Archive: September, 2006

Feeds Knackered

Some of my feeds are busted at the moment… something to do with the feed URLs not using the same year/month/day/title format as the rest of the site. I’ve now fixed the feeds (see below).

Thanks to Pat for the heads up.

Updates

14.09.2006 @ 16:15

All seems to be working again now. For some reason, textpattern 4.0.3 doesn’t report the correct “Permanent link mode” when building feeds for sections, while the main feed will work fine. I’ll try to delve into it more when I have some time.

Please post a comment if you are still having problems.

14.09.2006 @ 16:33

Note: The problem described here appears to be fixed in Textpattern 4.0.4.

If anyone having the same problem stumbles across this post, I worked around the problem by editing “/textpattern/publish/rss.php” and replacing the line that builds the permanent link URL:
$permlink = permlinkurl($a);
…with this:
list($dtj_y,$dtj_m,$dtj_d) = explode(”-”,date(“Y-m-d”,$a[‘posted’]));
$permlink = hu.”$dtj_y/$dtj_m/$dtj_d/$uTitle”;

…to make sure that the date format is used for the permanent link URL when building all feeds.

feed://Sage…

I recently ran into a couple of problems with the wonderful Sage extension for Firefox where it wouldn’t parse some of my feeds. I figured the feed URLs must have been updated, so I went to the sites and grabbed fresh RSS URLs. Some of the feed URLs had indeed been updated, but some of them still wouldn’t work in Sage.

As it turns out, there were two problems occurring:

  1. The URLs had the “feed” protocol tacked on the front.
  2. One feed was actually invalid. Despite it validating with feedvalidator.org and the W3C feed validator, the Firefox XML parser failed on it, as did Sage.

The Feed Protocol

Once I had actually figured out what was going wrong here, it was simple enough to fix! Simply remove the feed protocol from the start of the URL to stop Sage choking on it.

Marvellous! But it did leave me wondering what use the feed protocol is to us, and whether feed aggregators should be expected to deal with the protocol just in case somebody uses it. I submitted a Sage bug report about the feed protocol all the same, so I’m hoping Sage will get updated with a fix soon enough.

Some time ago, I began to encounter more and more feed URLs using the protocol (probably as a result of WordPress including it by default at the start of its feed URLs), so I read up on it a little. Without wanting to come into what is an old issue, I do wonder whether it is at all useful any longer, especially when so many of our beloved browsers can now handle feed subscription. We could send commands to applications aware of the feed protocol as we can do with mailto, but what useful commands would we send? Perhaps I’m stuck thinking about how these might be useful to aggregators and not a wider application, but surely aggregators just need to know the location of a feed? With that in mind, it just seems redundant information to me, although it could be useful in identifying a feed without needing to use MIME types.

Named HTML Entities in RSS

The second problem wasn’t so obvious. This time, Firefox was choking on the feed because it found an undefined entity in the RSS – … – a horizontal ellipsis. I wasn’t sure why that’d break the RSS, so I did a little digging.

Named HTML Entities in RSS

A problem with feeds not working in Sage alerted me to how character references should be used in RSS feeds.

Despite validating with feedvalidator.org and the W3C feed validator, the Firefox XML parser failed on this one feed, as did Sage. Firefox found an undefined entity in the RSS – … – a horizontal ellipsis. I wasn’t sure why that’d break the RSS, so I went digging a little…

Naughty names

RSS doesn’t include an XML schema, which means that a named entity such as … is unlikely to mean anything to a feed reader. … is fine in an XHTML document because it generally has a doctype and a schema.

So if you use data from a content management system to generate RSS, you need to ensure that all named entities are converted into numeric character references. Edit: And as Robert Wellock points out in the comments below, it’s advisable to stick to using numeric character references when using XHTML anyway.

Numeric character references

As far as I know, numeric character references are generally better supported than named entities. I tend to use numeric character references anyway when I code, as I’m sad and have a bunch of the numbers committed to memory after years of usage – that’s a scary thought!

Having said that, I do have Dave Child’s HTML Character Entities Cheat Sheet stuck up in my office footnote 1, with a few I’ve added myself, including:

  • horizontal ellipsis (…)
  • en dash and em dash (– and —)
  • left and right double quote (“ and ”)
  • left and right single quote (‘ and ’)

Of course, the real geeks among us will look things up in the full list of character references in the HTML 4 schema!

Other Resources

More useful info at:

Footnotes

  1. Dave, I can’t really afford anything for you off Amazon at the moment, but I certainly owe you a drink or two by now! Back to footnote 1 source

Wheelspin

Things have been busy for me lately, which is never a bad thing. However, I’m feeling unfulfilled by what I have achieved – or not achieved!

