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Open Thread

Chew it up. Spit it out.

Update: Some random links I wanted to blog and never got around to doing it.

• DavidNYC blogs the new SUSA numbers on the California ballot propositions, which show bad news for Arnold’s foes (i.e. us). “Alliance for a Better California” has more.

• Robert Bork hates Bush and hates Miers.

With a single stroke–the nomination of Harriet Miers–the president has damaged the prospects for reform of a left-leaning and imperialistic Supreme Court, taken the heart out of a rising generation of constitutional scholars, and widened the fissures within the conservative movement. That’s not a bad day’s work–for liberals.

• Yglesias makes a good point.

What happened to all the media hecklers? You know the ones. The ones slamming the Democrats for “irresponsibly” refusing to negotiate with Bush unless he took privatization off the table. That was, supposedy, irresponsible because of the looming crisis. Well, if it ever existed it’s got to still be looming. So isn’t it irresponsible of the administration to have suddenly dropped the topic?

It’s sad that things are a “crisis” only so long as the president claims it’s a crisis. And the media is only too happy to play along.

• Steve Rubel has some great RSS tips, for those of you who use RSS to control the mass of information on the web.

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Site Fix: RSS feeds for diarists

I’ve noticed for some time that the RSS links for individual diarists are broken — they just lead to a FeedBurner error page saying “This feed is making a ‘clunking’ sound. This publisher’s content was recently unavailable so FeedBurner cannot present it at this time.” After a month or so of periodically checking to see if the problem had been fixed, I finally read the fine print on FeedBurner’s error message: “Detail: There was a problem retrieving the feed: Error getting URL: 404 – Parameter required”.

I looked at the feed URL, and sure enough, the user name parameter wasn’t labeled as such:

So I tried adding a label:

And bingo! A valid feed!

Could somebody please make this change to the template for the diaries page so that it generates valid URLs!

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Any OPML Experts Out There? HTML into OPML…

Anyone know how to do this easily? I wanted to convert the html used for the links for Koufax candidates for Blogs Most Deserving of Wider Recognition into OPML, and then load them into my bloglines account, but I just spent an hour working on it and am not getting good results when uploading. I’m sure it is my cobbled together OPML file with hamhanded copy and replace efforts. I figured the OPML could also be made available for anyone else who wants to import these blogs into their RSS reader. Any help out there? I’m looking for something easy on my fingers…

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Why aren’t you podcasting?

It is obvious that many of you here in DKos have incredibly interesting things to say and to talk about. Some of the diaries around here represent an enormous wealth of important and interesting information.

If you are a little bit like me, your probably are more likely to enjoy talking about issues more than writing about them. Or at least have more time to talk about the issues and spend more time talking rather than writing.

So my question to you is why is it that there seem to be so few podcasters among the hundreds or thousands of Kossacks and the many more people who visit this site? Is it just that we don’t know or hear (no pun intended) about those of you who are podcasters? And why isn’t podcasting mentioned more in this tribune? After all, among online users, podcasting seems to be the next big thing around the block, perhaps even bigger than blogging.

Nielsen (PDF) announced yesterday that

…6.6 percent of the U.S. adult online population, or 9.2 million Web users, have recently downloaded an audio podcast; 4.0 percent, or 5.6 million Web users, have recently downloaded a video podcast.

These figures put the podcasting population on a par with those who publish blogs, 4.8 percent, and online daters, 3.9 percent. However, podcasting is not yet nearly as popular as viewing and paying bills online, 51.6 percent, or online job hunting, 24.6 percent.

But it is not only the market size that appears to be growing at an impressive rate. The demographics of podcasting are even more interesting.

…Web users between the ages 18 and 24 are nearly twice as likely as the average Web user to download audio podcasts, followed by users in the 25-34 and 35-44 age groups, who were also more likely than the average Web user to do audio podcasting. Video podcasters trended a little older, with 25-34 year olds indexing the highest. Web users above the age of 45 were less likely than average to engage in podcasting of either sort.

So, it is true that

“The portability of podcasts makes them especially appealing to young, on-the-go audiences,” said Michael Lanz, analyst, Nielsen//NetRatings. “We can expect to see podcasting become increasingly popular as portable content media players proliferate.”

However podcasting audiences are of all ages and tendencies, a fact that the media, politicians and pundits have also noticed.

So, why aren’t you podcasting?

My intention in writing this diary is not to do some extensive research about who is podcasting on the right or who is podcasting on the left. My purpose is more to attempt to find some answers from you Kossacks about your views of this new technology, the uses you are giving it and what podcasts are you producing.

But perhaps my most important reason to write something about podcasting is to encourage more of you to embrace this new tool that I truly believe can be very useful and effective in expanding the Kossack empire (also known as the voice of the Netroots). That is, if there is still time to do that before DKos implodes.

