Give Us Full Posts

by Marc Hedlund

Related link:

Chris Clark at advocates for full posts in RSS feeds. I agree; enough that only Dan Gillmor remains in my feedreader without providing full posts.

Rafe used to provide only summaries but responded to my request for full posts, and is one of my favorite RSS-enabled authors. Nelson falls into the "really want people to see [his] great web design" category (and his blog is awfully pretty -- I disagree with Chris that he's flattering himself!), but he still lets me read full posts, if a little grumpily. Duncan recently turned off full feeds and lost me as a subscriber. I didn't even bother trying to turn his opinion back to the right side -- I just voted with my feed, as it were. People who don't provide full feeds lose me, and I bet they lose plenty of other people, too.

The problem is simply one of time consumption. I use SharpReader even more than I used trn in college -- and I need SharpReader to be as much or more efficient if I'm going to keep up. I want to read feeds from many different sources and I want to be able to keep adding feeds as I discover the beautiful outliers; but I also want to get work done. I can cruise through five or ten full-post feeds in the time it takes me to launch a window for each new post from one summary feed. It's not worth it.

I think that feed reader developers could make this situation a little more tenable for both sides by supporting per-feed CSS. Let the feed author specify a stylesheet that formats their feed in the reader, and the author won't care as much about forcing a new window for design reasons. It all boils down to HTML in the end -- why should authors or reader developers force a usage pattern because the transport lets off one stop too early?

Update: Oh, the irony! It turns out O'Reilly's weblogging system only provides RSS summaries, not full posts. I've manipulated the system to provide a full post in my feed; but I'll have to talk the O'Reilly folks into reading the above and see what they think about changing their feed system. If I fail, I guess I'll stop reading my own feed!


2004-01-19 17:53:47
How wonderfully naive
... try a google search on RSS and Conditional-GET and then maybe you might figure out that serving your wonderful full-item feeds to even just a thousand broken aggregators (and _most_ are broken) every five minutes over 7x24 is going to take more bandwidth than even ORA could donate.
2004-01-19 21:40:42
Not quite
First, even many times the numbers you suggest could easily be served by pipes much smaller than O'Reilly's. Even if you were right with your numbers, don't you want the technology to suit the needs of its users, and not be stuck with the limitations of some early broken implementations?
2004-01-20 00:40:16
Not quite
Want: of course.
Can have: maybe not.

I think most people would rather have limited functionality (meaning abstracts) all the time than have full functionality (full posts) at an irregular basis because the service is down more often than not.

2004-01-20 04:52:21
Not on your life
Let's keep in mind that the majority of online publications who've implemented RSS feeds aren't necessarily doing it for the love of standards and convenience, but simply because it's another line to readers. Advertising pays the bills, and if they include the entire article within the feed, how are they to generate revenues?

Hobbyists, bloggers and the like, sure include the entire post. Publications relying on advertising? Hardly. Not unless you'd like your feeds littered with advertising.

2004-01-20 08:24:20
Not on your life
I think you're right, and that the spread of online advertising to RSS feeds is inevitable. It's already happening -- see, for instance, the Infoworld Top News feed at While I'm not thrilled about advertising in feeds, I'd much rather receive online content via my feedreader than any other way, and if advertising is what will pay for that, I'd prefer it to no feeds and to summary feeds. (I would also go for micropayment models or a few subscription sites, but I think those are much less likely to succeed.)
2004-01-21 03:30:53
We just need a way to get the full text
I read most of my blog-weblog-journal stuff right in a vt100 terminal, and I have written a lot of things to pull down content, reformat it, and display it.

I do not think RSS feeds need the full text, but they can specify a way to get the full text by itself (like some sites, inlcuding this one, have "printer friendly" versions).

Curiously, I had just emailed the O'Reilly Network people about providing this. They responded that they can do it and are looking at possible formats to do it in.

2004-01-21 15:02:19
That might be a little misleading
I was the one who talked with brian, and wanted to clarify: as far as I know, we're not actively looking at ways to provide full text via RSS.

RSS hadn't been mentioned specifically in the request, and I was interested in learning further what XML format brian had in mind. We're always interested in new ideas and suggestions.

At the moment, we have a business need to have people read our content from the regular web pages. That could change in the future, but the business need would have to change.

Thanks, and sorry for any confusion about that.

Terrie Miller
O'Reilly Online Publishing Group