Nik's Technology Blog

Travels through programming, networks, and computers

To Feedburn or not to Feedburn?

I've decided to try out Feedburner. We use RSS to syndicate content at work and have to use server log file analysis to track them, web-beacon based web analytics packages are good for websites, but you can't add Javascript to feeds, which are pure XML. We've tried using .NET to database the hits we were getting on the feeds, but after a short while of testing we were seeing our database growing quickly in front of our eyes, not to mention consuming our precious CPU cycles.

Feedburner not only takes away the hassle of analysing web feed statistics and subscribers, but adds a lot of other functionality too.

My main initial issues with Feedburner were the following:

* What if Feedburner went bankrupt? All the sites syndicating my feed would be using the feedburner URL (unless I pay for the Pro service). How would I be able to change this back to my own URL or another Feedburner type URL? (hopefully saying goodbye to Feedburner would also still hold true if they went bankrupt?) [UPDATED: On June 1st 2007 Google purchased Feedburner, therefore making bankruptcy much less likely :-) ]

* I can't redirect any current traffic from my old Blogger Atom feed on my shared Windows hosting as I don't have access to IIS through my control panel. The file is an .xml file, and I can't use .htaccess for obvious reasons. I would need to use an ISAPI rewrite tool I suppose, which I probably wouldn't be able to get installed in a hosted environment.

* If I want to later upgrade to the Pro service, I would surely have to keep my Feedburner URL even though I could have a URL hosted on my site with this package just so I keep all my subscribers using the same feed URL. (I guess I could use the "saying goodbye to Feedburner" process above?)

Despite these issues, I've decided that the pros of knowing my subscribers etc out way the cons and I'm now syndicating through Feedburner!

I am wondering however, how Feedburner manage to host so many blogs. I assume they have some serious kit to handle the many requests they get. I would be interested to know what the Feedburner IT infrastructure looks like.

Google Reader Mobile Interface - Good, But Room To Improve

I'm a big fan of Google Reader. I tried the first Google Reader interface not long after it was released and couldn't get on with it. It didn't have much going for it. It was hard to use and read articles from, and it was buggy although it was a beta release.
Since the interface was changed however it has progressed in leaps and bounds. It is now my feed reader of choice. I didn't particularly like the Bloglines interface either.

Mobile Feed Reading

I'm a busy person and I don't get much time during the day to catch-up on the news I want to hear about. So after purchasing a Windows Mobile MDA with unlimited 3G Internet access I was on the look out for a decent mobile feed reader.
Even though browsing normal websites with mobile devices is possible, it's not a rewarding experience because not many sites are optimised for the small interface.
Thankfully Google Reader has a fairly decent mobile interface, that includes a mobile proxy to reformat normal web pages to make them much more readable on small mobile devices.
Google have managed to shoe-horn most of the functionality into the mobile version, but it is a lot more buggy than the normal web version. Perhaps some of the bugs I come across are down to buggy web feeds, but Google should be able to find a way around most problems.

Google Reader Mobile User Interface Enhancements

Here are some of the bugs/bugbears I have with the mobile interface (in no particular order)

  • There should be a link straight through to the article on the site in question, not just the summary page in Reader. This will reduce the amount of clicks if you know you want to read the article even without reading a summary first.
  • Why do we need the more... Link when we now have the mark these items as read... Link?
  • When you star an item it reloads the whole page. Can it not return to the list on news items?
  • Some blogs cause http errors, produce no article when you click through, feature loads of links that you need to scroll through to get to the content, or show the summary as being the same as the blog title.
  • I would like the option of being about to read only a subset of my feeds from the mobile interface.

..and finally...

I use the new shared items widget on my blog to let my users know what I've been reading lately. From the web interface you can quickly share feed items with a simple click. This functionality is missing from the mobile interface however. So the work around for the time being is to star each item I want to share with my readers and click the share button on each item when I get on a desktop machine.

The interface is improving all the time, so hopefully Google will listen to its users, because I know I'm not the only one who has views on some of these topics.

Reciprocal Links - Link to Link - Increase PageRank

Trying to increase your PageRank in Google? Maybe this is could help your site.

I've created a links page on my site (see link below) which you can add your URL, providing your website is of similar web development content it will be accepted pending human verification at a later date.

Before submission of your link you will be required to link to nikmakris.com. Your site will then be checked for the reciprocal link automatically and if it passes you will be added to nikmakris.com links page.

How will this help your site?

Google uses an algorithm called PageRank, which gauges the usefulness of your pages based on the amount of inbound links to your pages. Each page has it's own Page Rank.

When you link to a page on another site you are essentially "voting" for that site. The site you link to will gain a proportion of the PageRank of that page depending on the amount of links on that page and if that page has any Page Rank at all.

If the page you link to also links to you, you will receive a "vote" as well.

PageRank is a multiplier which when combined with good search engine optimised HTML will give you much higher rankings in Google. So the higher Page Rank you have the better.

An indication of your PageRank can be found out if you install the Google Toolbar with advanced features from www.toolbar.google.com, although this is only an indicator since PageRank is logarithmic.