The AskMe RSS feed is often broken: here are stats for the last month August 20, 2006 6:31 PM   Subscribe

Just in case you were wondering "how often is that AskMe feed really borked, anyway?" [more inside]
posted by AmbroseChapel to Bugs at 6:31 PM (104 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

First Post!
posted by SeizeTheDay at 6:34 PM on August 20, 2006


It has been borked 61 times over the last 31 days. An average of 2.04 times a day.

Worst day -- seven times.

There were only three days on which it was never borked.

Based on a sample taken every half an hour.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:34 PM on August 20, 2006


(Sorry, couldn't resist)
posted by SeizeTheDay at 6:35 PM on August 20, 2006


Date    Times Borked
19-Jul  7
20-Jul  5
21-Jul  5
22-Jul  2
23-Jul  1
24-Jul  1
25-Jul  6
26-Jul  2
27-Jul  1
28-Jul  0
29-Jul  1
30-Jul  2
31-Jul  0
1-Aug   2
2-Aug   1
3-Aug   3
4-Aug   0
5-Aug   0
6-Aug   1
7-Aug   3
8-Aug   4
9-Aug   1
10-Aug  4
11-Aug  0
12-Aug  1
13-Aug  2
14-Aug  1
16-Aug  2
17-Aug  1
18-Aug  2
Average 2.04
Total   61
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:37 PM on August 20, 2006


Couldn't this go in an email to Matt or something?
posted by Plutor at 6:44 PM on August 20, 2006


I send him email all the time. Jessamyn too. I complain here all the time. Other people have mentioned it, many times. I waited a month before posting about it again. See you back here on the 19th of September?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:46 PM on August 20, 2006


Why just email it to me? That would be much less shaming than this.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:46 PM on August 20, 2006


Did you mean "why not just email it to me", Matt?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:48 PM on August 20, 2006


Don't take it that way, mathowie.. If you don't keep us up to date with the to-do list, we're going to complain (and if you did keep us up to date with a to-do list, we would complain about the ordering) - shaming has nothing to do with it! I can understand why it seems that way though..

Now, if I could only shame you into including geocoder.ca this link on the Customize page (as mentioned here and here). :P
posted by Chuckles at 7:03 PM on August 20, 2006


this link
posted by Chuckles at 7:04 PM on August 20, 2006


Mostly the reason why I want to do this publicly is because previously, when I complained, Matt told us that the RSS feed was perfectly fine, and the problem was with bloglines. With all due respect to Matt, that is simply not true. Before someone might post "AskMe RSS feed broken" but Matt would just post "fixed" and close the thread. This is factual evidence that there's a real, ongoing, definitely-not-fixed problem. Please fix it! Why are the other feeds OK but not Ask?

Here's a supplementary question: Matt, if you're so busy with other things, and if you really consider yourself "a designer who taught himself just enough code to get by", or whatever you posted last time, why don't you get someone to help you? You have a huge number of very smart people here who would gladly volunteer to help.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:07 PM on August 20, 2006


I can understand why it seems that way though..

No it seems that way because I've been getting emails form Ambrose every few days for weeks now and I've tried three or four rewrites of the code to trap errors and not store a bad RSS file if errors are encountered. It's a difficult thing to make foolproof because I'm doing some simple get-a-url-and-store-it-to-the-filesystem stuff that ColdFusion doesn't do error handling for. Also, I'm still not convinced every single error is an empty or malformed file on my server, and not just a "couldn't connect to server" error.

I've told this to Ambrose, and he told me he'd be posting this a week ago, and I asked why and got no response.

I like it when people help me out and help me debug things, but doing stuff like this seems like a stunt meant to annoy and put pressure on me to fix it asap through public shame and it seems like the wrong approach.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:13 PM on August 20, 2006


if you really consider yourself "a designer who taught himself just enough code to get by", or whatever you posted last time, why don't you get someone to help you? You have a huge number of very smart people here who would gladly volunteer to help.

Ambrose, I've said over and over again, I've yet to meet more than 1 or 2 competent ColdFusion programmers in my seven years of doing it. It's a beginner's language and tends to only attract the beginning types to it.

I've spent hours researching how to write code to trap errors with CFHTTP, since the tag doesn't support it. There's nothing out there, and I've tried writing several different approaches to prevent an error.

I'm not a programmer. I've never taken a CS class in my life. HTML was the first programming language I touched in 15 years after playing with BASIC as a 10 year old. I don't know why you think that's some sort of story I've made up.

Have you offered your time or expertise? Have you offered a fix? If so, I didn't see it in the dozens of error messages you've sent me.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:17 PM on August 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


>I've told this to Ambrose, and he told me he'd be posting this a week ago, and I asked why and got no response.

I told you I might post a chart. At least I didn't do that. I could do one in Excel if you want.

>Also, I'm still not convinced every single error is an empty or malformed file on my server, and not just a "couldn't connect to server" error.

Why? Why would I lie?

You see, this is why I feel compelled to "stunt" post.

You have an enormous amount of respect and authority here. I have absolutely none. So if I post "it's broken" and you post "no it isn't" where does that leave me?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:21 PM on August 20, 2006


Why would I lie?

