Own Your Followers: Redirecting Feeds on the Web

Every four months or so I go through and tidy up many of my feeds. Invariably a dozen or so feeds die out, but I’m noticing a recurring quirk. Most of them are within my IndieWeb folder!

A lot of the changes seem to be related to people who are shifting from one shiny toy or project to another. They all seem to say something like:

Hey Mom! Look at my fancy new static site that builds in 0.001 seconds!
Can you believe what Drupal supports in the IndieWeb now? See ya! 
I’ve moved back to good ol’ WordPress. Ahhh…
Micro.blog is awesome and requires such little maintenance. I migrated… while on vacation… in the wilderness… from my cell phone!!!

They’re often redirecting all their old URLs to the new site, but the one URL they commonly neglect is to create a redirect for their primary RSS, Atom, JSON or other feeds to their new feed structure. This means that the feed goes dead, and I (and others) have to notice it, then revive it. For some who simply have h-feed structures on their home page things may continue apace, particularly for the Microsub readers out there, though I haven’t been using those for as long to see as many issues.

Why are you doing all that work and making your followers do the extra manual work to go back and resubscribe?! Over the past four or five years there have been fifty or more people I’ve seen do this dance (some multiple times and even a few every 4 months or so). I totally get why they do it (because why not?!) But there should be a better way of keeping track of our major URLs and redirecting them properly.

From a continuity or even business perspective, this could be an even bigger thing as sites will likely spend a lot of time building an audience and could potentially throw it all away with the flip of a switch. I’ll be the first to admit that most of these people may not have a lot of people following them via RSS or similar means, but still?! It seems like at least once a week there’s some big newspaper, magazine, or corporate site I want to follow and I have to complain about finding their feeds. Why would you want to start all over again? 

If a social media framing is easier for some, it’s the equivalent of changing your Twitter handle for your account with a hundred thousand followers to something new with no followers instead of creating a dummy account and swapping the usernames so you can have the new name, but keep all your followers.

There are also a few serial bloggers/writers who will start up a project for 3-6 months and build a following only to shut things down though they’ll keep the domain name. Why not redirect that primary domain to one of their other or newer projects and redirect those feeds as well? You’ve spent the time building an audience, why wouldn’t you want to keep it? Am I missing something fundamental here?

We often say, own your online identity, own your domain, and own your data. Perhaps we need to remember to also “own” our friends, family, followers, our community, or more broadly our audience?

Until then, I’m still flailing away out here. Manually changing your feeds in my reader…

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Chris Aldrich

I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, IndieWeb, theoretical mathematics, and big history. I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.

6 thoughts on “Own Your Followers: Redirecting Feeds on the Web”

  1. I installed the Redirection plugin on my site purely because I needed to redirect from my old Jekyll-generated feed to the WordPress feed when I migrated over. /me engages “smug mode”
    It used to be people used FeedBurner to provide an unchanging address for their feeds (and fix the many problems in various RSS/Atom implementations at the time). The idea was that it was independent from your blog software, so could be a fixed point of truth. All the site owner had to do was update the configuration whenever they switched software. Eventually FeedBurner was purchased by Google, went out of fashion, and people slowly forgot about it…
    FeedBurner itself is – surprisingly – still running, and I bet a good proportion of the feeds linked to it still work – whether or not they’re still active. I know when I logged in last year there were a bunch of my own still merrily chugging away without any intervention. Many of my oldest subscriptions still seem to use it, too.

  2. @kimberlyhirsh Sorry for the submention. 😳 😁 I figured you for a beachgoer, but beaches felt like they’d have better connectivity than the wilderness, and I needed something to make the brilliance of the micro.blog transition seem at least a tiny bit in the fabulist tradition.
    Yours was actually one of the few feeds I wasn’t calling out (good job @manton!), but I couldn’t help using your excellent example of moving.

  3. @c I appreciate the changing for narrative impact & am grateful to @manton that so much redirection happens automatically. I can further indiewebify now that I’m established on m.b. Maybe a project for the next 2 wks at home w/ my kid, bc I can’t do research when he’s around.

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