My Yahoo, Google Reader, Pluck, Newsgator Enterprise and other RSS readers: Hand over my numbers. You are taking my RSS feed and caching it to serve more efficiently, which would be fine if only you told me how many times you are doing that. But you’re not.
Brad Feld is much more polite than I am about this. He complains that My Yahoo just stopped reporting how many subscribers a feed gets there and Google Reader never did report and many others, including those I list above, don’t report subscribers, even though there is an easy and automated way to do that.
That’s theft. If you took a song and cached it and fed it out to lots of people these days without reporting back to the owner, you’d get sued or slapped in jail.
Well, all I ask that you do for caching my feed is to report back the number of subscribers. Not much to ask. And not doing that is tantamount to theft.
Why do I care? Because I have an ego. Because I want to see how much RSS I serve and learn about it. Because I want to see how efficient my advertising is. And just because. Damnit.
RSS is becoming a ever-more-important transport mechanism but without metrics, some will refuse to be transported by it. My Yahoo and Google Reader are making hay including RSS in their new products. They should practice good citizenship and share the data those feeds generate with their creators.
I can’t go to the Syndicate conference this time, because it’s in California, but if I were there, I’d wear a T-shirt and carry a picket sign to all the players listed here and in my Feedburner report:
FREE MY FEED SUBSCRIBERS. HAND OVER MY NUMBERS.
: LATER: I should add that I’m not against caching because it saves on my server load. But I do want to maintain a relationship with readers who subscribed to my blatherings and the barest way to do that is to get statistics. I also am not crazy about services changing feeds without my permission; some cut my full-text feed back to just headlines. Do newsstands refuse to tell you how many copies of your publication they sell? Do they cut out pages and give you only covers? No. Online distributors should operate by similar rules of the road.
: UPDATE: Jeremy Zawodny, of Yahoo, reports in the comments that the Yahoo counts will be back; it’s a bug to be fixed. Bravo. Now how about you, Google?
: LATER: See a followup post on a fundamental principle, above.
: LATER CONFIRMATION: I also just heard from a Yahoo exec who confirms that, indeed, something got broken in an upgrade and that they will feed back stats on feeds. Once again, thanks, Yahoo.
: LATER STILL: (Repeating this from the post above): Matt Cutts of Google says in the comments here that he will mention this to the guys at Google Reader and believes there’s no reason not to build it into a next version of that new product. Bravo again.