I created thesnowway.com’s Aggregator to manage ski blog content. When I created it, there was a general lack of quality aggregation tools available (at least those that did not utilize an email client as a reader). I created the Aggregator for my own use. But since it was internet based rather than a local client, I shared it with others thinking I could increase exposure to other ski blogs.
Some might say that I was curating content. Visitors to TSW’s Aggregator could not control the feeds. I selected a collection of interesting blog feeds and others viewed my collection if they wanted.
I always had reservations about this public feed setup and the TSW integration. There is a lot of concern in the blogosphere about stolen content and attribution, and I can relate. TheSnowWay.com recently had a photo lifted without permission and poorly placed attribution.
One problem is that many bloggers do not use tools at their disposal to properly source their feeds. Blogging software has built in features to limit the amount of content aggregators can access. In WordPress, this is called a teaser or an excerpt depending on how you blog. The teaser and excerpt can either be a limited excerpt from the actual post (often times the first paragraph and a picture, as I do with TSW) or an introduction created specifically for the piece. Both end with a link to the full article ensuring aggregators do not “steal” a full article and repost it on another site.
Many bloggers do not use this tool. As such, thesnowway.com’s Aggregator frequently acquires and reposts full articles from other blogs under the TSW banner. Other people’s work is now hosted on my site in its entirety. This was never the intent and has always been a cause for concern. TSW is 100% ad free and I operate it at my own expense. So I received no financial benefit but original content is still original content regardless of profit motive or lack thereof. The full works of other bloggers have no business being reproduced in their entirety on TSW, even if it is due to a blogger’s ignorance of feed maintenance.
The final straw was TSW’s transition away from my hacked Kubric theme to the current hacked twenty-eleven theme. Since the Aggregator ran on a separate WordPress installation, the theme and style did not carry over. The Aggreagator frequently “broke” when markup or styles from other sites’ content didn’t play nice with the hacked kubric theme. And I had no intention of redeploying the Aggregator with an updated theme. The Aggregator WordPress installation is also horridly out of date and a security risk. Thus, the Aggregator is being deleted from the server effective immediately.
There are better ways for you to read blog feeds instead of relying on TSW’s curation. There are a variety of Readers out there. I recommend Google Reader which integrates nicely with most modern browsers (except Google Chrome, ironically). I’ve been using Google Reader instead of TSW’s Aggregator for a while now.
Create a Google Reader account, bookmark or pin the Reader page, and if you see a blog you like and want to follow, just click an RSS Icon. Facebook, Google+, and Twitter are also great content aggregators but they each have issues, especially Facebook due to not all posts reaching all users that like a page. And not all blogs use these tools to self promote (for shame! more on that later).
The bottom line is the Aggregator was on shaky ethical ground from the get go and while it has been a useful tool, it is now outdated, broken, and irrelevant. If you used my Aggregator, click on through to my list of Northeast Ski Blogs and seek out the RSS icon on each blog after selecting your reader of choice.