Need someone to lead product or development at your software company? I lead product and engineering teams and I'm looking for my next opportunity. Check out my resume and get in touch.

Wrong way to advertise in a feed

Freshness Warning
This article is over 14 years old. It's possible that the information you read below isn't current.

The entire Hack-a-Day feed just showed up as new in my aggregator. Every single item in the feed was sitting there, appearing as unread, waiting for me to read them. I’d already given them my attention once, but now there were thirty feed items stretching back to November 12, begging for my attention again.

Feed readers often work using change detection. When the list of items in a feed changes, anything that wasn’t there before is considered new content. When the contents of an item change, the reader marks it as changed, or depending on what changed, perhaps even determines the item is new. By default, new and changed items show up in your reading list in most readers.

The most common cause of an existing item changing is the author updating it, perhaps to correct a typo or to add more information. Sometimes I see entire feeds show up as changed when the publisher of the feed changes their feed’s format, going from partial items to complete item bodies. Feeds that switch to a feed management service like FeedBurner or Pheedo or that add tracking information to their feeds will usually end up with a whole slew of repeated feed items. And when someone adds AdSense for Feeds image tags into their feed for the first time, everything in that feed shows up again in my reader.

Hack-a-Day added an advertisement to their feed. Every single item now contains a short paragraph at the end about plasma TVs. The ad was inserted as plain text, and because it went on every item, it caused every item to re-appear in my reader. Most likely what they did was edited the system that generates their feed and told it to stick this text ad at the bottom of every item. Later, when they have a new sponsor, they’ll change the ad text, causing everything to show up as new yet again.

This is obviously the wrong way to do things. If you’re going to have a regularly changing sponsor for your feed, there’s a couple of ways to do it without alienating your readers.

Put your ads in an item by themselves. Instead of attaching the ad to an existing item, create a new item that contains nothing but the ad. Then when you change the ad, only the ad item will appear as new in the reader. The remaining items will remain unchanged. See any of the Lockergnome feeds for an example of this.

Put the ads only on new items. When you publish a new item, attach the ad to the item body instead of appending it to your feed item template. Since the ad appears only as items are published, previously published items are unaffected. If you do this, never remove an ad that’s already been attached to an item. Removing the ad will cause the items to reappear in a reader.

Typeset the ad in an image. By setting the ad in an image, you can change the text inside the ad without the contents of the feed changing. Use a static image source like ad.jpg and just change the contents of the image. Since the HTML never changes, feed readers won’t ever notice the ad has changed, so existing items won’t show up again.

Recently Written

Software engineering manager interview questions (Aug 6)
Here are some questions I like to use to get a sense of who an engineering manager is and how they work.
A framework for onboarding new employees (May 15)
There’s no single good way to onboard an employee that works for every role. Here's a framework for creating a process that you can adapt to each situation.
TV hosts as a guide for software managers (May 10)
Software managers can learn a lot from journalists or late night TV hosts and how they interview people.
The Improvement Flywheel (Apr 29)
An incredible flywheel for the improvement of a development team. Fix a few things, and everything starts getting better.
Managers and technical ability (Dec 26)
In technical fields, the closer you are to the actual work being done, the closer your skills need to resemble those of the people doing the work.
Dysfunctions of output-oriented software teams (Sep 17)
Whatever you call it, the symptom is that you're measuring your progress by how much you build and deliver instead of measuring success by the amount of customer value you create.
Evaluative and generative product development (Aug 30)
Customers never even talk to the companies that don't fit their needs at all. If the only product ideas you're considering are those that meet the needs of your current customers, then you're only going to find new customers that look exactly like your current customers.
Product Manager Career Ladder (Aug 19)
What are the steps along the product management career path?

Older...

What I'm Reading

Contact

Adam Kalsey

+1 916 600 2497

Resume

Public Key

© 1999-2020 Adam Kalsey.