We are getting down to the end game for getting the Nightcrawler release of RSS Bandit. This is where all the more unfun parts of the release happen such as dealing with translations and tracking down performance bugs such as memory leaks or issues with multithreading. To take my mind of some of the tedium I'm going to have to deal with today, I've decided to spend some time thinking about the Jubilee release of RSS Bandit which should ship sometime next year

One of the features I'm evaluating is Reading lists for RSS which was discussed by Nick Bradbury in a blog entry he posted last month where he wrote

Last week Dave Winer proposed the idea of reading lists for RSS, which are more-or-less OPML subscriptions. I like this idea - a lot - and in fact a few FeedDemon customers have requested this feature in the past.

In a nutshell, the idea is that you'd subscribe to an OPML document which contains a list of feeds that someone is reading, some organization is recommending, or some service has generated (such as "Top 100" list). Changes to the source OPML document would be synchronized, so that you're automatically subscribed to feeds added to the reading list. Likewise, you'd be unsubscribed from feeds removed from the original OPML.

There are a number of implementation details that would need to be worked out (ex: would a FeedDemon user really want to be automatically unsubscribed from feeds dropped from the source OPML, especially if that user had flagged some posts in those feeds for future reference?), but details aside, I'm curious whether this is something you'd like to see, and if so, how do you think the idea can be improved upon?

This feature initially made me skeptical since it seems like a solution looking for a problem. Then again I thought the same thing about enclosures in RSS and I've been proved wrong by the podcasting phenomenom. So instead of ignoring the idea I'd like to see whether our users think this feature makes sense and if so how they expect us to resolve certain problems that would arise from implementing such a feature.

The first problem that comes up in implementing RSS reading lists based on OPML is what to do when a feed is pulled from the list by the owner of the feed list. Do we automatically delete the subscription? Do we prompt the user and if they decide to stay subscribed to the feed, move it out of the reading list? Another question is how to deal with feeds that the user is already subscribed to that are in the reading list?

What do you think?

Sunday, November 20, 2005 7:46:12 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I was thinking that having a configuration for an OPML subscription that lets you choose to automatically delete, ask before deletion or never delete might be a good idea. The big problem I see with not automatically deleting is that RSS Bandit has to remember that it was asked not to delete the feed already. Of course it means more work for you so my suggestion would be to think about adding a message when the feed is deleted from the subscription that lets the user move that feed to another section of the list if they want to keep reading it. You could do something similar with a feed the user already reads and ask them where they want it listed?
Sunday, November 20, 2005 9:48:46 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Dare, I've implemented the feature, and plan to release an aggreator shortly that uses it.

Here's what I do when a feed is removed from a reading list.

1. I keep a boolean for each feed that indicates whether it was manually subscribed to or automatically subscribed to.

2. If it was manually subscribed to, it stays. If it was automatically subscribed to, it goes.

3. Putting up a dialog isn't a good idea, because the user likely isn't even aware that he or she is subscribed to the feed, and the moment when you'd put up a dialog is an awkward one, it isn't in response to a user action (unless the user initiated the scan manually).

In any case, I'll be releasing it soon so we'll start getting user feedback.
Sunday, November 20, 2005 10:15:39 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I rather like that idea. I would like to see what people I respect are reading. If I am already subscribing to a feed I would want it ignored, specifically if they stop reading it.
Colin Newell
Sunday, November 20, 2005 10:16:11 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
To me the reading list idea seems a good one, although the OPML format is a weak link. My own inclination would be to tweak the syndication-oriented RSS format for feedlists rather than tweaking a format designed for outlines (didn't MS have a list extension..?). But I'm not going to lose sleep (or too much coding time) over any format as long the spec's well-defined and Web-friendly. Dave is talking of updating the OPML spec, so there is the possibility for wins all around - please get your critical eye on it Dare!

On the specific question, it sounds the kind of thing that might be tucked away in the Options menu, the default probably as Dave suggests.
Monday, November 21, 2005 12:01:48 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
The way I see a reading list is as a single channel in the RSS Reader and, as Dave alluded to, all the work goes through the backend. That way if I'm not subscribed to a feed and the OPML list owner deletes it, it is just gone from my reading unless I already am subscribed to it.
The presentation is where the user would know whether they are reading from a list, subscription, or optimally, both! I wouldn't even list the reading list members except on the reading pane.

Something like:
Dave's Developer List
Scobelizer via Dave's Developer List (2) Subscribe
Scobelizer via Dave's Developer List (2) Subscribed

It would be nice if I am also subscribed to only see the post in one place, but not mandatory.

Monday, November 21, 2005 12:58:23 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

I like the idea of subscribing to someone else's feed list. I think about the scenerio this way:

1. The feed list goes into its own (new) category.
2. The feed list is imported once manually and not automatically updated from the publisher.
3. If items on the list are duplicated in other categories in the aggregator, no problem.
4. The aggregator allows moving a feed from the imported feed list to another category.
5. The aggregator allows deletion of the feed list just like any other category.

I'm guessing that if someone's feed list has more than one level of tree hierarchy, RSS Bandit may not be able to display the feed list as is under a category. This may be a problem.

If it is important to update the feed list against the publisher as time goes on, it would make sense to flag the feeds that the publisher has removed, but require manual deletion of the feed. If I liked the feed and hadn't copied it elsewhere, I would want to control the deletion.

-- Walter Lounsbery
Monday, November 21, 2005 1:12:21 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Most of the value of RSS reading lists is that you are forming a subscription relationship with the list publisher so I would think you would probably want to allow the pubisher to control deletion. A more pragmatic problem is that if you only ever add feeds then your subscriptions will just grow and grow. It seems like you could treat Reading lists as feeds that you are trying out in some seperate section of the UI and allow the user to promote them to a full subscription. It seems unlikely you will want to just wholesale read someone elses reading list for a prolonged period.

As long as you share read / unread state between multiple instances of the subscriptions (so I only have to read each article in a feed once) I don't think it's a problem to have the feed in two places in the UI.

Just my 2 cents.
Monday, November 21, 2005 5:42:43 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
With all respect to Dave, software should NEVER EVER delete anything without letting the user Know and Veto. The enumeration needed is Auto, Manual and Kept.
Monday, November 21, 2005 9:16:26 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Hi Dare,

My comments on how subscribing to OPML should look like.

1) There should be clickable node representing the OPML feed, that looks different from other nodes. Somehow. Other icon? (Everything subscribed to should be represented by some graphical object.)

2) Below this node, we should have the feeds. Only the feeds included in the actual subscription. Nothing else. No deleted ones either, to avoid "subscription mess".

3) I think it should be possible to exclude one or more of these feeds, so that the RSS isn't retrieved for those. But the feed should still show up, perhaps with a red icon or so. Sometimes you don't want to throw away the whole OPML subscription just for one bad included feed.

4) When a feed is removed by the OPML publisher, the feed should either be moved to another category with a prompt the next time you view it (never remain under the OPML category), or it should be removed altogether, depending on settings (default and per OPML feed). Sometimes you care about the constituent feeds, and sometimes you don't. Same as your suggestion, that is.

5) If you're already subscribed to some of the feeds in the OPML subscription, "mark as read" should be synchronized between the feeds, and there should be some indication of this relationship on "your own" copy of the feed, so that you won't be surprised when there are never any unread messages in that feed.

OK, I think that's all for now!


Monday, November 21, 2005 10:24:26 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
btw, if you do add support for "subscribe to list of feeds", it's only a couple of steps to "subscribe to homepage". Grab the blogger's HTML page, pull out the links (which will probably include a blogroll), do autodiscovery on those to snag the feed URIs.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005 9:48:10 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
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