I asked you if you were absolutely sure every single error was a malformed or empty file and I don't recall hearing a positive response. It was something like "I'm pretty sure that it is..."
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:23 PM on August 20, 2006


>Have you offered your time or expertise? Have you offered a fix? If so, I didn't see it in the dozens of error messages you've sent me.

No, I haven't. And I don't know CF, so I can't anyway. But of course, I would offer my help and expertise for free any time you wanted.

And of course I don't think you're "making up" the thing about not being a professional programmer. That's not what I'm saying at all. I'm saying why not get someone else, who is, to help you?

Why not, crazy thought, post to AskMe and ask for help?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:25 PM on August 20, 2006


>I asked you if you were absolutely sure every single error was a malformed or empty file and I don't recall hearing a positive response. It was something like "I'm pretty sure that it is..."

You're confused. Every single time it's been broken it's been the same thing. Instead of an RSS file, you get a one-line file which simply reads "Connection Failure".
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:29 PM on August 20, 2006


Holy crap. If I were mathowie, I'd give Ambrose his $5 back and tell him to take a fucking hike.
posted by mullacc at 7:39 PM on August 20, 2006


I send him email all the time. Jessamyn too. I complain here all the time.

I'm sure you have good intentions, but you should really give this issue a rest.
posted by brain_drain at 7:41 PM on August 20, 2006


You have an enormous amount of respect and authority here. I have absolutely none.

Well, you're definitely making great progress on that respect thing today.
posted by nanojath at 7:48 PM on August 20, 2006


Ditto mullacc.
posted by MeetMegan at 7:51 PM on August 20, 2006


I'd show him the door and keep the $5 for headaches on both the green and brown.

/me passes AmbroseChapel an open dictionary.
posted by dobbs at 8:01 PM on August 20, 2006


I bought a wireless router from Fry's that randomly drops connections. For $15 (after rebate) you'd expect a quality product.
posted by Tacodog at 8:03 PM on August 20, 2006


I can see why Ambrose is annoyed, and I can see why the community thinks his response is overzealous and wrongly worded.

The real confusing part here is that MeFi, like many other sites, is a part of a really bizarre gray area now.

Normally in business, you have customers and businesses. Customers pay, and can thus expect a certain level of service -- even personally -- and that's not unwarranted.

With MeFi and other sites that are community based, but still run by (and profited on by) one guy or a small number of people, you have a couple of weird dynamics:

1) Those aware that the owner makes money feel sort of like "customers" even though in the technical sense they're not. They feel "cheated" when something is broken.

2) (wording only for emphasis here...) Those who seem to forget that the owner makes good money from the site and blindly support whatever Their Fearless Leader(tm) says thinking of him more as this great benevolent giver ... they will defend him to the end no matter what.

Like I said, wording from #2 only for emphasis, I'm not quite saying that's how it is here at MeFi.

I don't know if people "deserve" a working RSS feed or not. On one hand, no individual hands matt cash (save for the $5 registration, which does probably amount to some good extra cash). On the other hand, the site makes good money off of adwords and such.

Certainly ambrose could learn that flies are better caught with honey, though.
posted by twiggy at 8:04 PM on August 20, 2006


You know, I didn't just wake up in the morning and decide to send multiple emails to Matt/Jessamyn because I'm an asshole. I was invited to do so.

brain. mullac, nano, Megan, dobbs -- I don't particularly care if you think I'm being a dick. I do care about being doubted. I'm not posting repeatedly on the topic because Matt writes back "Yeah, I know, it's on my list". I'm doing it because he keeps on posting that there isn't really a problem.

Sometimes I think I don't even want it fixed any more. I'm just sick of being told it's not broken.

Want some comments from other users?
"It's definitely hosed the majority of the time.

Thanks for bringing
this up again"
"This seems to be the biggest bug on the whole site."
"I get this too, and it drives me crazy"
Tell you what. If Matt will just post "It's a fair cop, guv, the AskMe RSS feed is busted, a lot." I'll put my hand on my heart and promise I will never post about this topic ever again as long as I live. I'll write my own RSS grabber and point bloglines to that. Solving this problem for me alone clearly isn't the issue.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:05 PM on August 20, 2006


Ambrose Chapel, if I were mathowie, I would kick your ass out of here right now and never look back or have a second thought about it.

How in the world did you ever come to have such a sense of entitlement?

You paid $5 to get in here, and this is how you behave? If this is so important to you, learn how it all works, figure out how to fix it, and do it for Matt and the good of the site. Otherwise, well, just go on being yourself, I guess; on such short notice, I can't seem to come up with a more just, or worse, fate. Oh, perhaps be more of the person you are already well on the road to becoming? That's quite a bit worse.

You know Matt, if you ever to decide to just sell this thing and live as happily as possible for the rest of your life, and members start braying about betrayal, all you have to do is point to this thread, and the ones with any judgment at all will just close their mouths and wish you and your family well.

If you do decide to keep it for awhile, and I certainly wish you would, I think it would be wise to start cultivating a reputation for capriciousness. Insult people, start banning people with annoyingly repetitive names for a few weeks just because its fun. Insist that members at least recognize that you do this because you want to, and not because you owe them anything whatsoever!

