Archive for the ‘Feedback’ Category
"Please, CNET, look at these screenshots, read my comments on each of
them, and then tell me if you agree your website is in desperate need of a
make-over with respect to RSS support."
I don’t often use CleverClogs to rant about things or to complain about broken websites, but as I currently lack a proper connection to anyone responsible for the underwhelming implementation of RSS functionality at CNET News.com, I’m publishing some complaints here in a hopeful attempt that someone with enough influence will consider my feedback as constructive criticism and will have the suggested improvements carried out.
What I’m offering here is like a blueprint, a checklist to see if you really are offering your visitors everything you could be offering with regard to RSS technology. I hope others will benefit from this also.
Things to fix on the CNET News.com RSS feeds landing page:
- Use the common feed icon instead of the old-age XML one—not just on this page, but throughout the CNET domain. This icon is available for download in all kinds of formats and sizes from feedicons.com.
- Get rid of the abundance of ugly feed reader chicklets. A repetitive page such as this one hurts on the eyes, distracts from the actual list of feeds and makes me want to close the page straight away. Instead, rely on the browser-friendly feed subscription landing pages offered by FeedBurner, or use the attractive Subscribe button offered by iFeedReaders:
Once people indicate that they want to subscribe by clicking on a button, you can offer them the list of supported feed readers. iFeedReaders offers you a whole bunch of chicklets, including your own NewsBurst, and it allows your visitors to subscribe by email through RMail and FeedBlitz.
- Increase the number of items in each feed to at least 30.
- Offer full-length rich-media feeds instead of just the first sentence of every post.
- Provide an OPML for each section, or even better: let your readers select to which feeds they want to subscribe, and create a custom OPML for them on the fly. Use the standard OPML icon available from OPMLicons.com.
- Make any OPML that you provide auto-discoverable by using the <link rel> tag in the header of your HTML source.
- Run your feeds through a feed validator. I’m saying this because a number of errors show up when validating your feeds. I also notice heaps of empty lines when investigating their source.
- Provide links to the HTML versions of each of your columns: "Business Tech" on the feeds page would logically be hyperlinked to the Business Tech column.
- Fix the discrepancy between the number of News.com blogs mentioned in the sidebar of each blog (I count 37) and the number of blog feeds listed on the RSS feeds landing page (I count 28). I trust this is caused by the (recent?) additon of several new blogs.
- Don’t make me guess what each of your blogs has to offer. Put a Grazr widget in your sidebar that allows me to browse live other blogs/feeds/columns that might be of interest. You could even offer your readers keyword and keyphrase search among all of your feeds and let them generate custom-keyword feeds from their searches. For an example, see the one designed for the Power 150 by Todd And.
CNET’s prompt to subscribe to a specific keyword by email looks promising at first glance, but it’s a real disappointment once you click through.
Here are some suggestions for CNET Alerts:
- Allow readers to select from which CNET News.com sources they want to receive alerts: from specific columns, from any favorite authors, from selected blogs.
- Don’t just offer e-mail alerts—provide the whole range of output options: e-mail, My News, RSS, IM, web widgets, SMS. There are plenty of RSS tool vendors who can assist in setting up gateways to enable these channels. With the risk of leaving out others, I suggest you consider at least the services ZapTXT, Feed Crier and MuseStorm.
- Offer the option to subscribe to a single news post with its comments. You can use RSS for this, or so-called microformats.
- Fix the bug that allowed me to create the following appalling screenshot (note the spelling error)
Someone at CNET has been sleeping over the past few years. A whole truckload full of RSS and search techniques has become available in the recent years and in my opinion CNET is not offering enough of these to its readers.
Please use the comments section to share your ideas.
Update: I just realized I can use Bitty Browser to show you the live number of Diggs that this story has received:
On reflection it’s actually striking that so far Google hasn’t embraced any kind of topic clustering functionality outside of its ’Similar Pages’ feature. I’m not the only one to feel this need: recently Arc90 lead architect Joel Nagy also investigated into this area and quietly published about the research he did into contextual relevance of pages found through search queries, with ’Search Clouds’ as the central idea.
No matter how precise your keyword query, search engines don’t always produce the type of results that is relevant for your research goal. So far I’ve constructed hundreds of compound and advanced search queries myself and each time I’m surprised about the noise that inevitably slips into the search results. Some of these erroneous results can only be detected with the human brain. Yesterday, for example, Fred Zelders sent me an email message to inform me about an irrelevant search result in one of the blog search feeds in RSSonate, my RSS-in-the-blogosphere monitor. I really needed to read the post to which he referred twice before I could confirm he was correct in his observation:
Surprisingly RSS in this case stands for ’Random Shutdown Syndrome’, an ailment from which quite a few Macbooks notebook computers seem to suffer, where apparently they start to randomly reboot themselves. On further investigation I was actually stunned to discover that AbbreviationZ (an afiiliate of Answers.com) lists 40 additional ways to resolve the abbreviation RSS.
Fred’s feedback is expecially valuable to me because he is very knowledgeable about RSS and OPML technology. I know he subscribes to RSSonate ever since I launched it and in turn I often visit FeedFiles—a comprehensive repository of RSS tools—to see if he or his son perhaps already reviewed.the RSS tools I’m discovering. Fred’s blog Fred on OPML is in English, his other writings seem to all be exclusively in Dutch.
