RSS Feed Caching

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Posted by David MarseillesDavid Marseilles on 20 Jun 2008 02:24, last edited on 05 Mar 2009 07:54

This wish is open


The problem is that good RSS feeds displayed by the feed module can often hang for long periods of time, and feeds for even major sites can timeout leaving the display of an error rather than content. This is especially annoying when you have multiple feeds in a single module, only one of them fails, but none of them will display, only an error message.

The solution is to cache external RSS feeds that wikidot users want to display on their site, into a file directly saved to the page they're displayed on, just like an image would be saved there. In the event of a timeout, the cached feed would be displayed instead of an error, and the cache would triggered to refresh itself.

The result would be dramatically improved RSS display performance as well as an increased ability to integrate blog content across wikis. The timeout for display of feeds could be lowered, since there is a cache to fall back, and the timeout for caching could be increased, to give greater assurance of fresh content. It even decreases the effects of all-out bad feeds, or temporarily corrupted ones.

Who Benefits? People who run multiple wikis, possibly with different admins at different locations. For them RSS can be a nice way to bring related content together, but still keep admin responsibilities separate. For people with sites outside wikidot that want to integrate them, the same benefits can be seen. And finally, people who want to gather multiple sources of similar content from 3rd parties can produce interesting and unique resources.

Feeds sometimes go offline, that's just how things work. Feeds sometimes experience traffic above their tolerance and timeout requests, that's life. While wikidot can't possibly repair external feeds, this caching feature would improve the Wikidotian experience dramatically and bypass many of the frustrations that can come with displaying RSS content.

Troubleshooting (knowing when a feed really has gone bad) can be done by the admin checking the last cache date under the files dropdown toolbox at the bottom of the page rather than through an error display that ruins the experience for people just trying to view the content.

Links to forum Posts

As an example of waiting time with common application for feeds, grouping large amounts of information in one place, visit WiiHD Contests. It gathers feeds from specific categories of a dozen or so blogs, as well as several Google Blog Search feeds and Google News Search feeds. The Google feeds, predictably, load fast, and I've never seen them give an error. The blog feeds are from major, AOL and Gawker owned sites and they timeout regularly, despite working most of the time. Because they've been grouped into categories with several other feeds per feed module, when one times out, as many as 5 or 6 won't display. That leaves readers thinking the site is broken.

In addition to errors, the average wait time for it load is upwards of 10 seconds. It sounds short, but it's long enough for broadband users to go on to something else thinking the site is broken.

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