If you don't do something, I just can't see what's in this for you in the long run.
posted by jamjam at 8:07 PM on August 20, 2006


Is RSS really that much of a priority? If so, why?
posted by mischief at 8:09 PM on August 20, 2006


I feel better about my daily emails demanding a MetaFilter mascot.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 8:29 PM on August 20, 2006


I'll volunteer my perfect right foot to be the MeTa mascot, weretable. Does it pay?
posted by dobbs at 8:32 PM on August 20, 2006


I think RSS for AskMe should be considered pretty important. It makes the huge question volume manageable, and it won't take much searching to see how big a problem that is.

Of course it is relatively functional as it is, so..
posted by Chuckles at 8:33 PM on August 20, 2006


I don't think I need to respond to jamjam.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:43 PM on August 20, 2006


No definitions were found for borked.

Suggestions:

- Make sure all words are spelled correctly.
- Search the Web for documents that contain "borked"
posted by blue_beetle at 8:59 PM on August 20, 2006


Whoa. This thread needs a serious massage. Seems like the perfect opportunity for another Agent Howie adventure! Some of you may have seen this one before. It was in a MeTa thread that got wiped off the face of the earth a few days ago. I've tweaked it so it can stand again and maybe lighten up this thread.

------------------------------------------

Opening the door to Room 503, Agent Howie found the inside of the Andorran hotel room to be virtually pitch-black, lit only by the pale moonlight shining through the balcony window. It was strange that the door was unlocked, but then this was no ordinary situation.

Howie was deep undercover inside Andorra, collecting information for The Agency's planned invasion of the principality. His mission had gone swimmingly so far, but today had presented a proverbial spanner in the works. Earlier that day, during one of the few moments of rest that Howie allowed himself each day, he had been awoken by an unexpected telephone call from a woman who had only identified herself as 'The Librarian'. She had asked him to come meet her here. Normally he would have declined, but Howie knew that this dame was special. She claimed that she had information to offer and that it was crucial to the goals of his employer, The Agency. Howie had no idea if he should trust her or not, but the fact that she knew of The Agency was reason alone to meet her, if only to silence her should this offer of information prove to be bogus. He closed the door and went to switch on the lights, but found that they weren't working. Suddenly, a female voice broke the silence.

"So you have come at last, Agent Howie..."

Howie's eyes darted around the darkened room, looking for the source of the voice. There she was. She had stepped out from the darkness to stand before the open door to the balcony. He still could not see her properly; all he could make out was her silhouette against the backdrop of the balcony. Behind her, Andorra la Vella, the capital of the principality, hummed with all the usual sounds and trappings of cosmopolitan nightlife. ”A beautiful backdrop to compliment someone who is, no doubt, a beautiful assassin” thought Howie. But a response was in order; after all, a gentleman does not keep a lady waiting.

"That depends on who's asking" replied Howie, no hint of emotion in his voice. "Who might you be?”

“I am The Librarian” she replied, confirming How's suspicions. "And of course you are Agent Howie. Do not try to decieve me. I have a wealth of information at my disposal. I am the one who knows all and can find all."

“Very well then” Howie responded. “What is it then that you know? What is this information you say have to offer me?"

"One moment, please" said the woman.

Howie heard that familiar 'chic-chic' noise, the sound of a lighter being primed to light a cigarette or perhaps a fine Cuban cigar. As a man of the world, Howie knew that sound all to well. He enjoyed a smoke. Before his death, Agent Babyguru had often commented that How's taste for cigars would kill him. Hopefully his deceased friend would not be proven correct today, Howie thought before realising his thoughts were wandering. Quickly he turned them back onto The Librarian. From the small amount of light that the lighter shone upon her face, Howie could make out that she was indeed very beautiful, but he knew enough of 'The Game' to know that a woman in this line of work was also often deadly. Although he could only see her silhouette, Howie knew that the moonlight gave her a full view of him. He kept his poker face steady, in preparation for whatever her next move might be.

Taking a puff from the cigarette, The Librarian chose not to betray her motives either. "The information I have is something I know both you and your employer long for, Agent Howie" she said. "I know why it is The Agency has sent you to Andorra. You both believe that an invasion of this principality is the key to The Agency's ultimate worldwide objectives. But I know that that is not the only reason that you are here, Agent Howie."

He could not help but be taken aback. "Somehow she knows!" Howie thought. "Somehow she knows I'm here to take revenge for the death of Agent Babyguru!" But he knew it was best not to confirm her suspicions at this stage. He had to throw her off balance; find out how much she knew, and how she had come to know it. Sarcasm was the key. "Is that right, O 'Dark Mistress of the Dewey Decimal System'?" he responded with all the derision he could muster. "And just what is the reason I'm here?"

Chuckling, she replied "You want revenge, of course! Revenge for the death of your friend. And I can help you get it. But you need to help me."

Once again, that horrible image resurfaced; the one Howie thought he had expelled from his mind*. He could see Agent Babyguru, his long-time secret collaborator on Project Metafilter, dead on the ground in the streets of Eschen, Liechtenstein, bloody and with a massive hole at the back of his head. His emotions bubbled over. Even for a super-cool agent of The Agency he could not hide from his inner demons. Swiftly he pulled out his gun and pointed it directly at The Librarian's head.

