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Debate: Full Or Partial Feeds?

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One topic of debate that has gained attention in the blogging community is the choice between using full or partial RSS feeds.

For the uninitiated, RSS (RDF Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication) is a set of web feed configurations that are spelled out in XML code. It is utilized in web syndication, often used by online news groups, blogs, podcast services, and online education systems, among others.

RSS provides the user the choice between full feed and partial feed. Full feed means that the RSS feed will provide the entries in their full length to RSS users. Partial feed, on the other hand, means that the user’s blog entries appear as preview versions of the actual entries, wherein only the first few sentences are readily available. Readers of that particular blog using partial feed will need to visit the actual site through a link-back to view the entire blog.

The choice between the two, as one might predict, is highly dependent on the personal preferences of the blog author. However, through time, questions have come up on which type of feed is more efficient, say, in terms of how the blog readers prefer to view the different sites’ content, or in the way the blog is presented to serve the purpose of the reader subscribed to the blog. For instance, some blogging enthusiasts might be more appreciative of a blog using partial feed, touching on how full-feed blogs have the tendency to overwhelm its reader with the amount of information that is presented to the him or her, all at the same time.

Meanwhile, others may prefer the full feed approach because it makes the blog site’s content readily available in one viewing. Thus, it eliminates the need to go through the actual blog site for a subscriber to be able to read all recent blog entries, for example. However, full feeds seem more appropriate to those whose blogs feature short posts, in that the reader will not take too long just to read the whole RSS feed, or worse, be put off by the length of articles that may even take a while to load completely.

The following are other argument points that are worth considering in choosing between full or partial feed.

The Case of Ads

A considerable number of blogs or sites are supported by ads, and income for the owner of such site depends on the amount of people who actually see the blog or website. Subscribers of this specific site through RSS will then be alerted on the new additions on the site, and potentially increase the number of readers who view the ads that back the material. In this situation, partial feeds are helpful since those hooked by the partial feed enough to follow the actual site for the full content will see the ads, and in effect add to the site’s revenue.

Whereas, if the sponsored site runs a full feed, most likely without the ad, that’s one (or a hundred) less potential reader who didn’t get to see the ads on the actual site. That means less revenue for the site owner. Moreover, with full feeds, it would be more difficult for a site owner to measure how many people actually access the site’s content, or if the content is of any relevance to the subscriber. Then again, subscribers may prefer to receive full feeds of their favorite site reads, as they are able to avoid the annoying ads, if any, that support the source site.

The Search Factor

Search services and so-called aggregators also have a use for RSS feeds; the feeds notify the said sites through ping services when new content is uploaded. This means the sites that turn up on search service sites and aggregators are exposed to more potential readers, who might find use for the said sites’ content. Newer versions of such services, however, only scan the information within the feed to consider the entire updated content, thus the rest of the content of a particular site remain undetected and unavailable to search engine users.

As such, these services will only be able to make a partial assessment of a site that runs a partial feed, and leave out other content found in the site that may be quite relevant to the search. Thus, the dilemma is remedied by running a full feed so that there’s an increased chance a search engine user will find relevant info from the site. Then again, with a full feed, an ad-supported site will run the risk of not getting enough hits for the ads to make good money.

The Issue of IP and Link-backs

Many a blogger have complained about getting their full blog content published thru RSS without a mention of the author or a link-back to notify the blog owner that it has been published. In this sense, partial feeds have an advantage, since the subscriber’s access will become limited, and to find the full content, they will have to visit the actual source blog site and get a chance to know the author whose voice they’re reading. This may also help eliminate RSS users who might use the feed as a resource material for their own blogs but may be too reckless to consider proper citing of sources, and thus confuse honest readers as to the real content source.

Your Choice

It may seem that either approach is the more advantageous for different types of blogs or sites. In any case, a blog or site owner may make use of one or both types of feed, depending on his or her preference or goal for a particular site. A blog author still looking to build readership, for instance, may opt for a full feed and stick to it until to goal is achieved, and more people actually visit his or her blog. Amassing a good following will prove useful later on when he or she decides to advertise on his or her blog, and then a partial feed will do.

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Debate: Full Or Partial Feeds?
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