Friday, July 2, 2021

Tackling Technology by Poking Around


I tell ya, being a genealogy guinea pig is hard. I take my work seriously, but sometimes a task's outcome cannot be predicted.

Take this blogging predicament faced by those of us who still use that free service at Google's Blogger. As of July 1, their email subscription service, FeedBurner, was (mostly) discontinued. While portions of that program are experiencing "upcoming changes," the one change bloggers are most concerned about will now effectively wipe out the ability for blog subscribers to receive notification by email that a new post is available to be read.

The first recommendation to bloggers was to download their subscriber list for future use in switching to another service. That task, if not done by July 1, is not a tragic loss; the data will still be there—for a while longer—for blog owners to access.

It's the next step where we can stumble. Hands down, bloggers do better when they play to an audience, and regular followers close that feedback loop. But what is the best option, now that we've lost FeedBurner?

I might say, at this point, that this dilemma is one faced only by those using the Google Blogger service; migrating one's blog to, say, WordPress is a viable option, and indeed, some genealogy bloggers have done just that. Alternately, those of us who appreciate being able to read a wide variety of genealogy blogs need not worry about losing—and thus, scrambling to replace—their subscription to their favorite blogs on that other service.

So, here goes step one for this genealogy blogging guinea pig: adding an alternate handy dandy subscription button to A Family Tapestry. I might add here that I tackle technology by poking around—and, as I discovered yesterday, that's a good thing. Not all written instruction is sufficiently fool-proofed.

My choice for alternate subscription service is to use Feedly, a popular feed reader service. My first step was to set up my own account (free) at Feedly, then subscribe to my own blog through the Feedly site. The way I did that, after duly reading all the instructions and watching the mini-video overview, was to cut and paste my own URL into the subscription box at Feedly. Easy peasy.

Emboldened by my brazen success, I went on to add several other genealogy blogs to my account, divided by the three maximum categories the free account at Feedly will allow. Just in case there was a cap to the number of blogs and other feed types I could follow, I took care to only capture the URLs of my favorite blogs at Blogger, not WordPress, as of course the latter will not be impacted by this change. If there is a ceiling at Feedly, I have apparently not yet reached it.

Once I took care of my future voracious reading habit, I turned my attention to the second portion of this project: ensuring that others will be able to subscribe to my blog as well. This is where I ran into problems. While it appears that Feedly provides an easy-to-follow procedure for this, alas, this guinea pig did not manage to press the lever which led to the download of positive reinforcement cheese puffs.

On step two—was it really only step two which became my downfall?—the instructions stated, "Insert your feed URL." In non-geek terms (at least I thought), that meant cutting and pasting my website address. So I did.


Then, I noticed in the fine print, "Find out how to find your feed URL here."

"Here," incidentally, had that bold blue color, beckoning me to click and be led to geek nirvana...or at least the paradise which would give me all the answers I needed for Feedly.

Wrong. It didn't. In fact, clicking on that link led me to a page that blurted out—yes it did; it blurted—"This UserVoice instance is no longer available." Well, boo, hiss. 

I had to do a little poking around searching to find my own answers, especially since bumbling on ahead anyhow resulted in code which, pasted into my blog's back end, only led to yet another error message. Clearly, I wasn't seeing the light. Just yet.

But then, there is Google. Sometimes, Google can be your friend. At least this time it came to the rescue. I asked Google first for a solution to what I thought was my problem: "How to add your blog feed to Feedly." But remember, this is a two way street, and while that search result provided a generally helpful article, it tackled the vantage point of subscribing to blogs, not allowing others to subscribe to my blog.

Time to revise search terms. This time, I looked for the more specific "how to find a feed's URL" and came up with this nifty hack: specifically for Blogger, the writer's advice was to add the line "feeds/posts/default" to the end of your blog's URL.

Holding my breath, I did just that. And voilà! It actually worked. I then could return to the Feedly "factory" and move on to Step 3, copy that resultant handy dandy code provided by Feedly and insert it in my dashboard at Blogger.

Phew. That's enough for today's workout for this genealogy blogging guinea pig. While you are certainly welcome to click on that bright green button over on the left column here and subscribe to follow this blog via Feedly, I'm ready to get back to being just a plain ol' genealogy guinea pig now.

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