"I'm not fucking going to help you get shit!" yelled How, angrily. "And you're going to give me everything I want to know. Now tell me; who do I kill? Who pays for all the tears Babyguru's wife and kids have cried at night? WHO DO I MAKE THE FUCKING BILL OUT TO???"

If Howie’s show of testosterone was meant to faze The Librarian, it had failed. She didn't even flinch, "Now now, Agent Howie" she said, calmly. "I know you have something of a reputation as a Master of Violence but this time it will get you nowhere. This time you'll need to listen and do as you're told, if you want the information I have."

Howie lowered his gun slightly, but he was still angry and struggling to maintain his rage. The Librarian smiled. "Very good, How, very good. Now listen to me very carefully. I will say this only once. If you want my help, seek out Thread #12541 on your 'Project Metafilter'. It's quite interesting. It's about Ambrose Chapel and 'borking', as he likes to put it. But I am sure that you, Agent Howie, will know what it's really about. Once you've read it, I'm sure you'll know what it is I want from you. And once you have what I want... well... then you can have your bloody revenge on the one who killed Babyguru."

How was about to respond, but before he could he found the room getting even darker than it already was. The balcony was getting blurry. And then there was nothing but darkness.

When he awoke in the morning, he realised he had been drugged. He had no idea how, but it was obvious who was responsible. And he couldn't help but smile. "Heh. She got the better of me!" he thought to himself. Howie smiled wryly. A woman hadn't gotten the better of him since his fifth wife left him and took him for millions in alimony. Next time, thought How, The Librarian would not be so lucky. But there was no time to think about that now. He had to get to a computer and check in on Project Metafilter. The thread The Librarian had referred to seemed to be the key to unravelling this new mystery. Indeed, the very future of the world hung on the contents of Thread #12541.

The invasion of Andorra would have to wait...

See 'The Adventures of Agent How #52: The Wagon Has A Stick', in which Agent Howie returns to work at The Agency and finally overcomes the death of Agent Babyguru.
posted by Effigy2000 at 9:07 PM on August 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


You know Matt, if you ever to decide to just sell this thing and live as happily as possible for the rest of your life, and members start braying about betrayal, all you have to do is point to this thread, and the ones with any judgment at all will just close their mouths and wish you and your family well.

Someone always has to take it a little too far.
posted by justgary at 9:10 PM on August 20, 2006


Why not, crazy thought, post to AskMe and ask for help?

Because it's MefiRelated and would be deleted? Also might bork the feed.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 9:15 PM on August 20, 2006


I don't think I need to respond to jamjam.

Could this be the beginning of wisdom?

Now, if you could only see that you really don't need to respond to anyone or anything on this site in any possible future ever again, I would call that real progress.
posted by jamjam at 9:37 PM on August 20, 2006


No definitions were found for borked.

Yet the word bork is defined as (looked it up seeing as I didn't know what the word ment outside of the given context):
To seek to obstruct a political appointment or selection; also, to attack a political opponent viciously- via dictionary.com
posted by jmd82 at 9:40 PM on August 20, 2006


Those of you who would ban Ambrose for complaining if they were mathowie: this is why Metafilter is as good as it is (and it still is pretty good) -- you are not mathowie. Thank god.

I don't think AC was out of line posting this thread, personally. Perhaps it will spur someone in the community to offer Matt some help if he can't squash the bugs himself. It does seem a little obsessive if he's really been emailing every couple of days to complain, sure, and it could have been phrased better so as not to seem like he was pooping on Matt, sure, but this is one of the things Metatalk is for, I thought.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:46 PM on August 20, 2006


Borked? Are you the Swedish Chef?
posted by Zozo at 9:46 PM on August 20, 2006


Just in case you were wondering "how often is that AskMe feed really borked, anyway?"

I wasn't.

Sometimes websites have technical problems and once in a while I won't be able to access them. No big deal.

And when they're not immediately available, I just look at other sites. Listen to some music. Read a book. Go outside and get some fresh air and human company. That sort of thing.
posted by jason's_planet at 9:50 PM on August 20, 2006


Jessamyn is a librarian. The Librarian has reddish hair and eats bananas with his feet.
posted by Tuwa at 9:52 PM on August 20, 2006


I told you I might post a chart. At least I didn't do that. I could do one in Excel if you want.


www.getalife.metafilter.com
posted by thatweirdguy2 at 9:52 PM on August 20, 2006


Ambrose, I think you are missing the point here. I was not complaining about the fact that you've found a bug in the site and you've posted it here, rather, I'm not so happy about the way that you did it. As I am sure you are aware by this point, there are many ways to get something done. One is by consistently complaining about it directly to the admins. Another is by politely posting the issue here. Yet another is by finding a solution and helping the admins implement it. Repeated attempts to call mathowie to the woodshed aren't really the most effective ways. As twiggy stated, you get more flies with honey. A public shaming isn't really going to put your pet issue at the top of the list. It's so important to remember that we have this site (and all its features, RSS included) because of the hard work of Matt and Jessamyn. It's so often a thankless job (with the thread deletions, user bans, etc.) that yet another whiny (and I'm sorry, it does sound like you're whining) complaint just adds to the pile. It's also important to note, to twiggy's point, that while this is a full-time job for Matt, he seems to give back a lot of money to the site (as evidenced by the best post contest and such). It's not as though he lies down with a big pile of cash each night.

