inessential by Brent Simmons

Screen-scraped feeds

A common feature request for NetNewsWire is that I add feeds that happen to be screen-scraped and that are done without the owner’s explicit permission.

(CNN and VersionTracker are the most common requests.)

I won’t do it for a couple reasons:

1. Screen-scraped feeds are prone to breakage if the owner of the site changes the layout of their site.

When that happens, who do you think well get the bug report? (Answer: me.)

2. There are probably some legal issues here.

Even if there aren’t, it’s still possible that a given screen-scraped site has lawyers who want to make a legal issue of it anyway. You can imagine how reluctant I am to end up in court.

And so, a reminder—if a site doesn’t offer an RSS feed, you can always send them email and (politely, of course) ask them if they would consider RSS.

They may not even know what it is, or they may not understand the benefit of it.

My contention is that RSS brings a site more visitors—for instance, I actually visit more sites now that I have a way to scan through the headlines of >100 sites. An RSS feed is like an advertisement, in a way. (Perhaps you can make the case better than I can; hopefully you get my meaning.)

And if it’s a weblogger you’re asking to support RSS, offer to help. Said weblogger may not realize how to turn on RSS, or they may need a little scripting help. When you’re asking for a favor, offer a favor in return. Be generous.