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February 1, 2007

Invoking the Lazyweb
Posted by Patrick at 09:25 AM * 29 comments

Okay, this shouldn’t be difficult, but it’s stumping me. We’d like to give our readers the ability to subscribe to RSS or Atom feeds of individual comment threads. Googling around yields a bunch of recipes for generating a single RSS feed of all comments to a given weblog, and a bunch more that purport to do what we want but which appear to have been designed for ancient versions of RSS, older versions of Movable Type, or different CMSes altogether. Nothing that’s both right and recent.

I realize only a small minority of our readers would find this functionality handy, but I’m one of them. Can anyone point us to a MT 3.33-compatible template that does this?

UPDATE: Thanks to Laura Lemay (man, does Making Light get the expert readers, or what?), our MT setup now automagically generates an XML file for each individual archive template. Thus, while the basic URL for the individual archive page for this post is:
—we now also have:
—which you can enter into your RSS reader in order to subscribe to the comment thread on this post.

What I can’t divine, in my ignorance, is the code I need to add to my individual archive template that will cause each archive page to display a link to the corresponding XML file—in essence, Movable Type template code that says “make a link to this page, but drop the ‘.html and add ‘.xml’ instead.” I’m pretty sure this will turn out to have been totally obvious, but at the moment I’m stumped.

FURTHER UPDATE: That’s solved too now, thanks to Christopher Davis. Individual archive pages now all feature RSS links you can plug into your favorite desktop aggregator or browser-based feed reader. For me the main point is to be able to have pointers for comment threads, and better yet, pointers that aren’t tied to a single computer; thus, web-based feed reading is a win for me. Your mileage may vary.

Comments on Invoking the Lazyweb:
#1 ::: Laura Lemay ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 09:58 AM:

I just emailed you my MT 3.33 RSS comments feed template. Note also that the MT software provides a comments feed for adminstrators -- navigate to the comments page in the MT software and you'll see the link in the upper right corner (below the search box).

#2 ::: Dave ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 10:28 AM:

If you can't find one that works the way you want, you might be able to roll your own by copying over the script that generates RSS for posts and changing which DB tables and columns it references.

#3 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 10:37 AM:

Note that earlier this week Six Apart issued a vendor security alert for all MT versions prior to 3.34.

One version of the announcement here

The only details that Six Apart is giving out is that there's some XSS vulnerability that can be triggered by following a malicious URL. They aren't telling what page it's on or anything else, presumably in an effort to keep this from being widely exploited before most people have upgraded. Unfortunately, that also makes it hard to know how or whether you could block the vulnerability without upgrading.

#4 ::: Dan Guy ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 10:53 AM:

If you can't find something off the shelf that works for you, rolling one from scratch shouldn't be too difficult. I could do it in an evening.

I would assume that someone, somewhere out there has already implimented this, but if you can't find a compatible module feel free to email me.

#5 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 11:35 AM:

I mentioned Anna Tambour's blog problems on another thread, but this might be a good place to see if anyone can help her get "Medlar Comfits" back online. Neither she nor I know beans about programming, but lots of people here do. Would anyone like to help? (If you can't reach her directly, I'd be glad to serve as intermediary for an initial message.)

#6 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 11:38 AM:

PS: this should lead to the error message I got when trying to get onto the site. I'm not even computer-savvy enough to know how to respond as directed there.

#7 ::: murgatroyd ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 12:17 PM:

Faren @ #6: I just got the same message trying another blog, before I came here.

Blogger (and Google) should be flogged in public for releasing a beta version for general use and then making it nigh-on impossible to provide feedback unless you cozy up to a gmail account and register for their forums. That is *not* what a beta version is for.

I registered with for a blog so I have an ID, and I just upgraded to Firefox 2.0, but I have continual trouble posting comments on Blogger because their comment verification graphic malfunctions. It requires multiple attempts to post the same comment. I usually contact the blog owner, because I'm not going through the registration folderol with Google/gmail/forums etc. I'm starting to just avoid blogs -- their new "toolset" may be wonderful for blog owners, but it's a nightmare for visitors.

I already dislike Google because it is impossible to find an e-mail contact address anywhere in the multi-level layers of their site (ever notice how their 'sponsored links' often don't match up with search terms? try to tell them that), and this is just making it worse.