Over the years I’ve seen a couple of initiatives and attempts to cluster search results around topics of interest. Clusty immediately comes to mind of course. Another way to improve the precision/noise ratio is by using advanced syntax techniques, like category, tag or in-title search.The major search engines and some of the blog search engines offer query modifiers like these to improve the search results. Other engines allow you to indicate the scope of your search: for example, commercial vs non-commercial search results. If I recall well Yahoo! offers this, but as a search engine it just won’t click with me.
On reflection it’s actually striking that so far Google hasn’t embraced any kind of topic clustering functionality outside of it’s ’Similar Pages’ feature. I’m not the only one to feel this need: recently Arc90 lead architect Joel Nagy also investigated into this area and quietly published about the research he did into contextual relevance of pages found through search queries, with ’Search Clouds’ as the central idea. Joel mocked up this impression of what a Google search query containing the words ’Nintendo’ ’Wii’ ’launch’ and ’date’ could look like if it were accompanied by Search Clouds:
I like the implications of Joel’s research: it clearly shows how useful it would be to have his concept of Search Clouds implemented in search engines, giving an immediate clue which page could be most relevant to my research goal. Imagine that in my search engine profile I could also maintain a persistent list of tags and keywords; Search Clouds would then be able to visually indicate to what extent a search result is likely to match my profile…
The Arc90 sandbox Arc90 Lab has been on my radar ever since I discovered their Link Thumbnail feature, about which I blogged a few months ago in my blog post Pull Quote Mystery. It’s rewarding and encouraging that Chris LoSacco from Arc90 indeed followed up to the promise he made in the comments section on CleverClogs, saying Joel would continue to improve the usability of Link Thumbnail: in the blog post Updated : New Link Thumbnail Goodness Chris announces that they now rely on the new thumbnail service WebSnapr instead of Alexa.
Note that there’s no download or web service to Joel’s project yet. I would appreciate it if he’d continue working on Search Clouds. I’d be delighted to provide extensive feedback if and when he needs it. Tell me, what techniques do you use to fine-tune your search results?
"Though late at the party at times, Microsoft clearly does listen to feedback from industry analysts, for example to the unsolicited and blunt criticism Dave Geek-For-Life Brunelle provided after Microsoft’s underwhelming launch of their corporate feed directory."
With a series of posts Dave Morehouse—program manager to the Microsoft MSCOM Communities Team—bowed last week to the many suggestions to improve the Directory of Microsoft Feeds. Morehouse specifically addresses complaints that Dave Brunelle expressed in his post Microsoft Needs to Fix Their RSS Experience regarding lack of consistency and lack of accessibility. Quoting Morehouse’s article More on the MSCOM RSS Experience:
- Make OPML available for any category or grouping of feeds in the directory
- Add to the directory social bookmarking features, including
alternative navigation metaphors based on tagging–e.g., tag clouds and
the like. Essentially, we’d step away from formal controlled
vocab, taxonomy-based categorization schemes and step into the world of
folksonomy. The question we will have to resolve is how to reconcile
the two; perhaps the latter would completely supersede the former.
- Implement tagging and user recognition controls across the network
as well as on participating third-party community (and possibly
- Give customers the ability to create their own feeds and OPML
collections of Microsoft-related resources, based on their and others’
In the earlier related post The Strategic Importance of RSS, Morehouse himself bravely quotes an email message from a German member of his team, Klaus [Klaus Who?—mh], who suggests adopting the following value propositions:
- RSS is a strategic movement. It builds the foundation for innovative ways of communication (PodCast, Blogs, viral Marketing)
- RSS and Blogs together will enable us to reach business customers with a minimum of investments
- RSS is the ideal technology to establish content distribution to either other sites on ms.com, sites owned by Microsoft Partners and at least sites whose are totally external (e.G. Ford or Citibank)
- RSS is the easiest way to increase your reach if you don’t have enough budgets. A RSS-Feed works as a multiplicator. Use Google to check which sites are referring to an rss-feed. 763 results for the security bulletin (http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=%22www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/secrss.aspx%22) is a clear statement!
- RSS is state of the art – WE CAN’T WAIT ANY LONGER
- The competitors in the market have already adopted the technology (look at: http://www.ibm.com/news/us/en/index_podcast.rss)
- The customers are expecting to see new technologies on our web-pages
- Finally, it is also a matter of image
While I was scanning Morehouse’s blog I found another proof of his clear thinking in the post What are some potential applications of tagging?, in which Dave lists over 20 exemplified and categorized use cases for a tagging solution of the Microsoft web service. Final quote, this time by way of a screenshot:
I’m pleasantly surprised by the Morehouse’s apparent candidness and that of his team members regarding their current positioning in the minefield of RSS technology. Though late at the party at times, Microsoft clearly does listen to feedback from industry analysts. What’s even nicer is that Dave Brunelle, in turn, acknowledges and even praises Morehouse’s openheartedness: Microsoft.com and the RSS Experience.
With or without the Freedbacking tag, it seems Chris Pirillo’s plea last June to channel and leverage constructive developer feedback is finding shape. I personally submit loads of bug reports to all kinds of software vendors. Some do follow up, some unfortunately don’t. A logical question might be: in such an exponentially growing landscape of bloggers, software and web services how can feedback submitters and their followers monitor which of the issues that they bring up has adequately been addressed? Can we have a conversation on that particular aspect of consumer interaction?
Oh, and to close off for today, here’s a friendly, freedbacking wink to all my fellow TagJag lovers: