comment count in rss feeds March 29, 2009 12:23 PM   Subscribe

pony up? how about a comment count in the rss feed?

i use rss more than the webface for checking on metafilter and askme, sometimes just to go back to old threads; it's my main interface for the web before pure browsing.

a comment count would just be a neat way to keep up on the state of old conversations and to see whats going on in new ones you might come to after they're already underway. it won't happen in realtime, i know, but it would be interesting, nonetheless. kind of in the way the 'closed thread' line shows up in rss; i always get excited and have to go see what happened!
posted by artof.mulata to Feature Requests at 12:23 PM (22 comments total)

I'm not a computer expert by any means, but the first problem that comes to mind with this is that the feed would update and show "new activity" every time a new comment is posted...which isn't really ideal for how most people use RSS.
posted by dhammond at 12:27 PM on March 29, 2009

I used to do this until people noticed the comment count in text meant that the feed was "updated" every time someone added a comment.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:29 PM on March 29, 2009

What about using a dynamic inline image in each feed entry displaying the number of comments? I could've sworn I'd seen other sites do that to avoid having to update the entire feed, although now that I say it I can't find another one that does so.
posted by Riki tiki at 12:37 PM on March 29, 2009

You could do this as an online image, avoiding spurious updates - & more frequent reloading from feed aggregators. But I'm not sure what this offers that Recent Activity (regular & favorites) & recent comments would lack.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:37 PM on March 29, 2009

posted by Pronoiac at 12:38 PM on March 29, 2009

Offhand: Lifehacker uses an inline image to show a comment count, as does the Real Dan Lyon/former Fake Steve blog, & blogs.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:48 PM on March 29, 2009

pronoaic, yeah, the lifehacker feed is exactly why i was thinking of this. if it's possible i would be delighted! if not, i will switch to decaf and calm down.
posted by artof.mulata at 12:53 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Would this mean there would be comment counts in the iPhone interface. If so, I would strongly be in favour of this.
posted by slogger at 6:37 PM on March 29, 2009

It's definitely possible because I do this for myself, screen scraping the comment counts and having images dynamically generated each time the feed is loaded into a browser. Throw-away URL as a proof of concept (please don't actually use this in your feed reader, I don't have the bandwidth).
posted by Frankieist at 7:18 PM on March 29, 2009

Oh shit, awesome demo Frankieist. Lemme see what we can do that is similar (I really wish feedburner could do this automatically for us)
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:03 PM on March 29, 2009

artof.mulata: "pronoaic, yeah, the lifehacker feed is exactly why i was thinking of this. if it's possible i would be delighted! if not, i will switch to decaf and calm down."

Never give in, artof.mulata. Always resist the decaf.
posted by Phire at 2:57 AM on March 30, 2009

mathowie, if you need a guinea pig to test the feed on i'm game.

break my browser! i dare you!
posted by artof.mulata at 6:43 AM on March 30, 2009

I just enabled Feedburner's built-in feature to do this. We have it running on the main metafilter feed right now and it appears to be working. We'll add it to the other feeds as well soon.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:13 AM on March 30, 2009

Just showed up in my Google Reader. Thanks a lot for doing this.
posted by Who_Am_I at 12:09 PM on March 30, 2009

hooray! i got a pony? and she is cuuute...

can i get another one in pink?

thank you, mathowie; i assume that if it doesn't work out i still have to switch to decaf.
posted by artof.mulata at 1:05 PM on March 30, 2009

The only downside to this feature is that we're piggybacking it on Feedburner's support for Wordpress comment feeds. Wordpress comment feeds have nothing but comments in them, whereas our feeds have the first item being the original post. We felt this makes subscribing to a feed easier and makes more sense, but as a result, it means all the comment counts are off by 1, because the first "comment" is actually the post itself.

It's not a big deal for MeFi, but for Ask MeFi, it appears new questions already have one answer so you might get confused/annoyed that there are in fact no comments when it says there is one.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:16 PM on March 30, 2009

It's working on NetVibes for me! Yay!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:16 PM on March 30, 2009

It looks like feedburner has at least a 10 minute delay, which I guess isn't really a big deal. I actually used the comment rss feed as the source of my screen scraping, and subtracted 1 from the count of <item> nodes. It would definitely be a lot faster if it just pulled from the database though, both in processing speed and bandwidth (at least feedburner only does http requests of the comments pages every 15 minutes, but as the number of comment feeds it monitors increases, it starts to add up).

If you're interested in rolling your own, feel free to MeMail me and I'll give you the source to my script. It's written in php but should be easily portable to Cold Fusion or whatever.
posted by Frankieist at 9:14 PM on March 30, 2009

This is cool, thanks!
posted by benign at 10:24 PM on March 30, 2009

Very badass. thanks!
posted by potch at 11:34 PM on March 30, 2009

Oddly, I get it showing up for some posts and not others. Clicking through though, all of them have some comments (and many are older than the 10 minute delay).

Also, should it say 0 comments if there are none (or 1 including the original post)?
posted by langeNU at 7:25 AM on March 31, 2009

I'm liking this new feature - thank you!
posted by yarrow at 10:43 AM on March 31, 2009

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