Are you one of the people messing up my feed stats?

This is a plaintive call to anyone and everyone who uses RSS to read this blog:

Why? Well, I’ll tell you…

When I started blogging, I didn’t really want anyone to know about it. Perverse, I know. So, I called myself The Friendly Ghost, in relation to being a copywriter (ghost writer? Geddit?), and called my Feedburner feed http://feeds.feedburner.com/FriendlyGhostCopywriter.

Then I decided to ‘come out’ as Brendan Cooper. I bought the new domain, had a redirect, and started up a new feed – http://feeds.feedburner.com/brendancooper_mainfeed – and simply told people to switch over. This made even more sense after I stopped being a copywriter.

But they didn’t. Several times.

Moreover, I noticed that the old feed was continuing to gain subscriptions even though I thought I’d removed all mentions of it from the blog. Then I realised, with a certain amount of annoyance, that a bug in the RSS widgets to the side of this blog meant that, although I was specifying the new feed address, and the RSS icon pointed to it, the text did not (you can still see this effect if you mouse over the ‘Brendan bungs’ text). Of course, WordPress support hasn’t answered my queries about this.

What was I to do? I was running two feeds, which meant my feed stats were a bit weird. I wanted to run everything on just one feed, but didn’t want to lose all the subscribers on the old one. So I deleted the new one, with a redirect to the old one. And I’ve checked – there are no mentions of http://feeds.feedburner.com/brendancooper_mainfeed anywhere on the interweb.

At first this was perfect. The deleted feed reset to zero, the other one increased. All was well.

But now I see that people are still subscribing to the deleted feed! How is this possible?

Furthermore I also recently realised that, if people use the funky Google Reader subscribe button or any other reader’s ‘subscribe as you surf’ feature, it subscribes them to this blog’s original – that is, non-Feedburned – feed, which could be either https://thefriendlyghost.wordpress.com/feed, or even https://brendancooper.com/feed. This means I have no idea how many subscribers I really have, because Feedburner won’t pick them up!

There is a Feedsmith widget that would solve all of these problems. But that’s for self-hosted WordPress blogs, not those run at WordPress.com like this one.

So my situation is that:

  • People still seem to be finding the deleted feed and subscribing to that. I don’t know how/why.
  • There is a completely unknown amount of people subscribed to this blog’s feed that Feedburner can’t tell me about.
  • I cannot run any utility to bring all these feeds together.

Hence the plaintive keening at the beginning of this post. I’ve learned a very valuable lesson: make sure you give your feed a name that isn’t related to anything transient or specific, such as your online identity (which may change) or your job (ditto).

What a palaver. Perhaps I should just go back to quill and parchment?

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4 thoughts on “Are you one of the people messing up my feed stats?

  1. The obvious way you’d be gaining new subscribers to the old feed is if people are sharing their OPML files. I sent someone my OPML file only the other day, and she simply imported all my feeds into her shiny new reader. So my hypothesis is that someone is busily running round their company getting everyone into RSS, setting them up with a feedreader and then telling them “just import my list of feeds from this file for now, it’s all interesting stuff and we can configure something more personal to you later”.

    I don’t know how you’d stop them though.

  2. Ah, might have found it. I’d listed it as my RSS feed in my LinkedIn profile. And yet none of my searches picked it up. How annoying is that?

    Whereas the OPML answer works in theory, I’m not at all sure people run around exchanging OPML files that often, do they?

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