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Firefox Search Plugin for the dKosopedia

I’ve been sorta out of touch for a bit, but the daily tag runs have been working fine, and thanks to those few interested in tag cleanup, it looks like tag cleanup has been proceeding apace. Way to go, guys. I’ve been working with the existing tag data (thanks, ct) and am close to a system that I think will work quite well, but am not ready to write anything up yet, pending one more round of data analysis.

But that’s not what I want talk about. I’ve started using Google Reader as my RSS app, and, as much as I like Safari, it looks like Firefox is just much better at handling Google Reader. So I’m transferring all my stuff from Safari to Firefox, and found that Firefox let’s you create search plugins, so that in the search bar up in the right hand corner you can specify whatever site you want. Cool.

So I’ve created a dKosopedia search plugin, available at either this dKosopedia site, or at this Mozilla site. Give it a try and let me know what you think. (After installing, I had to exit and restart Firefox. I don’t know if this is expected behavior.)

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What RSS Reader Do You Use? (With Poll)

I have roughly three categories of feeds that I subscribe to: favorite feeds which I track daily and read most of the posts, such as here, Street Prophets, Talking Points Memo, and the personal blogs of certain friends; daily feeds where I browse the post titles and read what interests me, such as news feeds; and lesser feeds which are there for partly completeness for when I do searches and partly because I browse post titles on a weekly or less frequent basis. (And if you don’t meaningfully title your posts, I’m usually not bothering with your blog.)

Historically, I’ve probably tried a dozen or so.  I started out with Feedreeder, moved to BottomFeeder, and have recently been experimenting with Google Reader.  Along the way, I have tried and discarded RSS Bandit, Sage, and BlogBridge.  Those aren’t necessarily bad RSS readers, they just didn’t fit my preferences, which include a three-pane reader and the ability to create sub-folders.

What works for you? I added a poll, but there are so many options out there, that I’m not sure what good it will do.

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How the presidential field uses it

The potential supporter

Potential supporters are a large category and it would be impossible to lump them in one bucket.  For the purposes of this discussion the reader should assume we are discussing tech-savvy and/or young potential supporters since this demographic has already begun to embrace RSS in their daily lives.  These potential supporters already get lots of information on various topics from all over the web, everything from sports to news to politics.  One characteristic of this audience is that they process an incredible amount of information on a daily basis and they won’t often take the time to visit all of the web sites they get information from.  If a candidate wants to reach this audience you have to allow them to get information on their terms, and that means providing as much information as possible to them via RSS.  They may be weighing several candidates, does a campaign really want to lose out because the other candidate is getting information to them and your campaign isn’t! ?

The activist

The activist is already in a candidate’s camp, and furthermore they are likely volunteering for the campaign and showing their support at the grassroots level.  The power of RSS comes into play here because all of a sudden a campaign has the ability to get information produced by the campaign out to thousands of activists on their web sites which is then read and consumed by thousands more people the campaign might not have otherwise reached.  The portability of this information makes this possible and it costs a candidate nothing to do it.

The blogger

The blogger is similar to the activist in that they may have decided to support a particular candidate or political party, but they may also be covering the field broadly. Good bloggers are those which can take in incredible amounts of information, and then present the best nuggets either alone or with their own commentary and analysis.  This job absolutely requires RSS, no one that is serious goes out and visits hundreds of sites by typing in the URL.  They have their sources they use which include mainstream news sources, other bloggers and yes even candidates’ web sites.  As a candidate you want to make it as easy as possible for this group to get information from your campaign because much like journalists they are writing about politics on a daily basis and influencing thousands with their words.

The political reporter

Very little explanation is required of this group; campaigns have dealt with political reports probably since politics began.  There are ways a campaign can make a political reporter’s life easier (assuming they are willing to try some new things) which generally benefits the campaign.  Some of the things that political reporters are interested in are press releases put out by the campaign, interesting stories that might be included on the blog, and upcoming events so they can schedule trips to cover them.  Those reporters probably have a relationship with someone on the campaign staff and that’s how they get that information.  What if they could get it themselves though?  No guarantees all of them would do it, but I think it would become a more compelling argument once they realized how much time they could save if all of that information flowed directly to them as it was published, effortlessly.

What is the state of RSS usage for presidential candidates in 2008?  I have put together this handy table to illustrate that usage.  Some of the important factors to consider here are:

  • Consolidated Feeds:  Is there a place on the campaign site where I can see all of my options?
  • Blog RSS: Does the blog (if it exists) provide an RSS feed?
  • News RSS: Can a reader get RSS feeds for news, press releases, events and other items?
  • Discoverability (1-5):  Discoverability seeks to rank how easy it is to find these feeds and use them.  5 is the highest ranking and 1 is the lowest.


