Friday, January 23, 2009

Return to the 23 Things: RSS

Okay, I need to start jamming on The 23 Things again. It seems appropriate to address RSS and Newsreaders (Things 8 and 9), because I recently had a day from heck that could have been much less irritating if RSS had been used properly.

So, what happened, you ask? Well, I post entries on behalf of a group of other people to a particular internal blog at work. (Trust me, there's a reason.) The blog is in SharePoint which has a clunky blog editor, so my preferred tool for editing and posting entries is MS Word. Using the blog template in Word, I can post to any blog to which I have publishing rights with a simple click of my mouse.

This time, however, it wasn't so simple. I published a new post, and when I went into the blog to ensure that it displayed properly (there often are differences between the preview and the actual post), I saw an error. I went back to Word, fixed the error, and then published a draft copy (i.e., unapproved for general viewing) of the post to the blog. Unfortunately, this triggered a memory problem and I received an error message telling me that the draft could not be published. But that's not what really happened. The draft did publish, crashing Word along the way and corrupting my document. But, on my end, it just looked like Word was slowly trying to save the document. I left Word alone to crunch; it usually is better to let Word finish whatever it's doing and close itself down properly than to force it to abort with the Task Manager. What I didn't realize until my email box started filling up was that Word was stuck in some sort of weird loop and kept republishing the same corrupted draft. I finally had to force Word to close and restart my laptop, thus pulling the plug on that particular problem. Then, I went back into Word, started from scratch to avoid propagating whatever had corrupted the draft, published the new draft, deleted the original post for fear of possible embedded corruption, and, finally, approved the new draft.

So why was my email box filling up? I subscribed to the "alert me" feature for the SharePoint site on which the blog resides so that I would know if any changes were made to the site or its contents. Every time the draft republished, I received an email. These alerts weren't a problem for me; I want to know about every little change. That's the point of the "alert" function. Frankly, if I hadn't done this, it may have taken me longer to figure out what was going on with the endless loop of republished, corrupted drafts.

The problem is that, instead of subscribing to the RSS feed for the blog, some of the readers of the blog also had subscribed via "alert me." So, they, too, received a barrage of emails while Word was going through its endless loop crisis. I received a phone call from a co-worker admonishing, "Stop editing the blog! I've already received 9 emails on it!"

I checked my RSS folder for the blog. It had two new posts in it: the original post (that I deleted for fear of corruption) and the post-systems-disaster corrected version. (Check! RSS working as expected.)

Thus, my next task was sending out a general announcement on how and why to unsubscribe from alerts and subscribe to RSS. (Yes, readers should be blocked from alerts, but that's a whole different story...)

Anyhow, the point is that RSS is a great tool for keeping up on only what you want to know and arranging it a manageable way. If the readers had all been using RSS (as directed when the blog originally launched), my episode with Word's "undocumented feature" would have gone unnoticed by readers.

With respect to the 23 Things, I did, in fact, set up a account a while back and I tried out other readers. I used the search tools and added lots of blog feeds relevant to my work. My conclusion is that having RSS delivered into my Outlook RSS folder works best for me.

While I'm at it, I did Thing 10 as well. Obviously, if you read my other posts, I've been doing Thing 10 unwittingly for a while now. Here's my official result, though:

I used , which was very user friendly.

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1 comment:

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