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FeedBlitz highlighted by LockerGnome

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Thank you, Brandon!



OPML Reading List Import Added

Friday, January 27, 2006

FeedBlitz’s OPML features have been extended to allow users to import reading lists (OPML files). You can import a list of OPML subscriptions (for power users), and you can import OPML reading lists into your syndications (for power publishers). This greatly simplifies the steps involved in setting up FeedBlitz to handle large numbers of feeds. These new capabilities add to the existing OPML subscription capabilities, which allow readers to track OPML files by email, including being automatically subscribed to any new feeds contained in that file. OPML import links can be found on the FeedBlitz dashboard and in your subscription and syndication pages.


FeedAdvisor Results Suppression for Pro Users

Previous posts about FeedAdvisor have talked about the approach, its benefits, and about how to hide confidential feeds from the public. Some “Pro” publishers have expressed a desire to suppress FeedAdvisor recommendations in their emails. This has been implemented as a new option in the Pro email template editor. This option only eliminates FeedAdvisor results from that premium email. If the user gets other FeedBlitz subscriptions, however, then the results will be included in any other mails not controlled by the Pro publisher.


Feed Circulation Calculation Change

It obviously benefits everyone to be able to have an accurate count of their subscribers. As of today, an important change has been made in the way that FeedBlitz reports subscriber counts to services like FeedBurner. Previously, subscriber counts would be reported including (for example) unconfirmed users, and for some feeds the subscription counts were becoming noticeably inaccurate.

To fix this discrepancy, only confirmed subscribers to your feed will be counted in your metrics from now on. Depending on your circulation this may see a slight drop in your circulation counts in third party solutions which report it, such as FeedBurner. So don’t panic if you see this - it is a one-off adjustment to ensure that FeedBlitz is as consistent and accurate for you as possible.


Calling FeedBlitz Podcasters!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

From tonight on, your podcasts (whatever content you have in an <enclosure> tag (business users: have you considered putting PDF collateral in an enclosure?)) will be linked to a new "enclosure" image at the end of each post. The image will link back to your content, with the popup showing the type of the file and its size. Here's the image you'll see:

And of course it's in FeedBlitz orange. You wouldn't expect anything less, would you? With this change, if you happen to be going to special lengths to enable downloads from FeedBlitz emails, there's no need. You can check it out on your feed's preview and test functions. Text based emails will have a new line starting "Enclosure: " with the link to your content.


Keeping content out of FeedAdvisor results

Monday, January 23, 2006

One of the great things about FeedAdvisor is that it doesn't discriminate - it just sees what subscribers are doing, does the math, and makes its recommendations. The thing is, that recommendation could be a feed that you don't want the general public to see or sign up for. Examples when this might happen include:

  • A private, internal company blog.
  • An old feed that you don't want new subscribers to.
  • A new feed you're experimenting with or testing using a wide audience.

In any of these cases you want a mechanism to stop users from using FeedAdvisor to find the content - at least, not until you're good and ready for them.

So, new today is an option in your feed's details which allows you to make the feed private. It will still be used in FeedAdvisor algorithms to link subscribers together, it just won't show up in FeedAdvisor.com results or in an outbound email. The downside of switching this capability on is that you won't get new subscribers from FeedAdvisor searches, so only use this option when you really do NOT want any new subscribers from the general public. Otherwise, why limit your opportunities to spread your word?


FeedAdvisor Algorithm Tuned for Greater Relevance

Friday, January 20, 2006

The FeedAdvisor algorithm has been tuned for additional relevance based on user feedback (strictly speaking, it's been tuned to give less irrelevance). Bottom line - outlying results that made it past the previous version have won't show up in emails or FeedAdvisor.com results from now on. If you haven't tried FeedAdvisor.com please do take a moment to explore the Subscriber Web.


Take your login on a trip down memory lane

Thursday, January 19, 2006

From the "what on earth took us so long?" department, "Remember Me" is now available at login.


FeedAdvisor Update

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

So far most of the comments about FeedAdvisor have been very positive; thanks all. We're also listening to those that would like to see changes as well. Meanwhile, it has been tweaked to improve relevancy in the next mailout - you should see better results today. Log in to your dashboard or, if you have no results today, try a search at FeedAdvisor.com

Finally, the FeedBlitz / FeedAdvisor timeout setting has been doubled today, allowing for more reliable interactions with remote and slower performing feeds.


Slow delivery day

Slow day today on the update front, but the emails did (finally) get out. Here's what happened.
  • The nightly poll collided at just after 2AM with an on-demand mailing and could not access the SMTP server. As a result it just stopped. The application was rebalanced to avoid this happening in future and restarted.
  • A feed added between 2AM and 9AM or so is causing FeedBlitz performance problems, something which hasn't happened since mid-November. The effect is that part of the nightly poll was consuming nearly all the CPU cycles on the server, causing the delivery of mails to slow down considerably as the other threads in the system compensated. This problem is being researched in order to determine the most appropriate remedy.

