Ten Years of Down the Road

Longtime subscribers to this blog: I’m making changes to my subscription services and they might affect you

When this blog was young WordPress didn’t yet offer good options to let you subscribe to my posts. So I turned to Feedburner, which hadn’t even been bought by Google yet, to provide that service. Feedburner gives you an RSS feed for your favorite feed reader, or lets you subscribe by email.

I’ve grown unhappy with Feedburner and am considering getting rid of it. So hang with me through this post, as it could affect you.

A few of you, anyway. My Feedburner stats say that 14 of you use Feedburner’s RSS to follow this blog, and 27 of you get a daily Down the Road email from Feedburner.

I’m sure you have no idea whether you used Feedburner to subscribe to Down the Road. For those of you getting my posts in email, here’s how you can tell. If you subscribed through WordPress, the emails look like this:

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If you subscribed through Feedburner, the emails look more or less like this:

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Here’s why I’m ready to get rid of Feedburner. When I started Down the Road I set all photos to be 500 pixels on the long edge. It made sense because back then we were still using 4:3 CRTs set to as little as 800×600 pixel resolution. But technology has marched on and we’re all rocking widescreen LCD monitors and those 500-pixel images look tiny. So I’ve steadily increased image width, first to 640 pixels, then to 700, and just recently to 1024.

The WordPress email service adapts beautifully, shrinking images to fit your display. Feedburner, however, is stuck in 2008. That’s why the photo in the image above dominates and the text is so small. In your email program, it might even cut off the images. Horrors!

You will have a better experience with the WordPress email service. I’d like to ask you to unsubscribe from the Feedburner service (use the Unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email) and follow me via WordPress instead. Just use this handy subscription widget:

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

(If you see “You are following this blog” above, you need do nothing! You’re already set.)

I’m not sure when or even whether I’ll do away with the Feedburner service. It depends on how many of you actually unsubscribe there and how I feel about that, and how frustrated I remain seeing my own daily Feedburner email with its cut-off images.

Thank you for your kind consideration!

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Life

Lamenting Google Reader

When I opened Google Reader Wednesday night and saw a pop-up message announcing that Google would retire the service on July 1, I actually gasped and felt dizzy.

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RIP, Reader

Reader is Google’s feed-reading service, which is a way of following blogs and other Web sites. Most sites offer a feed in a format called RSS, which has been around for almost 20 years as a way for Web sites to say, “Hey! I have new content here!” Feed readers allow others to subscribe to those updates, so they don’t have to keep visiting the Web site to check for new content.

RSS and feed readers are simple and work really well, but they haven’t caught on beyond the geek crowd. We geeks love RSS and feed readers, and Google Reader was probably the most popular choice. But most non-geeks follow their blogs in other ways, such as via Twitter and Facebook. WordPress.com, which hosts this blog, offers a “follow” feature that delivers new blog posts right to your e-mail inbox. Geeks are in the minority on the Internet now, and apparently Google wants to invest its resources on products that get wider use.

There are other Web-based feed readers out there. I will find one, switch to it, and eventually get used to how it works; life will go on. But meanwhile, I’m actually going through the stages of grief! At the moment I’m in denial, hoping that Google is listening to the groundswell of protest against this move and is thinking about reversing their decision.

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