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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Feeds Break

Yesterday evening, in the midst of the blackouts instituted by Google, Wikipedia and several other large organizations, I noticed one of my interfaces stopped working. I am sure the interface was working earlier in the day, because the page it is on-- is one I check constantly during the day.

The broken feed was on the WiredPages-- Arts & Entertainment page. This morning when I noticed it was still in disrepair-- I did not research the code-- instead planned to put up a temporary xml file that my program would read.

The data for the feed is updated weekly, so simply updating the xml file every Monday would have been a relatively easy task-- until I could find a replacement data source.

That is when I loaded my IDE and looked at the code-- in anticipation of using the new temporary xml file. Turns out-- it was a little more involved than my data source not updating a feed. I corrected the problem without using the temporary xml file. The fix-- would not be an easy repair for someone without my experience.

When my news service was very young-- 2002 or so- XML and RSS were not widely offered. Today they are and what I know think of as the more conventional mode of data delivery between sites. Back then, to populate my site with news headlines I often used unconventional methods to obtain the headlines. Hard? Not for someone with my c background.

Today, of course pretty xml files exist-- that I use often. The data source that broke was not a pretty xml file.

That said-- when I build interfaces for clients-- I do not use unconventional methods to get the data, however often API or web service providers make things hard for developers. A web service or API provider is unlikely to change how the data is offered over the course of a year or two- so not a problem for most programmers or their clients. Unconventional [but legal] retrieval of data-- is less guaranteed to work after a period of time- and the reason most programmers do not offer these services to clients.

All of this to say- if QiSoftware builds your interface-- it will work within 24 hours after a problem arises-- for the lifetime of the application.

I get to issues with my news service when I feel like it -- so if you too noticed the break when I did yesterday-- I made a mistake thinking my data source was participating in the black out [partial] and I did not even investigate the problem until this morning. Your house is not my house. I would have looked at a client's problem long before I did my own.

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