Bottom line - the emails have gone out, albeit 12+ hours later than everyone's used to - we apologize for the delay.


FeedAdvisor Now Available From the FeedBlitz Dashboard

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

In response to multiple "where do I find it?" questions Monday, we've added a FeedAdvisor search facility to everyone's dashboard. Enter some text to search for and it searches the entire Subscription Web for matches. These are displayed in subscription size order; you can then press a button to view the FeedAdvisor related feeds for the results, or preview the returned feed itself. This same FeedAdvisor button also appears on your subscription screens at www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Feeds so you can quickly see what FeedAdvisor thinks is related to your feeds from there. The dashboard search is deeper than the results placed into subscriber emails; the top 10 results are displayed online as opposed to the top 3 in the emails.

The online facility has been pulled together quickly in light of today's feedback and so is something of a work in progress - more work is needed on deduplication, for example - but I feel that it's of enough value now for you all to try out as is.


FeedBlitz Introduces FeedAdvisor: Exploring the Subscription Web to Find Relevant Content

Sunday, January 15, 2006

It all began with a simple, innocuous, question: What are people like me subscribing to online?

Search tells me what content is available. Social networking largely tells me about the interesting individual posts that some people flag. Blogrolls tell me what a single blogger thinks is interesting or important. But short of emailing everyone everywhere, how do I figure out the trusted content that the silent majority tracks? Where are we all flocking to, the people like me, day in and day out? We know all about bloggers, the supply-side of Web 2.0. What's the demand-side - the consumers of all this content - really up to?

Well, emailing them all and asking them to share what they're subscribing to is pretty much the only way to find out. But you don't have to email everyone to ask them, because FeedBlitz is doing it for you.

Introducing FeedAdvisor from FeedBlitz.

FeedAdvisor analyzes the FeedBlitz subscriber database and maps your individual subscriptions to everyone else's. A proprietary algorithm then lists up to three new content sources based on the aggregated behavior of people who have the same subscriptions as you do. No individual preferences are revealed (that's obviously very important!), but the aggregate, emergent behavior of the entire population is boiled down to the top feeds that you seem to be missing. And it's easy. One click to preview. One click to subscribe. One click to reject. So it's both pretty darned cool and useful.

Here's FeedAdvisor at work for "Burnham's Beat":

The binoculars preview the result, the green check mark subscribes you, the red cross tells FeedAdvisor to ignore that result next time. Whether you see the same links or not depends entirely on your current subscriptions. FeedAdvisor's results are tailored for and unique to each subscriber, and are recalculated daily with results delivered in real-time when your update is sent. You do nothing except look for the links - if any - at the foot of each update.

It's incredibly powerful and, frankly, just downright interesting to follow the links. Start by previewing a FeedAdvisor feed (either from a link in an email, or from your FeedBlitz dashboard at http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Feeds ). And then preview away - it's fascinating to see what crops up, where the closed loops and cul-de-sacs appear, and where the commonalities and off-ramps take you. It's the Subscription Web, created by you, the readers.

FeedAdvisor is available now. It's part of the standard and premium services, and so is available to absolutely everyone with a FeedBlitz subscription. There's more on FeedAdvisor, including a comprehensive set of FAQs, up on the FeedBlitz site. So explore, have fun, and look out for further features and analysis based on the FeedAdvisor algorithm.

UPDATE FeedAdvisor is now available from your FeedBlitz dashboard, from sent emails, from feed previews, or from FeedAdvisor.com. Just look for the blue FeedAdvisor logos.


Atom 1.0 support upgraded

Saturday, January 14, 2006

If you have an Atom 1.0 feed FeedBlitz now works much better with this XML format than before. FYI we're also prepping for a very exciting new feature that will go online tomorrow evening (Sunday, US eastern) and appear in the Monday morning emails - so stay tuned!


Fix shipped, mails done.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

If you didn't get an update you were expecting by now then it's down to a problem with the content source.


If you don't ship the fix then the mails don't go

Which we didn't so they didn't. Sorry everyone - they're en route now.


Jan 11 Issues

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Update: All recipients should have received their emails.


Like FeedBlitz? A favor, then, if you please

Friday, January 06, 2006

As it happens, nominations are open for the 2006 bloggies. Don't you agree that FeedBlitz fits in the "Best Web Application for Weblogs" category? It's described as "Something that helps you publish, make comments, anything that has to do with developing a weblog." Yes. That'll do nicely. I'd nominate the FeedBlitz orange for the "Best Designed Blog" but apparently there isn't an irony category. Oh well, perhaps that's for the best after all.

So, if you like what we've done, what we do and where we're going, please go and tell the good folks at the bloggies. Nominate FeedBlitz for the best application class and scroll all the way to the bottom and submit. Better yet, while you're there, volunteer to pitch in on the judging - looks like there will be a lot of work to do there.

And thanks! You know, it seems like they could really use an email update service. Hmmm.....


