I Moved My RSS Feed

It Also Works Now

November 24, 2022

Since the beginning of my website I have had an RSS feed and since the beginning of my RSS feed it has had incorrect syntax. I realized my first mistake about a year and a half ago (after I'd written over 100 articles) and I figured out what the other one was several months after that. To make a long story short I've finally gotten around to fixing it and in doing so I have changed the address of my RSS feed. My RSS feed can now be found at https://jacobwsmith.xyz/feed.xml so while I will probably continue to update the old feed I recommend switching over to this one to avoid any sort of errors that many of you have been experiencing due to my initial ignorance and later laziness. That is the most important thing I have to share here so if you don't care to learn what my mistakes were, why I chose not to address them, and what finally made me make a change then feel free to stop reading now.

When I started this site I was a computer science student but unlike your stereotypical computer science student I really hadn't done much tinkering around with computers, programming, or websites outside of school. I wasn't really a computer nerd (even now despite owning multiple thinkpads and using Arch Linux daily I still don't consider myself a computer nerd, which is why I rarely write about tech). Because of my inexperience, and the lack of good tutorials on how to make an RSS feed from scratch (which still don't seem to exist), I naively assumed that using the correct date format in an RSS feed was not that important and I could just shortcut it by using a simpler format. (Keep in mind I update my RSS feed by hand even to this day) Because of this RSS readers weren't able to correctly read the date I posted things.

In most software related projects an error like this is easy to find, or at least easy to make itself known; this is not the case when you have the wrong date format in your RSS feed. When refreshing a feed an RSS feed reader will assume that a new RSS item that does not have a date attached to it (or in my case an improperly formatted date) was published on the day the feed was being updated. This was always the case for me, because every time I put something new on my RSS feed I'd immediately update my RSS feed reader (to make sure I didn't mess up a link or something) my RSS feed reader would always show me the correct date so I had no idea that that bug was even there until I'd gained a bit of a following and people began to email me about it.

Now of course because it worked for me I assumed that the problems these people were emailing me about were their fault and not mine so I didn't do anything for a long time (also getting an emails about broken RSS feeds is a sign that your following is growing so I didn't have a strong incentive to fix it anyways). But at one point I decided it was finally time to look into this whole RSS date issue and I began using the correct date format. I don't remember if that was a correction I had decided to make completely on my own or if one of you out there told me that was the issue, but if it was one of you who told me thank you.

So for a while I thought I had fixed things but another week or two later the RSS emails started to come back again, this time I was sure it wasn't my fault because I thought I'd already fixed the problem and maybe these people were complaining about the old posts with the wrong format or something. I'd respond to these people saying that the error only affected past posts and new ones going forward should be fine.

I'd do this until one of you managed to find my other syntax error and point it out to me. The pubDate element in RSS, which is where you put the date, has a capital D and I had always typed it with a lowercase d so nobody's RSS reader even recognized the date. To the guy who pointed this out to me: thank you, I would have never found this if you hadn't pointed it out to me.

Because I use Vim this was an easy fix to make so I did, but that caused new problems. First it duplicated every post I'd ever made in my RSS reader (which happens to other feeds I follow every once in a while) which wasn't too big of a deal, but the other problem was that it put all of my posts with the improper date format (which were several months old at this point) in front of my more recent, and better quality, posts. This was unacceptable and there were two ways to fix it. My first option was to simply take all the old posts with the wrong format off of my RSS feed but I didn't want to do that so I decided I'd stick to using the wrong syntax until I had fixed the format on all those dates which I would have had to do by hand. Fixing the format on those 100 posts is something I never found the motivation to do because it was boring and tedious so eventually I made the decision to just not care that my RSS feed was messed up.

Today I decided to fix it (through the easy method of just deleting the old stuff) because I saw something cool on Tom Fasano's site. He recently added a page where he uses openring to feature content from other peoples' websites on his own which is really cool and something 2021 Jacob would have probably put in his website but 2022 Jacob might not have the time to figure out. Openring uses RSS feeds to generate a page showcasing posts from various places but of course for this to work properly the RSS feed has to have proper syntax which my old feed of course never had. I of course wanted to have an RSS feed compatible with this cool piece of software so I fixed it and I hope you all move over to my proper RSS feed.