Outlook RSS Has The Wrong Idea On Duplicates

    July 10, 2006

Michael Affronti explains how some of the RSS functionality is evolving in Office 2007, especially how Outlook 2007 handles duplicates.

Future builds (not Beta 2) will completely ignore duplicate items, no matter how much they change, which seems to be an awful mistake:

When you delete an individual RSS item from the feed’s folder in Outlook 2007, we take it as “I’m done with this item and don’t want to see it again.” This means if the post continues to exist in the XML file we get from the content publisher for another few days (or however long it takes to roll off the end of the file), we will not download it again. Read Status is also handled the same way; mark an item as Read and its status will not change in this scenario.

If a blogger or content publisher modifies a post and wants their readers to be sure they see it again, they should follow the best practice of re-posting the new content. This will create a new GUID and cause Outlook (and other aggregators that follow this delete model) to see it as a new item and download it as appropriate.

With all due respect, I don’t want to hear about “best practice”. Many, many bloggers issue updates to their posts, as they should, and rely on the RSS readers pushing through the updated items. Being able to update vital news stories brings accountability and transparency. I hate it when Boing Boing leaves up a completely false article, instead following this supposed “best practice” of reposting, since it leaves false articles all over the internet.

The main thing is: Bloggers aren’t going to change the way they post based on how Outlook 2007 treats previously read items. The technology needs to work for the medium, not try to change it. Trust me, if the final feature in Outlook 2007 winds up the way described by Michael, a lot of reviews of its RSS capabilities are going to declare it simple “broken”.

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Nathan Weinberg writes the popular InsideGoogle blog, offering the latest news and insights about Google and search engines.

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