After a few months of publishing a full RSS feed on this blog, I am contemplating a transition to partial feeds.  Here are my reasons:

To encourage participation.  Viewers of the web page see the comments left by other readers, and may choose to make a comment themselves.  Neither of these are possible through RSS.

To display posts in context.   The context of a post includes its design and visual style, comments, and the relevant links shown in the sidebar.  An RSS feed, in contrast, is oriented towards a stream of words: the style is modified or discarded, and the comments and sidebar are not shown at all. 

Although this website is not a design masterwork—at least not yet—I would nevertheless like all the readers to be on the same page (pun intended).

To improve viewing statistics.  Showing partial posts by default enables me to discover which posts are most popular.  If a particular post interests you, then you vote for it by loading the full article; if not, you ignore it.  Your votes are automatically tallied to create the “most popular posts” list in the sidebar.

This popularity tracking helps both of us:

  • I can write about the subjects you are most interested in;
  • You can learn what subjects other readers are most interested in.

Who would have guessed that my most popular subject would be Chuck Norris facts?

To prevent stealing.  Technically speaking, it is very easy for a scam artist to republish your full RSS feed on their own website, fill it with ads, and profit at your expense.  This is unethical and illegal, but it happens.  While I don’t necessarily object to republishing of my articles, I want it done on my terms and with my permission.

To keep the sponsors and advertisers happy.  As it currently stands, advertisements and sponsorships are not shown in the RSS feed.  This has a slight negative impact on the blog’s income.

While money is not my primary motivation for operating this website, it is a consideration.  Otherwise, how can I stay in the finest blue jeans and New Balance sneakers?  And who will pay for the Chai and donuts?

Benefits of Full Feeds

On the other hand, I can think of two reasons to continue publishing a full feed.  One is important, and the other is trivial:

A minor inconvenience for RSS users.  Frankly, if you believe these posts aren’t worth one extra click to read, then you shouldn’t be reading them anyway. 

Blog search engines cannot index the posts.  This could be a big problem.  Some search engines look only at the RSS feed, so if I truncate the feed, I will essentially be opting-out of a large percentage of search results.

In consideration of the search engine issue, I have decided to continue publishing a full RSS feed.  Are there any other issues I neglected to consider?

[tags]blogging, blog, blogs, rss, feed, blogger, wordpress[/tags]

5 comments on “Should I Switch from a Full to a Partial RSS Feed?”

  1. as ur regular reader who never commend, would prefer to think for you, partial feed… it’s nth wrong to have a partial feed and the only thing i need to do is click one more time as long as you have good content..

  2. It’s a tough decision to make, and you’ve raised some very good points.

    Those who tend to prefer full feeds are the readers who feel inconvenienced by an extra click to see a whole page. But the reasons for choosing which feed version to use is based upon your needs as well as the readers.

    When I switched to partial feeds (summaries), I actually heard from a lot of people who thanked me. I tend to write very long technical articles and they hated scrolling down long articles in their feeds. And because I write technical articles, people don’t hang out reading everything I write every time. They only want the information that pertains to them, skipping over stuff they aren’t interested in.

    Since changing over a year ago, I can count the number of people who have requested full feeds on my two hands. The number of those who are happy with the summaries – I don’t have enough fingers and toes.

    Don’t be swayed by those who insist on full feeds and threaten to quit your blog because you don’t have them. Feeds were summaries long before they were full content posts, and both are valid. The idea of feeds to was to get a quick review of updates on your favorite sites.

    You pick what works for you and your audience and enjoy the benefits, which ever way it works for you.

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