Tech Rambling: PubsubhubbubWritten by Brent on September 1st, 2009 at 6:24:09 pm
Are you easily distracted by technology? Do you troll the Interwebs looking for the latest whatsit or whatchamacallit to try? Have you promised yourself just 5 more minutes on the computer and later find an hour has passed while you research some esoteric feature that might or might not have anything to offer you, but you want to know about it anyway? If so, I probably don’t have anything to offer you, but I do want to be your friend — tell me everything you know.
For the rest of you, I offer you this: my latest find, pubsubhubbub.
Syndication feeds (RSS/ATOM) as a technology have their limitations. Obviously they are fantastic for aggregating large amounts of content across the Internet into an easily accessible format, however, RSS and ATOM remain tethered to the concept of polling. Requiring the subscriber to continually ask for updates to your content, instead of accessing that content on an as-needed basis is poor design and inefficient. For instance, looking through server logs, it is common to see Google Reader accessing RSS feeds several times an hour, even if the blog only gets updated on average once a week.
This seems wasteful for google (as well as any other RSS agregators) and wasteful for you, the publisher, as your server expends precious CPU cycles, which could be better used serving timely content. Alternately, some feeds get so little traffic that Google Reader might not update them regularly and several days might pass before your readers are alerted to new content.
The answer to efficient syndication lies in webhooks, or more specifically pubsubhubbub - henceforth called PSHB. PSHB is an effort on the part of some google employees to provide a protocol where syndication is event driven rather than polled. When a publisher creates or updates content, a “hub” is notified by a POST request. The hub manages a list of “subscribers” (PSHB speaking clients) for each feed. When the hub is notified of new content, it notifies all subscribers to pull the latest subscription feed.
After installing this wordpress plugin, wp-pubsubhubbub, (super easy to install — just activate and it’s done), I’ve seen marked improvements in the timeliness of my content appearing in Google Reader. Granted the sample in this case is currently 1, so I would love to hear from any others that have implemented this and what their experience has been, in the comments.
The nice folks here at industryforge have invited me to share some of my thoughts and feelings on random nuggets of technology. We (meaning probably just me) need to come up with a good title for these thoughts, please leave your suggestions in the comments. I think that I’ll leave several suggestions there myself to avoid any potential embarrassment from lack of comments.