Custom subject lines, from addresses now available in FeedBlitz emails

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The customization capabilities of FeedBlitz Pro have been extended to give "Pro" publishers the ability to modify both whom the mail appears to come from and its subject line. You can now make your email updates look like they really come from you (if you wish), have replies come directly to you, and to tailor the subject lines more towards what your users are expecting. Examples might include (using made up names):

  • There are three sewing tips from the "Stitch Hints" newsletter.
  • Yet more insights from your favorite financial guru.
  • [Peanuts] There is one article in "Smooth or Crunchy - You Decide"
  • [HaHa] Joke of the day for 2005/2/12

You get the idea. The following image shows the part of the screen that defines the new capabilities:

  • The "From Name" shows the "friendly" name that typically shows up in the "From" column in user's inboxes.
  • The "From Email" is where replies will go if the user hits "reply" - this means that replies will actually get to you instead of FeedBlitz, which is what your recipients expect.
  • Under the covers, we use the Internet mail protocols to forward bounces back to FeedBlitz, so users of this facility should not have to deal with too many bounce messages, and FeedBlitz's automated bounce processing will still work.
  • The "prefix" allows you to put in a short, well, prefix (such as "[FeedBlitz]"). You can use this to let your readers know what the email is about.
  • The single post entry is used when only one new entry is in the feed, the multi-post subject for more than one.
  • These fields are also used to populate the <$BlogDescription$> variable in the email template, which is why the HTML in them matters.
  • A new variable, <$Date$> has been made available; it only works in email subject lines and represents the US east coast date when the mail is generated, not any time stamp in the underlying feed.

In addition, index variables have been added for the main template. These allow you to easily construct a table of contents at the top of your mail to guide readers to the most applicable article for them. Visit the "Pro" page and look at the legend under the editor. You can construct a table of contents by sandwiching variables between <$BlogIndex$> tags before the first <$BlogPosting$> tag. The HTML you want might look something like this:

<li><a href="#<BlogItemNumber>"><$BlogItemTitle$></a>

It is a little tricky, but for new Pro users the code is automatically inserted into the template when you fire up the editor for the first time, just to help get you started. If you have any questions, obviously, contact support.

How do you reach all these new capabilities? The editor for "Pro" is selected by clicking this icon for your feed from http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Lists and then checking the box to instruct FeedBlitz to use the template. (Do preview before you save and test afterwards to make sure that you are getting what you expected.)

At only 16c daily, "Pro" adds these customization capabilities as well as enabling you to import users from other systems. Now there is no real reason not to give it a try - so have at it!


December 2005 Summary

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

OK, time for a quick look at the numbers for December. As the New Year arrived in the east coast of the US, FeedBlitz's subscription count was 154,621 - up from 82,643 at the end of November, representing 87% growth in December. The largest feed served has over thirty thousand subscribers.

More than 4,600 readers polled the FeedBlitz blog daily (mostly, I'm glad to say, using FeedBlitz itself), up from just shy of 3,000 the month before. According to Google Analytics (nee Urchin), 2,700 visitors stopped by the feedblitz.com website on the busiest day in December (the 20th). We had 64,000 visits and 277,000 page views in total (The site has already beaten December's busiest day, with over 3,500 visitors on January 3rd.)

The main driver for subscription growth in December were the beta testers for the subscriber import facility - my thanks to Fraser Crain and Susie Bright in particular for their help and advice, then and now, despite the pain we put them through. The import facility is a premium service that is helping existing publishers save time and improve quality by eliminating manually maintained newsletters or less flexible online services, and it's proving popular with our growing premium subscriber base.

The import capability aside, the major new facilities added to FeedBlitz in December were the OPML monitoring / autosubscription service and "paging" for large blogs. OPML export was added too. The pace will pick up this month, wait and see.

See? I told you it would be a quick update. I'll make this type of summary a monthly feature if you all like it. Meanwhile, FeedBlitz wishes you all a happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year.


FeedBlitz Deploys Improved Subscription Architecture

Yesterday a new subscription architecture was put in place in the FeedBlitz service. The major element of change is more detailed tracking of subscription and removal requests in the database. The benefits of this updated approach are:
  • Preventing accidental resubscription of unsubscribed users by a subscriber import.
  • Stopping OPML subscribers from being resubscribed to a feed referenced in the OPML file which they previously unsubscribed from.
  • Enabling future feature enhancements, including subscription activity reporting.
  • Subscriber management behavior more consistent with industry standards.

The only place where current users will notice the change is when an existing FeedBlitz user subscribes to a new feed using a signup form on a web site. Previously, no confirmation email was generated in this scenario; one is now. Users who are logged in and use the dashboard to add a subscription directly will not have to confirm, since they are already authenticated. Additionally, premium publishers using the import facility will not be able to import unsubscribed users; these addresses will instead be listed as suppressed in the import summary.

Finally, the only way a user who has globally unsubscribed (or been administratively deleted for whatever reason) can start to receive emails again is to re-register themselves; they will not be allowed to subscribe using any other mechanism until they are confirmed back into the system.


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