Really, I am not sucking up, though it DOES appear that I am. I just see a lot of this lack of courtesy and respect on the site and it upsets me. By the way, thanks for integrating the username links, Matt.
posted by MeetMegan at 9:52 PM on August 20, 2006


By the way, thanks for integrating the username links, Matt.

They only appear when previewing comments, as they always have, for reasons mysterious and liminal. I personally hope this does not change.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:56 PM on August 20, 2006


>it does seem a little obsessive if he's really been emailing every couple of days to complain

In previous "bugs" posts to Talk I have said "what should I do in order to help track this problem?" and was asked to email, rather than post. So I did.

And it's not every couple of days, As far as I can see I've sent exactly eight emails to Matt, and the emails don't say "I hate you mathowie die die die" they just list the dates and times when it was broken.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 9:57 PM on August 20, 2006


Thanks for the correction, Stavros. I checked two profiles while typing, then previewed, and saw the usernames. Thought it was something new. My bad.
posted by MeetMegan at 9:58 PM on August 20, 2006


>Ambrose, I think you are missing the point here.

No, you are. I've said it over and over again.

What makes me mad is not the issue remaining unfixed, it's Matt repeatedly, publicly, doubting that the issue even exists. He's done it already once in this thread.

You either believe there's a problem or there isn't. If there isn't, then clearly I'm insane and a new tinfoil hat should make me happy. Ban me, please, if there really isn't a problem and I'm just making it up as some kind of desperate plea for attention. But if there is, surely you can understand my frustration when Matt posts that he's "not convinced"?

Why, for the umpteenth time, would I lie?

Two questions:
  • Does anyone really believe that I can "come up with a fix" for someone else's code without even seeing it? Perhaps you think Matt's going to send me the username and password and just let me tinker with Ask?
  • Please describe, with examples, how to attack this problem with "honey"
posted by AmbroseChapel at 10:08 PM on August 20, 2006


Ambrose, if you don't like it, why don't you spend your time elsewhere? Why do you think Matt even owes you the time of day?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:13 PM on August 20, 2006


If only there was such a thing as magic, then the RSS could be easily fixed. Alas, as we all know, there isn't.
posted by dobbs at 10:18 PM on August 20, 2006


1) I don't know anything about coding so I have to leave this unanswered.

2) To be honest, I have no idea how to explain to you how to ask a question nicely, so here is an example of how I might have posed it.
Example:
MeTa FPP: AskMe RSS is screwed up.
Inside: Matt, you asked me to let you know when the AskMe RSS is screwy. Well, I kept track of it, and here are the number of times, based on my 1/2 hour check-ins, that the AskMe RSS was down. To refresh your memory, I consider the feed to be down when I receive the specific error: "Connection Failure". This isn't just a problem with my system, as other users, as shown here, are experiencing similar problems. Can you let me know where this sits on your list of priorities, so I can better manage my expectations of a fix? Thanks.
posted by MeetMegan at 10:18 PM on August 20, 2006


He doesn't. Of course he doesn't. But don't I have the right to post to MetaFilter bugs about MetaFilter bugs?

And if, the very first time I or anyone else had posted about this, he'd said "I know it's broken. I'll try and fix it" this thread wouldn't even be here, or any of the others.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 10:20 PM on August 20, 2006


Thanks Meghan. Good example, give or take some technical details.

I did something like that months ago.

Nothing happened.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 10:22 PM on August 20, 2006


All this nastiness because AmbroseChapel said "just in case you were wondering".. Personally, I was wondering, so I thought "Thanks AmbroseChapel!"

Clearly, lots of people who weren't wondering think that saying "just in case you were wondering" is somehow nefarious.

Hmm.. If someone said: "Just in case you were wondering Chuckles, you really are an asshole." Well, I guess I can see how the phrasing could be taken badly.. Perhaps finding it insulting requires that you are being addressed personally - "You're too stupid to even wonder, so I'm just going to tell you."

Whether a metatalk thread is addressed personally to mathowie or not is kind of a grey area though, isn't it?
posted by Chuckles at 10:23 PM on August 20, 2006


My suggestion would be that you should continue to be sweet as pie in your subsequent posts - no public shamings needed. But that's just me.

I once requested a copy of the Metafilter logo to make up a sign for a meetup we were having here in Chicago. I sent an email or two to Matt and got no reply. I just figured he was busy and didn't have time to get to my request. No big deal.

This is a very well-managed community website that costs each person at most $5. Not $5 a month or $5 a year. $5 forever. With such a minimal investment, it's hard to expect immediate (or even timely) responses from the admins.
posted by MeetMegan at 10:34 PM on August 20, 2006


Ambrose really doesn't appreciate being told there's not a problem when he sees a problem. Matt really doesn't appreciate someone trying to force him to admit publicly there's a problem he's having trouble fixing.

*chews popcorn*

Does that about cover it?
posted by mediareport at 10:39 PM on August 20, 2006


>My suggestion would be that you should continue to be sweet as pie in your subsequent posts - no public shamings needed.

I didn't see what I did as public shaming.