Name Consolidated RSS Blog RSS News RSS Discoverability (1-5)
Biden No Yes No 3
Clinton No N/A No 1
Dodd No Yes No 3
Edwards Yes Yes Yes 5
Kucinich No Yes No 3
Obama No Yes No 3
Richardson No No No 1
Vilsack No Yes No 4


Name Consolidated RSS Blog RSS News RSS Discoverability (1-5)
Brownback No N/A No 1
Giuliani No N/A Yes 4
Huckabee No N/A No 1
Hunter No No No 1
McCain No N/A No 1
Romney No N/A Yes 3
Paul No N/A No 1
Tancredo No N/A No 1

And the winner is…

John Edwards is the clear winner here as of the writing of this article. Check out his consolidated RSS page.  As you can see Edwards provides RSS feeds for pretty much anything that any of the aforementioned information consumers would be interested in.  He also goes a step further and devotes this page to explaining to his readers what RSS is and where they can find a feed reader if they are unfamiliar with the technology.  Some additional things to note about his approach is the fact that you can find these individual feeds all over the site, you can get to this page from the footer of each page, and you can get to the main feed offered right from the address bar in browsers which support that functionality like Firefox.

There are a few places Edwards could improve such as using Feed Burner to deliver the feeds.  A lot of the benefits of feed burner are for the campaign, most notably they can see how many people are subscribing to each feed.  That isn’t possible by offering a raw RSS feed.  It does offer something for the reader as well, if someone clicks into a feed URL it offers a friendly page letting the user know exactly what s/he is looking at.  Read more about Feed Burner.

Advice for the rest of the field

The remaining Democratic candidates generally offer some form of RSS and use some of the basic techniques to make it available.  The Republican field on the other hand for the most part does not offer any sort of RSS feed at all. With that in mind the following pieces of advice are offered to those candidates.

, if you don’t current offer an RSS feed then you need to put your technical team to work.  It costs you little and the return on investment is huge. If your web site already offers one or more feeds make sure people can get any kind of information they might want delivered via RSS.

, now that you’ve got a feed you need to promote it on your site.  The wikipedia article linked earlier has the standard icons that are used for RSS.  At a minimum one of these icons should be included in the various places on your site where information is available.  Extra credit for offering an item in the footer that presents a single page that shows all of the available feeds or adding text to further describe what the icon is.

, make the feed discoverable through modern browsers from the address bar.  This is incredibly simple and just takes one line of HTML in the “head” section of your web pages to make it work.  Here’s an example (minus opening and closing brackets).

link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="My 2008 Campaign, stay informed!" href=""

, use Feed Burner.  I have absolutely no connection to the company but I also can’t see a reason not to use it.  Instead of putting this data out and having absolutely no idea how it is used or how many people use it you can have that information available for your web team.

, take the time to explain RSS.  Edwards did a good job of this on his page, if I clicked into that link and didn’t know what RSS was I’d be well on my way to understanding it after reading that.  Educating your readers ensures that you’ll get this information out to more than those that are technically savvy.

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Help! I need DKos RSS Feeds

However the DKos RSS feed only includes front page posts and not the diaries.

As you well know a lot of the most interesting and important stuff comes from diaries, even those that do not make the Recommended list.

In my experience, it is not be very difficult to generate RSS feeds for other entries (every blogging tool out there today has feeds for all entries and even comments).

My questions are:

Is there already an RSS feed for diaries and I’m just too dumb to find it?

If so, please forgive me, ignore this diary and kindly direct me to the diaries’ RSS subscribe link.

If not, does anybody else think that it would be useful to have a diary RSS feed?

Does Scoop not support feeds for post that are not front page?

Confused minds want to know.

Many thanks

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An experiment of sorts

One day I came to the realization that RSS feeds and checking multiple web sites throughout the day can be overwhelming, especially if you are trying to see what the other side is saying.  After all, it’s much easier to read and digest posts, news, and information that agree with my perspective/opinion, but it’s a lot harder to read the stuff that raises my blood pressure.

Having given it some thought, I didn’t want to be jumping back and forth through a whole bunch of RSS feeds, and I also wanted to force myself to be exposed to what the other side is writing about, so I decided to create a little experiment.  Some of you may have already checked out my web site,, which is an attempt to provide a one-stop shop where I can quickly get an idea of what both sides are saying.

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Is There a Feed for Diaries?

Trying to find it, and having no luck.

I’m just starting to use a RSS reader (google), and I don’t see an RSS feed on Kos for the diaries.

BTW, what are your recommendations for an RSS reader, preferably one that is either cross platform or works with Win XP, and why?

Also, what feed aggregation sites would you recommend?  I am aware of feedburner.