Daily Archives: December 5, 2013

Blog Side Bar Experimentation

Not a gaming post

In what was a bit of a conjunction of two things, I started tinkering with the side bar of the blog last night.

The first thing was my ongoing insane jealousy over the side bar blogroll feature that bloggers who use Google’s Blogger have access to.  The bit that shows the latest post, sorts by date, and so on.  This turns the blogroll into a living thing that people actually look at and use.  My referral stats bear out the idea that blogs that have this feature correctly implemented deliver more traffic than comparable blogs that do not.

I am dying for WordPress.com to implement something similar.  Instead, they seem content to break things and every so often rework the user interface if somebody mentions it is working well.  Seriously, I spend most of my time doing three things with the interface; writing posts, viewing comments, and glaring at stats.  WP has taken it upon themselves to make sure that moving between these three things is as awkward as possible, forcing me to just keep three tabs open.

So, to make up for the fact that I have a very static and boring blogroll… if you get more than 10 referrals a month off of my blogroll, you are doing well… or are at the top of the list… I have used the blogs RSS feed from VirginWorlds as an addition to me side bar.  VirginWorlds remains a great resource!  Pillar of the blogging community!  A few cobwebs are starting to appear around the place, but there is still nothing like else like it.

It is a site of extraordinary magnitude.  Brent has our gratitude.

Unfortunately, Scott Jennings… who I am going to cast in the role of the villain here, because every story must have a villain, so if he show up and twirls his mustache be sure to hiss at him… looks to have been tinkering with his RSS feed.  Once it delivered only posts from his very-quiet-of-late blog to the feed at VirginWorlds.  In the last week, however, his feed began dumping updates from his forum… the Broken Forum… like so much toxic waste flooding the blog feed at VirginWorlds.

Okay, maybe “toxic waste” is a bit strong.  But Scott Jennings does have an active forum… good on him… and every topic update appears to generate an entry in the RSS feed.  The end result was that I found of the 15 entries from the VirginWorlds feed I had displayed in the side bar at any given time, 12-13 of them would be updates from the forum.  Again, good for Scott and his active forum, but not exactly what I want in my side bar.

So after thinking about doing something about it for a couple of days… and ~20 seconds of actual Google work… I set about implementing something different.

The Google search returned a site called RSS Mix as the top unpaid result.

They don't really have a logo...

They don’t really have a logo…

The site is simple.  You paste in a list of RSS feeds.  The site validates them, adds them to its database, and spits out a URL for a feed that combines them together.  Easy times.

I then took this feed and put it in the side bar of the blog using WordPress.com’s rather limited RSS feed display widget.  It works… it was what I was using for the VirginWorlds feed… but it doesn’t have a lot of options. (And, frankly, though I love this theme for some unfathomable reason, it does have pretty narrow side bars which do not help.  My search for a viable replacement continues.)

I would, for example, like the blog name to appear with the entry.  But all it will give me is author’s name and post date.  I would also like it to display only one entry per sub-feed at a time, but then we’re getting into “what I really want is the Blogger blogroll widget” territory, and that just isn’t going to happen.

Anyway, most bloggers would have just made the change and moved on.  But me, I have to tell stories.  You might have noticed this.  Plus, I do wonder if the half dozen of you who actually show up at the site regularly think of it.

I am also interested to see how well the aggregated feed from RSS Mix performs.  It appears to do batch processing to get feed updates, and rightfully so. But that does mean that updates do not show up the moment right away.  We shall see how long the lag is on that.

After I set that up, I did go back and look at the next few results returned by my Google search.  They all seemed to be down or no longer in service, so I guess I didn’t have many choices.  So here we are.  (And I am sure, in my hurry, I missed some blogs that should be in the feed.  I’ll make a 2.0 feed at some point.)