/soapbox off

#8 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 12:44 PM:

murgatroyd @7: I already dislike Google because it is impossible to find an e-mail contact address anywhere in the multi-level layers of their site [..]

Had the same issue when they rolled out some changes in how their Image Search presents result; now to see image sizes and source info, you have to mouse over each image. It annoyed me enough that I wrote my observations on a piece of paper, and mailed it to the only contact information I could find:

Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043

At least I'm hoping it won't get caught up in the spam filter.

#9 ::: AndrW ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 01:09 PM:

re: Broken Blogger Sites
I think this is a case of 'unplanned, regularly scheduled maintenance', as my workplace calls it.

#10 ::: TH ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 02:31 PM:

I'd like to propose an alternative:

In my various feeds I prefer a feed with posts and comments combined. That is, whenever a comment is added, the feed will show that post as updated and show the comment. I know that this is probably a lot with your active comment threads, but I don't like to subscribe to single posts. Clutters up my overloaded NetNewsWire...

Would that be possible as an option? (I'll gladly help with the templates)

#11 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 02:53 PM:

A few bits of Google that are normally in the wings:
(mostly they want to hear about deceptive software, but I'd think it would be good for reporting stuff that doesn't work as usefully as it should)

#12 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 02:58 PM:

TH: Sure, we could offer that. Email me if you have a good idea how to set it up.

#13 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 03:34 PM:

Patrick, regarding your post-Update issue...I have almost no experience with MT, but surely there's a function that returns just the Post Number? So the URL in your template would be:{{PostNumber}}.xml

Or somesuch similar...

#14 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 03:34 PM:

I think you can do something like this (totally untested), just replacing [] with angle brackets:

[$MTBlogArchiveURL][$MTEntryID$ pad=1].xml

#15 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 03:35 PM:

Er, I missed a dollar sign in there and didn't catch it in preview. That first bit should be [$MTBlogArchiveURL$].

#16 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 03:44 PM:

Oh, thank you, Christopher. In fact it worked once I spotted the missing dollar sign _and_ added a forward slash:

"<$MTBlogArchiveURL$>/<$MTEntryID pad="1"$>.xml"

#17 ::: Chris Noto ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 05:25 PM:

Yippee! Wonderful! Thanks very much!

#18 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 07:32 PM:

I just wanted to say thanks for setting this up. It's a great feature.

#19 ::: Sharon M ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 08:09 PM:

Rob Rusick @ #8: There's an easy cut and paste fix at Getting Old Google Image Search Back. (Thanks, lifehacker!)

#20 ::: Dori ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 08:32 PM:

TH isn't the only one who'd like a full feed with everything. This page is old, but it might work for you: Full Posts + Comments RSS Template for Movable Type.

(bows in Laura's general direction)

#21 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 08:42 PM:

Ooh, I now have a Making Light folder in my Google Reader. This is wonderful. Just wonderful. Thank you, thank you, thank you*.

*I'm ceasing my effusiveness, but it is genuine!

#22 ::: ptero ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2007, 08:21 AM:

I'd like to third the full feed with everything proposition.

#23 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2007, 08:41 AM:

I'll set up the requested posts-plus-comments feed as soon as I have a little time. It might not happen until early next week.

#24 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2007, 09:34 AM:

Good news! "Medlar Comfits" is back. It's worth checking out for the latest posting -- about a "tin toy" maker whose work is entertaining enough to be a Particle. (Robot on dinosaur! etc.)

#25 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2007, 01:33 PM:

Sharon M @19: Thanks for the tip! I tried it out right away and it did the trick.

#26 ::: Dori ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2007, 02:56 PM:

I've been waiting for a full feed with comments this long; I can easily handle another week or two. Thanks!

#27 ::: Noel ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 11:56 AM:

A related question, I can't seem to find an RSS feed for the sidebar "particles" and "sidelights"... does one exist?

#28 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 05:00 PM:

Noel (#27):

Particles RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0

Sidelights RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0

#29 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 05:41 PM:

I was about to say the same. The links are on the actual blogs which exist primarily in order to feed into the sidebar.

We should do a better job organizing all of our syndication info. I'll think about it in a forthcoming millisecond of free time.

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