I will repeat my earlier post:

'If Matt will just post "It's a fair cop, guv, the AskMe RSS feed is busted, a lot." I'll put my hand on my heart and promise I will never post about this topic ever again as long as I live.'
That's all I want now. If I could get bloody Crypt::DSA::KeyChain to install on OS 10.2.8 then I'd already have my own RSS feed up and running. I have officially given up on the problem. I'm no longer checking the feed, subscribing to the feed or logging errors with the feed. All I want any more, precious little snowflake that I am, is for Matt to say "I admit there's a problem".
posted by AmbroseChapel at 10:46 PM on August 20, 2006


All I want any more, precious little snowflake that I am, is for Matt to say "I admit there's a problem".

Why do you even feel you're entitled to that? And as long as you don't get it, you're going to scream and yell and hold your breath until you turn blue?

[What in hell is the deal with this modern obsession with apologies? "I demand that you public abase yourself and admit that I was right and you were wrong and submit yourself for flogging." Why? And who are you to demand anything?]
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:58 PM on August 20, 2006


Oh well.

As Iris says, "nothing good ever lasts."
posted by jamjam at 11:03 PM on August 20, 2006


I don't feel I'm entitled to it, I just want it.

Because I care about MetaFilter and want it to be better.

Because I actually do know what I'm talking about, I'm a professional in this area.

Because I went to the trouble of writing a special program to check on the problem.

Because it's a real problem.

Because I've been trying to help, for a long time now, and ... because no human being likes to be told they're wrong, publicly, when they know they're right.

This started off as a technical issue. As I say, I now officially despair that the technical issue will ever be fixed and will stop requesting that it be fixed. I will code my own solution. Email me if you want an RSS feed for Ask that works.

And as you people have been so kind as to let me know, my personal feelings on the subject are worthy only of your scorn and derision. God bless you, one and all.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 11:08 PM on August 20, 2006


it's Matt repeatedly, publicly, doubting that the issue even exists. He's done it already once in this thread.

Ambrose, you have this all wrong, and it's why I think this thread is a bad idea entirely.

I've told you repeatedly in email that yeah, there are issues with the RSS file generation. I never doubted that the problem even existed. I told you there were problems with the code. I never said it was perfect, I acknowledged there is a problem on my end and I was trying out three or four different solutions. I also asked you to keep sending me errors when one of the solutions would still encounter an error.

I think you're ignoring everything I've said in email and remembering that in the past, yes, I got tired of people saying "ask mefi's RSS works with every app but bloglines, it hasn't updated in two days" and going to the RSS validator and seeing no errors at all. It certainly looked like a bloglines problem.

Your monitor helped tease out the errors were due to temp file problems on my end and pointed to bloglines revisiting only after a long period of time when encountering an error. That was helpful.

I told you I was trying new stuff and continuing to research this. I've put several full time days of work into this problem without resolving the issue. I've done dozens of google searches and scoured CF mailing lists to little avail. I've asked friends but none have ever done any error checking on remote URL fetching. Right now, I've tried a bunch of error-checking attempts, but my last effort is going to be following much of the code in this example, and ditching the CFHTTP tag entirely, so that I can bake in tons of failover code to not write a new RSS file if the database can't be contacted in a short amount of time. I wanted to be 100% sure your monitor script was only getting errors on bad RSS to make sure my recent fixes didn't solve the problem. It wasn't to doubt that the problem existed.

I doubted the issue existed three months ago. I thought I've been clearly trying to work through the issue with you for more than the past month.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:18 PM on August 20, 2006


Ah, but Matt: none of that is enough. You didn't cast your eyes down and humbly beg forgiveness and let yourself be publicly flogged for the unpardonable sin of not fixing the bug instantly and perfectly within 10 milliseconds of being appraised of its existence.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:25 PM on August 20, 2006


And if, the very first time I or anyone else had posted about this, he'd said "I know it's broken. I'll try and fix it" this thread wouldn't even be here, or any of the others.

As I said over a month ago:
What you see is every once in a while the rss file is created but dies at some point before the flat file is written. I need to add some code to check for a fail before anything gets written to disk, but whenever someone makes a new post, the RSS file is rewritten again
I'm reading your responses here and you make me sound like an arrogant programmer that thinks his shit doesn't stink and as I've told you in email and on that linked comment, there is a problem on my end, but unfortunately there isn't an easy fix. I've worked on it and tried several things as I told you about in email and they didn't seem to solve it, which required more research and yes, it's not fixed still. When I can get time to work on this persistent problem again, I'll try one more rewrite of the code. I thought I've been clear about this over the last month.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:34 PM on August 20, 2006


<ignores SCDB, just like everyone else does>

Obviously now if I disagree with anything Matt says the whole thing will start again, I will look like even more of an asshole and Matt will look like even more of a saint.

Are you going to close the thread now?

This has been a profoundly depressing and disillusioning experience for me.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 11:38 PM on August 20, 2006


Ambrose, the problem with this thread is that we've been exchanging email about it for a month or so. You keep reminding me there is a problem and I keep trying new code out and telling you I'm working on it, and still those changes didn't solve it.

Then you said you'd post here, and I thought it seemed kinda petty and asked you what purpose that would serve, and then you posted it anyway and I reminded you that I thought it was a bad idea and already asked you why you wanted to drag this out in public because I knew it wouldn't look good.

