Tweaking My RSS/Atom Feed Reader

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I spent about five hours last night playing with my RSS Reader. I think I’m beginning to get the hang of some of this PHP stuff. Anyways, I’ve made some tweaks here and there to make it a bit more friendly.

The first thing I did was make it more error-friendly. If someone mistypes a feed URL, instead of seeing nonsense errors that have no value to the user, you get a simple error page that suggests that there was a problem with the feed, and to try a new feed URL.

The next thing I did was allow the user to skip the http:// protocol as long as there was a www. at the beginning of it. If the URL doesn’t have a www., then the http:// is required.

I also added support for the feed:// protocol. I did two things with this. Since the protocol is the same as http:// anyways (it’s designed to help feed readers subscribe a feed), I have the RSS Reader strip out the feed://, and replace it with http:// so that Magpie can parse it. The other thing I did was add an option to subscribe to a particular feed on that feed’s page (i.e. Zeldman). This should be fairly convenient.

Another thing that I’ve made an attempt to support is auto-detection of RSS feeds. Sites that have something along the lines of this:

<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml"
      title="RSS" href="/rss/skyzyx.xml" />

It seems to work for some sites, but not for others. I’m still working on why the inconsistency exists, but I plan to have it worked out as soon as I get around to it. Some examples of sites that auto-detect are: The Daily Report, StopDesign, and Simon Willison. Some examples that don’t work are Superfluous Banter, Whitespace, and my own

I’ve modified the user-agent string. To find out what it will return on your sites, load a valid feed, then check the source. I’ve noted it in the comments. Anyways, I hope that this tool is useful to someone.

Speaking of, what do you think about online RSS/Atom readers? Are they better or worse than desktop applications? What are some pros or cons of each?

Ryan Parman

Ryan Parman is an experienced Software/DevOps/Security engineer, currently living in Seattle. He is the creator of and , patented multifactor-authentication-as-a-service at , and came up with the idea of “serverless, event-driven, responsive functions in the cloud” while at AWS in 2010. Ryan's aptly-named blog, , is where he writes about ideas longer than . Ambivert. Curious. Not a coffee drinker.