Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

News.com Annoyances

CNet have made a couple of annoying changes lately, and I’m not the only one who noticed.
The first is to do with their RSS feeds. Originally the feeds had a headline and a brief summary of the article as the description. Now, they just have headlines. This is definitely a step backwards as the headlines don’t always make it obvious what the story is about. Scoble has already decided to unsubscribe, I’m thinking about it.
The second is to do with their crufty URLs. An example of an URL given in the RSS feed now is http://news.com.com/New+Zone+Alarm+to+warn+of+viruses/
2100-7349_3-5218624.html?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=news . That can be shortened to http://news.com.com/2100-7349_3-5218624.html. I’m guessing they’ve added the headline so the pages do better on Google, but it makes the URLs unnecessarily longer and no more user-friendly than before. I’ve also never understood why the parameters are there as they seem to make no difference to the display of the web page.
Finally, they still haven’t fixed this design bug.

3 Comments

  1. Aren’t the parameters there so they can count the click-through rate from their feed? Whenever I see an RSS feed with an “rss” parameter, that’s what I assume, someone wants to be able to say “the RSS feed accounted for n clicks.”

  2. It probably is. But why can’t these be redirects? The BBC, for example has URLs like
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/click/rss/0.91/ public/-/1/hi/entertainment/music/3740521.stm in its feeds, which resolve to http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/ music/3740521.stm .

  3. Sorry I didn’t see this earlier.
    We’re experimenting with the descriptions, or lack thereof. Glad to know your opinion. I encourage people to write us at news dash rss at cnet dot com to tell us more.
    Regarding the URL structure comments, Phil is right: we do attribute clicks from RSS feeds using that parameter. You, too, are correct in that we could have done it another way… but we’ve got a lot of infrastructure which handles our current method quite efficiently. Outside of email, URLs are less visible to readers all the time… although we still would prefer to have clean, meaningful, and short URLs (not sure all three are possible).