And it's gone badly, which is what I suspected (and why I asked you why you wanted to do this).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:41 PM on August 20, 2006


I give up. Really I do. I seriously will not post any more on this topic ever again.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 11:48 PM on August 20, 2006


Time for the funny pictures.
posted by mischief at 12:14 AM on August 21, 2006


What is "RSS"?
posted by gramschmidt at 12:24 AM on August 21, 2006


AmbroseChapel writes "I give up. Really I do. I seriously will not post any more on this topic ever again."

Perhaps what you meant to say...or will wish later that you did say was:
"Thanks Matt for the candid and detailed responses. Good luck with the problem."
posted by peacay at 12:30 AM on August 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


AmbroseChapel, I thought the things I said to you were justified and more; I thought they required saying, in fact. Now, I feel defeated and dispirited. I have somehow harmed myself here tonight.

I don't think I understood what you were trying to do, and I still do not understand it. I regret attacking you, and I offer you my apologies. Please do not feel at all obliged to accept them. I probably would not if our roles were reversed.
posted by jamjam at 12:35 AM on August 21, 2006


Is RSS really that much of a priority? If so, why?

RSS is a great way to read AskMe. You can mark the good questions when they get posted, and go back a day or two later when there have been lots of excellent responses. People only get this worked up because AskMe is so useful and fantastic.

I am glad to hear it’s not a bloglines problem. I almost switched rss readers just to get a working feed. Best of luck fixing the bug.
posted by Gary at 12:44 AM on August 21, 2006


This thread plays like every 'brainstorming' meeting I've ever attended. The involved have my sympathy.
posted by evil holiday magic at 12:51 AM on August 21, 2006


I don't think AC was out of line posting this thread, personally.

Neither do I, really. My own opinion, for what it's worth, is that the AskMe RSS feed should be taken offline until the issue is resolved. While I don't think AC's attitude is terribly helpful - and I find the attitude of those attempting to crucify him even less so - I do agree with the basic idea that features should only be implemented if they can be implemented right.

That clearly isn't the case with the AskMe RSS feed right now, and that unfortunately reflects poorly on the site and Matt even though he is clearly doing his best and from what I can tell isn't really at fault (outside of not ditching Coldfusion three five years ago).
posted by Ryvar at 2:14 AM on August 21, 2006


MetaFilter: I thought it seemed kinda petty.
posted by public at 4:03 AM on August 21, 2006


this seems like a stunt meant to annoy... through public shame...

As far as I can tell that approach is rather popular among certain Mefites.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:51 AM on August 21, 2006


My take away is that I'm amazed that the site is up as much as it is, being written in ColdFusion and all.
posted by GuyZero at 5:21 AM on August 21, 2006


the AskMe RSS feed should be taken offline until the issue is resolved

Twice a day, for say, ten minutes out of 1440 minutes in a day, the feed is an empty file. That'd be 98% uptime. The only people reporting errors all use bloglines as their reader.

Have you ever heard the saying "Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good"?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:49 AM on August 21, 2006


Thunderbird has the problem too.
posted by Chuckles at 6:16 AM on August 21, 2006


I should have mentioned, Thunderbird behavior has improved in the last few weeks, but it still hiccups from time to time.
posted by Chuckles at 7:34 AM on August 21, 2006


Effigy2000's comment jammed up my RSS somethin' fierce... just kinding, I don't use that silly stuff.

Anyhow, just wanted to add my tongue cluck to the "How Gauche" choir. Someone get AmbroseChapel a pony made of ice cream, superabsorbent tissues, an Emily Post book, and 30 ccs of Calmthefuckdownex, stat!

On preview: Well, it appears that everything is as resolved as it's gonna be for now.

Nice hustle everyone, good game. Same time next week?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:11 AM on August 21, 2006


AmbroseChapel, surely you can use an RSS reader that saves RSS files locally. For example, RSSOwl saves the last good copy of a feed and can display it if the feed is currently unavailable. Sure, it would mean the very latest questions wouldn't be there, but as far as I understand it the feed soon fixes itself the next time it's generated.
posted by matthewr at 8:40 AM on August 21, 2006


My own opinion, for what it's worth, is that the AskMe RSS feed should be taken offline until the issue is resolved.

Please don't. It hiccups, but you still get most if not all of the questions in bloglines eventually. Maybe just slap a big "beta" sticker beside the rss button? That seems to work for google =)
posted by Gary at 8:58 AM on August 21, 2006


30 ccs of Calmthefuckdownex

What's that sell for on the street?
posted by mischief at 9:15 AM on August 21, 2006


I give up. Really I do. I seriously will not post any more on this topic ever again.

You fucking child.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:33 AM on August 21, 2006


A second call for RSSOwl.

I didn't pay for Metafilter and I'm no longer addicted to it so I tend to not worry about the downtime. Expectating 100% uptime leads to heart attacks. I know I would have got my $5 worth the first day. It's up to me to make it work or find somewhere else to go.

It is true this is an user content added board and it's good we hear from disgruntled users who want to help. However, shaming the sole programmer never elicits good results.

Is there a page that lists current problems and current status? A lot of complaints could be answered by referring the user to the Problems Into Solutions Status Or Focused Features page.
posted by ?! at 9:40 AM on August 21, 2006


There's a lot of arguing here back and forth about "method of complaint", but I'll ignore that part. The remaining question seems to be, "Is AskMeFi really borked, or is it something in the monitoring software?"

