February 13th, 2004


Thoughts about RSS-fed web comics and bandwidth

(This may not be the most on-topic place to post this... feel free to reeducate me, admins; feel free also to link here from other communities, if appropriate)

I subscribe to a few syndicated web comics. I do this because I find it a useful way to read those comics, interspersed with my friends list; it's only saving me maybe a dozen mouse clicks and my browser a bit of work, but it feels a lot more of a saving than that. I quite like it.

Recently, though, a couple of those feeds have stopped, or become a bit sporadic or troubled intermittently.
moved comics to a custom friends group. Various terms - some more pejorative than others, "bandwidth theft" seems quite popular - have been used to describe unauthorised RSS feeds. Clearly, unauthorised feeds are bad, for some depth of badness, because people aren't seeing what the comic authors put on their pages surrounding the image - messages about site availability, merchandise and (bane of some people's lives) banner ads. The authors' business models often rely on the page-side bits to help pay their bandwidth bills.

Then I realised. A comic RSS-fed to a friends page is quite a bandwidth hog, if your use of the friends page is anything like mine. I just hit reload, sometimes several times a day - and every time, the strip gets at least checked that it's the same image as my browser got last time, if not wholly reloaded. Lots of people watching a comic in their default friends view means lots more hits - and a lot of these hits will be needless, as you'll only read a typical strip once per day.

Why am I waffling about this? I'm not even a comic author. Well, like I said, it's convenient for me to view the strips in one place, and I *do* occasionally visit the comic sites for merchandise, so I don't feel as if viewing the strips this way is that bad, and I'd like to see the RSS feeds continue, even if only selfishly as a timesaver. (Some people have also argued that by having the strips available in this way, more people might read the strip than otherwise would. This is a difficult one for authors to weigh up, I admit, if they'd only read it via RSS.)

I am attempting to do my bit to stem the tide by moving all the RSS comic feeds off of my default view into a custom group which I'll reload maybe daily. The creators of RSS feeds can also do their bit. Rather than putting the strip as an inline image, consider having the feed only link to the image. While this isn't quite as convenient for users, and may be a little more work to set up, it still serves as an indication of whether the strip has been updated yet in a particular day, which is still quite a time-saver for users given that some strips are a bit irregular. If the comics I read-by-feed were available that way, I think I'd switch straight over. (If they are already, *oops*...)

I'm still not sure why I'm brain-dumping this. I'm quite sure that a lot of people won't have this insight - but if I can make one person think a bit more carefully about their use of RSS-fed comics, and perhaps save one such comic from what I see as its otherwise eventual death due to bandwidth issues, then I guess I'll be happy.

trying to sell the story....

This discussion with the people who run the "perpetually under construction" lyrics-discussion website SongMeanings has me thinking again about people who insist on writing threaded discussion boards from scratch when LiveJournal is open-source and there for the taking. Is it ego, or is there something I just am not understanding? I have an OS/X machine and I've downloaded the LJ source and poked over the installation guide and it doesn't seem intractable. What is the barrier to adoption, here?

Collapse )

Collapse )

Collapse )

This pattern seems to repeat itself countless times over the web. I am thinking there is a tremendous business opportunity out there for someone who can make it practical and easy for websites like this one to be built up on top of LiveJournal. Can anyone point out the flaw in my thinking, or if you agree with me...care to discuss a turnkey solution for this?
  • Current Music
    Depeche Mode - Sacred