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10 Things SF Signal’s RSS Subscribers Might Be Missing

If you’re like me – and I recommend you pause here to hope that you’re not – you do much of your blog reading through news readers. When I’m feeling adventurous I like to visit the actual sites to see what I might be missing by reading only newsfeeds. It occurs to me (that happens sometimes…things occur to me) that SF Signal’s RSS reader’s might be missing some of the crunchy science fictiony goodness that we have to offer. So, to that end, we present:

10 Things SF Signal’s RSS Subscribers Might Be Missing

  1. SF Signal’s Frappr Map – Everyone who signs up gets to be represented by a Google map push pin. For free!
  2. Recent Comments – Marvel at the witty repartee of our regular readers and nod at the incoherent babble and smiley abuse by drive-by spammers!
  3. SF Quotes – capturing the capturable since 2003!
  4. The SF Signal poll – Have you participated? [ ]Yes [ ]No
  5. SF Signal bookshelves – See what we dare to read! One day soon. We promise. But only in a non-committal sort of way.
  6. Short-Story-a-Day Point Tracker – Check in on the latest progress on what others are calling “WTF?”
  7. SF Signal links – Some sites we like, none we don’t. We even link to author blogs!
  8. Past Ramblings – We’ve had some great discussions in the past that get hidden under the blog format. These random posts from the past remind us why we are so marvelous.
  9. Site Search – Search our vast archives for the stuff you care about. Show us it’s more than Kate Beckinsale!
  10. Meta-Signal goodies – See what’s in the SF Signal library; add SF Signal to your Google toolbar (RSS too!); Mail us; Link to sister-site Gaming Signal; Read about us. (It is, after all, all about us.)
About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

3 Comments on 10 Things SF Signal’s RSS Subscribers Might Be Missing

  1. I do most of my blog reading through an RSS reader as well. I usually follow to the actual sites when I want to comment on a post, follow a link from a post (It’s polite to have the blog post as the referral, in case the target site check those), in case the blog releases partial feeds (Though usually I’ll just unsubscribe from those, due to the difficulty of quickly deciding what’s worth following and what not), or for searches or other “special” needs…

    But as for your list, well, I don’t think it’s entirely accurate that these are things that people who follow your RSS feeds miss, and people who come here directly don’t:

    1. When people do visit, once can be enough, so if anyone followed just a few of the posts there’s a chance they’ll notice it and check. After that there isn’t that much of a benefit from seeing it all the time. It’s interesting to begin with, but that interest fades rather quickly when you’re both not the owner/author of the blog, and are starting to see these maps on quite a few of the blogs you read anyway.

    2. Not sure about this, but I’m curious, do you really get a significant percentage of your readers who follow links from the Recent Comments area?

    Personally I find these to be too disconnected to follow. I revisit posts whose comments may interest me specifically, but rarely pick a comment in random.

    And besides, the solution for that is *very* simple. Add a comment RSS feed. That way anyone who is interested could follow the comments in their feed reader as well.

    Actually, the best thing would be both a general comment feed, and a per-post comment feed. The former solves the problem you raised here, and the latter let people keep track on a post, even if someone comment way after the time they think to get back and check if something changed.

    I think MT knows how to do it, or has a plugin/extension that can do it.

    3. True.

    But (There’s ALWAYS a but), you can probably add those as signature lines to the posts on the RSS feed.

    4. True. But that’s one of the things people can follow through to the site if they’re interested in. I sometimes do. Since you do publish a post with the result of each poll, and which mentions what the next poll is about, then it’s easy to get to from the RSS links.

    5. How many books do you read per-week, generally? I’m a relatively fast reader myself, but rarely goes over more than four books per week (happens, sometimes, but not very often. I’d like to just sit and read all week long, with meal breaks maybe, but can’t find anyone who would pay me a decent salary for that).

    So if you think your reading list is interesting, add a post every week that shows the change on your reading lists. Should be possible to automate and even split into “finished reading this week” and “intends to read next” based on whether the book was removed, remains, or added.

    A daily post will be annoying, but a weekly won’t bother people who don’t care, especially if it’s not too long.

    6. I’d hate to be rude by saying it’s not that interesting to check on each and every visit, so I won’t. But you could add it to the weekly bookshelf post.

    7. You give interesting links all the time in regular posts. If anyone wants to see a bigger/fixed repository, then going to the site is best, yes. But that’s one of those unique events that don’t happen all the time, so the chance of someone going to the side from a feed reader isn’t noticeably smaller than the chance of another visitor to the site deciding to browse that filtered list. At least, I think it’s not.

    8. True, and making periodic posts of linked selected past posts is almost always annoying, even in low frequency, so this will mostly be used by visitors to the site.

    But how many repeat visitors actually check those instead of only going over the new posts? My feeling is that it is mostly relevant to new visitors, which pretty much excludes people who subscribe to your feeds anyway.

    9. Again, one of those unique events. I’d expect people don’t decide to search out of thin air, but only when they read something they want to follow up on. So someone reading a post on a feed will go the extra mile and click through to the site to run a search. Actually, even people who visit the site directly may read individual posts and not the main page (to see comments, for example), so will have to click back to the main page to search (the way that the site is designed now, with no search box on individual posts).

    10. Those all fall either under mostly interesting for first-time visitors (so out of the scope that this posts covers of how repeat readers do their reading), or only relevant rarely when someone has another reason to do so (i.e. not because they saw that the link is there, but because they wanted to look for the link) in which case nobody will be stopped just because they have to go from the feed reader to the site.

    So all in all we’re not missing that much by using a feed reader. And what we do, you can fix.

    True, the design of the site is nicer than how most feed readers look, but that’s something people take into account in advance when deciding whether to subscribe to the feed or come visiting directly…

  2. Thanks for the great feedback, Yaron. You bring up some good points. I hope others reply as well. We like participation and there is a large gap between the relatively low number of poll respondents and the number of Bloglines feed subscribers.

    I especially like the comments feed idea. In fact, I tried implementing it but I cannot get it to work. We have an issue with our web host who is using a 3-year-old version of a Perl module that is causing some screwiness with MT; that might be the culprit. We strongly suspect that this is also the reason we can’t implement the Recent Comments section like we want to (listing the source post once with a comment count). We just changed hosts at the beginning of the year – a painful process – and are not too eager to do it again so soon. However, a host change is almost sure to come as they have been unresponsive.

  3. That large gap between poll respondents and feed subscribers isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Depending on how much you actually care about the poll results (on average. Obviously some polls may be more serious than others). By only getting the “votes” of people who care enough to go through the effort of clicking on to the site, you remove many of the votes of people who don’t care at all and just vote something in order to see the graph or pass the time.

    The effort is, obviously, pretty small, so it’s not a hindrance to someone who has even a minimal interest in the poll, but it should decrease random votes. If everyone who reads your posts would vote on the poll, you could be pretty certain that your results are meaningless.

    Host change is a headache, but doesn’t have to be very painful. Depends on the two hosts. If you can easily get your files and databases off the current host (which is usually a yes), and easily add them to the new host (which should also be a yes), that reduces most of the burden. It’s still an annoying procedure, wastes time, and may be disruptive, so better not to do it unless you have a good reason to. But in this case it sounds like you may have a reason…

    If the problem is just a single perl module, though, or a few interlinked modules, you should be able to install a local copy of the modules you want, and set your MT installation to use them instead of the general ones your host provides. Probably just putting them some place earlier on the path (if you can do that for only your own MT, not sure) would be enough, but if not you can always change the MT code and point to them directly.

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