Forget bad hair days, I’ve had a bad tech week


Sometimes, nothing seems to work properly.

This week I had a sudden flash of inspiration: how about importing an RSS feed into a Google Spreadsheet, creating a chart from it, then publishing that chart as an image? You could then produce your own charts for RSS feeds. Wonderful.

A quick test showed that yes, you can publish an image. Fab. Further research showed that the importfeed function was what I needed to bring in an RSS feed. I kind of knew that because I'd used importxml and importhtml in the past. Only one snag: it didn't work. Whatever I tried, it just returned 'N/A''.

Since then I've looked around and found blog posts that illustrate how importfeed works, and they show the same error. Even the Google Help shows this error. I haven't had a response from Google Forums and I've emailed the people running those blogs, but no response so far. Which leads me to conclude that a fantastically useful function, which I'd really really really like to use, doesn't work any more.

Second this week: Netvibes. I had an opportunity to put a dashboard together for a premium client, on the back of a major press release. Initially everything was fine, but slowly it started to misbehave. Eventually I'd put the thing together but needed to delete an extraneous widget. So I deleted it, everything fine. An hour later I looked, and the widget had returned. "Weird", I thought, and deleted it again, and tweaked another. An hour later, it was back again, and the tweak had disappeared. So I moved it, and archived it. This time, an hour later, there were two widgets instead: that is, two widgets I didn't want there, which a client could see.

Now I know Netvibes isn't a professional solution and I couldn't really honour any kind of SLA with it, but it was pretty frustrating that I couldn't get this to work. It works now, fine. But it didn't then, when I needed it to.

Finally, over the week I've noticed that Backtype has stopped producing RSS feeds for searches. I found Backtype incredibly useful as a monitoring tool to see comments – that is, key indicators of engagement. This time I did get support: Backtype responded to my tweets asking what was going on. Unfortunately they've confirmed what I thought. You can't just specify a search and get an RSS off it, that I can see. You can only monitor comments to specific posts. My problem is that I need to know what those specific posts are first, in order to monitor them! I'd much rather have something that guides me to the posts I need to monitor. That is, I'd rather it worked the way it used to.

Unfortunately at the time of posting the entire service seems to have keeled over. It just gives a 502: Gateway error right now, which I don't think I've ever seen before so it must be bad. I'm guessing they've decided to stop the RSS-from-search because their servers were in danger of melting, but it looks to me like the changes they've implemented are experiencing teething troubles. What a pity.

And that's it. That's been my week. Three very useful things that haven't worked properly for me. Sometimes, I do wonder whether it's better to go back to paper and pencil. Or maybe just banging the rocks together.

Posted via email from Brendan Cooper – your friendly social media-savvy freelance copywriter and social media consultant.

3 thoughts on “Forget bad hair days, I’ve had a bad tech week

  1. Hi Christopher, thanks for commenting.

    It was actually the entire site! And in fact I still get that error when I go to right now.

    Fair enough with the alerts but I don’t really want to use email. I’ll take a look at the dashboard and see if I can find that RSS feature – but, again, I would say that if it’s there, you’ve buried it rather than just giving an easy RSS feed off a search, as you used to.

    I did look for a way to comment on your blog btw, but couldn’t find out how to do it!

  2. Just to confirm, Christopher has been very helpful and it turns out to have been a problem unique to me! Something to do with my ‘About me’ being too long. I guess I shouldn’t gas on about myself quite as much.

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