Where have you been, dotjay? Why did you leave us?

I’ve been beavering away like Dexter on some epoch-making projects in my secret lab. OK, that’s a lie. The truth is that I’ve just been busy. Ain’t we all? But most people probably have something to show for their hard work. Recent weeks have just felt like one of those times when you look back and think, “what the heck have I done with the last few weeks?!”

“Proper” work has been quite busy. However, most of the stuff I’ve been doing has either been maintenance for long-term projects or subcontracted under a non-disclosure agreement. It has left me with a feeling that I’ve done a whole lot of work, but have little that embodies that work.

I’ve been up to London and back a few times over the last two months as well. And there have been quite a few things to do at home lately. So, this site just hasn’t had a look-in!

It all started when…

Attending @media in June did its usual thing in hyping me up with some ideas for projects and provided some new opportunities and challanges on the horizon.

Now, I’m in no way blaming the conference, as Patrick and his team organised another great one this year. The social events were great and the sessions were good. There were plenty of friendly, like-minded people to meet and loads of familiar faces to catch up with… a haven for concocting plans and fertilising ideas.

But I felt much the same way after last year’s @media as well. The trouble is, I come home and begin to catch up with work after a couple of days good drinking networking at conference and find myself in a wheelspin – a “burnout”. I’m eager to get into some new projects and try out some new ideas, but I fail to realise that I’ve got the brake firmly on.

Perhaps “burnout” is a good word for how I feel at the moment. Maybe the problem for me right now is mental exhaustion, but part of me thinks that just can’t be right. I mean, if I’ve been working so hard and exhausted myself, why don’t I have much to show for it?

Besides “proper” work, there are so many pet projects I want to work on (or get started on, even), but it’s just not happening. While wanting to do one or more side projects, you still have to make a living. Can there be a balance? Am I balancing it well enough? Feel free to give me any pointers you may have in that respect. Judging by the lack of updates here (despite quite a bit of recent experimentation that might be worth reporting) and lack of activity elsewhere, I’ve not been doing much else but work. Is that healthy?

Work and home

I work from home, which has been hectic lately too. After moving home last year, all the little things that come with that have needed doing; finding homes for things, getting rid of stuff that we no longer need, the little bits of DIY, the garden (not that we have much of one), visits from friends and family, and so on.

Usually, work and home don’t mix. I think I’ve managed quite well over recent weeks, sticking to deadlines despite distractions. Continuing to successfully juggle work and free time has become the issue now I think. While some people really need to separate work and home stuff in order to get things done, I’ve always found that I can be productive on both accounts if I’m organised about it. That’s where things have fallen apart – organisation.

Getting some traction

It hasn’t helped that I’ve pretty much abandoned my flipbook since we moved home. I still list tasks in it every now and then, but I no longer get the “I’ll take that on-board but deal with it later” filing mentality or the daily prioritisation of the things I have to do, both of which the flipbook provided.

So, I’m going to start using my flipbook again. I haven’t really gotten on with the other productivity tools I’ve tried. I’ll often fail to open Sunbird for days or weeks. Open Workbench seems like overkill. Basecamp, as wonderful as it might be, doesn’t fit in my pocket like my flipbook. So, that’s step one – get organised again.

I think I also need to set myself some goals, or give myself a new challenge. I’ve been considering something for some time now – a slight shift from Web Design. I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that yet though – I still need to make a living. So, setting realistic goals it is for the meantime.

First and foremost, I think I need to focus on getting more on top of work. I feel quite comfortable with it at the moment, but being complacent can sneak up behind you and bite you on the arse. So, I want to get ahead of the game.

I’ve managed to half-finish a few blog posts over the last couple of months, but almost nothing has been published. I’m hoping to change that. Everyone needs an outlet, and I think it can be really helpful and motivating to get a regular dialogue going. I’m going to try to post things without being my usual perfectionist self and see how that goes.

On @media 2006

Being as I’ve mentioned @media, I may as well tag this on the end as I never did write a post-@media post this year. Suffice to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. If I met you for the first time, it was a pleasure. If I already knew you, it was a pleasure again.

Now, who wanted copies of this photo?

Quick Tip: Sage and the Feed Pseudo-Protocol

I recently ran into a couple of problems with Sage, the lightweight feedreader extension for Firefox. Sage wouldn’t parse some of my feeds.

One of the problems was down to Sage not understanding the URL for the feed because the “feed” protocol had been added to the address. For example:
feed:http://www.domain.tld/myfeed.xml

You can get Sage to behave by simply removing the feed protocol from the start of the URL. Easy peasy!

Incidentally, I submitted a bug report on the Sage project about the feed protocol and it should be straightforward to solve, so I’m hoping Sage will soon be updated with a fix.