May 30, 2016 at 7:55 PM by Dr. Drang
When I use a piece of software for a long time, I tend to get comfortable with a certain set of features and often don’t bother to learn the lastest stuff when a new release comes out. So it was with BBEdit’s Extract button. It came with Version 11, which was released all the way back in October of 2014, and yet I didn’t use it until this weekend. That was dumb. It helped me solve an RSS mystery yesterday, and now that I’ve seen what it does, I realize I could’ve been using it for a year and a half.
This has been the first weekend in a few months in which I didn’t work (or at least feel guilty about not working). So I had some time to catch up on personal projects. In addition to this improvement to my homemade RSS aggregator, I also started looking into the feed from Lance Mannion’s blog. It hasn’t appeared in the aggregator for a long time, even though I know he’s still writing. I decided to find out why by taking a detailed look at his feed.
Grabbing the feed was easy:
curl http://lancemannion.typepad.com/lance_mannion/rss.xml > mannion-rss.xml
Based on problems I’ve had with other feeds, I thought the publication dates of the entries were the likely culprit. I opened BBEdit’s Find window and typed in the search criterion you see in the screenshot above. Normally, I’d click the Find All button and work my way through the Search Results window that appears:
This is a perfectly usable result. It is, after all, what I’ve been doing for years without any complaints. But this time I decided to give the Extract button a try, which opened this window:
There’s nothing in this window that wasn’t in the Find All window, but I found it less cluttered and easier to focus on the results.1 More important, though, I thought about how many times in the past 18 months that this would have been exactly what I wanted. Times when I really did want to pull out a subset of lines from a large file and create a new document from them. And I thought about how many other new features I’ve been blind to.
I need to go back and read those release notes.
The main result being that the publication dates are completely fucked. I have no idea what Typepad theme Lance is using, but it’s producing entries with dates that make no sense at all. Luckily, he also generates an Atom feed that includes both a publication date and an updated date. The Atom feed’s publication dates are just as wrong as the RSS feed’s, but the updated dates are correct. I’ve switched to checking the Atom feed and now have a special case in my aggregator to ignore the publication date of Lance’s entries and look only at the updated dates. Once again, I feel sympathy for Brent Simmons and understand why he got out of the aggregator business. ↩