If that's the case, I could potentially run the same testing scripts from a couple of machines, one of which is on a very good network indeed. That wouldn't rule out that the script was bad, but it would likely rule out simple network errors. I can just schedule them to run with cron and pretty much forget them.

If that would be of any use, please let me know. There's a munged email in my profile.
posted by Malor at 10:07 AM on August 21, 2006


Naw, I'm pretty sure it's ask mefi's feed getting borked a couple times a day, I just wanted to be 100% positive that it wasn't an uptime issue and was only a programming issue.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:22 AM on August 21, 2006


I use a backend rss grabber that aggregates a bunch of feeds into one big broadsheet-type page, so I never noticed this, but it strikes me that if an RSS reader gets so confused by an occasional malformed file its the reader's fault. Be liberal in what you accept and all.

Mathowie, I know that mefi is a coldfusion app, but would it be possible/plausible to write a secondary app in a less problematic framework with the sole purpose of serving up RSS feeds? I'm sure there are enough web programmers on Mefi to whip something up in no time flat and it seems a simple enough SQL->RSS query to me. Obviously this is dependant on what kind of setup your hosting is on.

I can certainly help in PHP or (less effectively) in ruby.
posted by Skorgu at 10:46 AM on August 21, 2006


I love MeFi just the way it is. If Matt fixed everything, nobody would have anything to complain about. That'd be boring, wouldn't it?

"I'd give Ambrose his $5 back and tell him..."

...are we supposed to be paying Matt so we can complain? Why am I the last one to know about these things? I try not to complain to Matt if I can help it, cuz y'know, I haven't been paying anything. Pretty funny someone who paid five bucks gets to be so mean to Matt. I'm just happy he hasn't been mean to me. Goodness know I've given him cause over the year.

I try to behave. Honest. *crosses fingers behind his back*

I bought a mug once. And a T-shirt. The mug broke. The t-shirt.. well let's just say I pretty much only wear it around the house nowadays or maybe to the laundromat.

What have I done for Matt lately? How much do I need to pay so I can complain with impunity? I doubt I can afford that, can I?
posted by ZachsMind at 11:13 AM on August 21, 2006


Ok, I spent a couple hours on this and I just added a fix that should not write the file if the db can't be contacted. It'll actually email me if it is down instead of writing out a RSS feed, but if anyone is monitoring the feed still, please email me if you see a ask mefi RSS feed that consists of just "Connection Failure".

Theoretically, this should end the bloglines probs, but a dns problem could still block them from getting a new feed or something.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:17 AM on August 21, 2006


"Goodness know I've given him cause over the year."

Huh. know=knows and year=years.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:19 AM on August 21, 2006


Here I was all glad that someone was finally taking a stand against the tyranny of ending words with an s, and then you have to go and take it back. That suck, Zachmind.
posted by team lowkey at 11:40 AM on August 21, 2006


the tyranny of ending words with an s

I think you mean "the tyranny of ending word with an "
posted by languagehat at 12:38 PM on August 21, 2006


I think you mean "the tyranny of ending word with an "

Thi i funny from the ground up.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:45 PM on August 21, 2006


I just tried to send Matt five buck just for grin, but paypal hate me.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:57 PM on August 21, 2006


$5 = Membership != The right to do anything
posted by blue_beetle at 12:58 PM on August 21, 2006




I can't send five buck to zombo dot com either. i can't do anything. =(
posted by ZachsMind at 1:23 PM on August 21, 2006


The only people reporting errors all use bloglines as their reader.

i get errors all the time (read: once a day or so) with Great News and previously with RSS Bandit.

To be honest, it's not that big of a deal -- I can just go to the site (although I do like being able to read the More Inside without clicking -- there's plenty of questions that are lame or poorly explained in the front page text).

Personally, I'm more concerned about Toothpaste For Dinner's RSS feed being defunct.*

*BUT I PROMISE I WON'T MAIL YOU AGAIN DREW
posted by fishfucker at 1:52 PM on August 21, 2006


I dont' even know know the RSS is for! LOL!
posted by ZachsMind at 2:10 PM on August 21, 2006



posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 3:09 PM on August 21, 2006


It seem we've at least figured out a way to stop complaint about R feed.
posted by team lowkey at 3:16 PM on August 21, 2006


I use a backend rss grabber

*boggles*
posted by Wolof at 4:45 PM on August 21, 2006


Sorry to derail, but would this be an appropriate place to request a thread about Mongolian clusterfucking?

If so, then just funny gifs k plz thx
posted by Meatbomb at 6:58 PM on August 21, 2006


I wish that I wasn't so late to this party, but I have to say that I am one of the people who feel more or less like AC. I have posted to MetaTalk about the Ask RSS feed (specifically w/ Bloglines, but other RSS readers, too) and got more or less just a blow-off from Matt.

Based on what Matt said in this thread, I do believe that he has worked on it. But, were it not for this thread, I would think that he was still ignoring the problem. So, to my mind, the thread is not a waste, regardless of the tone of the post. (Focus on content, not subtext.)

What is most perplexing is that the other RSS feeds do not seem to have the same issue...
posted by achmorrison at 7:55 PM on August 21, 2006


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