1 January 2010

What Does “Burning A Feed” Mean

When I decided to apply myself to blogging at my spare time, never did I expect to come across many confusing terms, e.g. html, burning a feed, etc. Learning these, however, has been fun for me. Burning a feed first sounded to me like I would need a source of fire, but I soon found out otherwise.

So what does burning a feed really mean? Thanks to GeneaBloggers, BloggerSentral, and a few other older Bloggers, I am now more wiser.

The question of “what does it mean to burn a feed?” may seem very basic to many bloggers but I bet when you first started your blogging habit, you had much the same puzzled look as I did when I first heard of “burning a feed.”

Let's start with defining and understanding terminology.

Feed Burning Terminology

The best place to start is to look at the two key words:
  • Feed – refers to a Web feed which sends updated content to users. The terms web feed and news feed are inter-changeable. Users must subscribe to a feed – it is just like a magazine in that you won’t have the content delivered unless you sign up or subscribe.
  • Burn – just like “burning a CD,” the content provider, usually a blogger, must actively create a feed to which users can subscribe.
So the next step is to discuss how each end of the connection – the blogger/content provider and the user/reader – perform their functions and which tools are used to not only send content out to users, but also how users can receive and read that content.
  • Reader – there are various news readers (aka feed readers) available to users, all of them more appropriately being described as aggregators. An aggregator is a program which combines all the various feeds to which a user has subscribed and allows the user to read and organize the content. The most common web-based readers are Google Reader and Bloglines. There are also desktop-based readers (aka client readers) which are not as common. Most readers allow you to create folders, tags and labels to organize the content of the feeds.
  • Burner – the content provider/blogger must select a program to use in order to prepare the content to be fed to the user. This process is called “burning a feed” and is usually accomplished using the Atom or RSS standard. The most common program used to burn feeds is FeedBurner.

Feed Burning Configuration Options

Some considerations to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to burn a feed and which settings to use:
  • Most blogging platforms allow you to burn full posts (showing the entire post) or partial posts (either a teaser headline or the first few lines of a post).
  • If you have a readership that accesses your content through a mobile device (smart phone), very often they want the full content since they may not have access to a Web browser to view your original post.
  • Bloggers prefer, of course, to direct traffic back to their blogs so they very often only burn partial posts into a feed.
  • Burning full posts to a feed also helps with the proliferation of splogs or spam blogs since the content is freely available to anyone who subscribes.

This article is adapted from an original by Thomas MacEntee over at GeneaBloggers here.

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