Julien Genestoux

I read you

RSS’s beauty comes from the fact that it decouples the reading and the publishing platform. I publish this here, but I don’t want to force you to read it here. Yet, I want to know if you read it and I want to know if you liked it, starred it… etc This is currently not possible with RSS feeds, but works extremely well in the social web applications like Twitter or Facebook.

This is also very important, because it closes a feedback loop. I learn from what you do when I write something. If the feedback loop is not closed, how can I make the difference between they don’t care and they don’t know I wrote this?

It’s obviously even more important for big platforms which invest time and manpower in maintaining their RSS feeds. When the time of prioritization comes, they have very little data as to what’s happening with their RSS feeds. Some of them may decide to truncate their feeds to see exactly how many people want to read more. To me, that’s like removing your plate half-meal and ask you to rate the dish before you can finish it: it breaks the experience and makes me not want to have diner at your restaurant again.

If we want people to invest in RSS, we need to provide them with some kind of metric they can use to assess an ROI.

After thinking a little bit about that problem, I decided to put my pings where my mouth is. Luckily, it’s easy to take advantage of the fact that several feed readers have APIs to work with mobile web applications and built a little app which syncs the stories I read and starred and for each of them, sends a HEAD request to the URL of the story. It uses the Referer, From to indicate who I am. The HTTP request also includes a Ping-read or Ping-starred header which tells the publisher if I read or starred their stories.

Of course, grumpy folks will tell me that it’s referer spam. so be it. Maybe there’s a way to sign these requests so the publisher of the story can make sure I am the one actually sending the ping.

Feel free to check the source, fork, contribute and run your own!

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