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How Your RSS Feed Can Save Your Blog

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on April 19, 2011 in Blog Management
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You may remember that we recently lost several weeks' worth of content here at All Freelance Writing. There was apparently a problem with database backups that began after our recent server move that caused the database backups to be incomplete and impossible to restore. While this wasn't an ideal way to discover that issue, fortunately we had another way to retrieve the last few weeks' content. It was our RSS feed that saved the day.

Let's take a look at the two RSS-related tools that allowed me to access the deleted content for a manual restoration -- tools that might save your site too should anything similar ever happen to you.

Email RSS Subscriptions

Quite a while ago I wrote an article here about bad blogger behavior, such as when bloggers delete their posts to hide things they've said in the past (such as taking on sponsorships from sites they used to speak out against or after changing their mind about an important issue when they don't want to explain why their position changed). I pointed out that those bloggers are never quite as stealth as they think they are. Why? Because everyone subscribing to their blog via email still potentially has a record of those deleted posts. Once they show up in your inbox, deleting the content from a blog doesn't make it go away entirely.

That same thing can be used to help you find old archived content after a server or database failure to bridge the gap between your last backup and the freshest content added to your site. I'd suggest setting up a separate email address solely for subscribing to your blogs so the subscriptions can be a true archive and not litter your inbox on a regular basis. Or you can filter those emails into a separate folder if you don't want to manage a new email account.

If you subscribe to your own sites via email and keep those emails rather than deleting them (or at least the most recent ones to cover gaps between backups), then you can simply copy / paste your newest posts from your inbox should you lose them for any reason.

Google Reader

You can do something similar with Google Reader. If you subscribe to your own blogs using that tool, the posts won't disappear as soon as the on-site content is inaccessible. It's still archived in your feed reader (other feed readers might be equally effective, but Google Reader happens to be the one I use).


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While I haven't been able to restore all comments from the crash period here yet, I also have access to those via my reader, because I subscribed to the comment feed as well. I highly recommend subscribing not only to your posts, but to any other content areas you may have on your site (comments, job board listings, and forum posts to give you some possible examples from this site).

Your feed reader can do much more than keep you up to date on the latest posts from your favorite websites. It might also save your ass if a tech disaster strikes. Are you subscribing to your own feeds? If not, now might be a good time to start.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.


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13 Comments

  1. Sharon Hurley Hall April 19, 2011 Reply

    I once had that happen to me and I used a combination of RSS feeds and Google’s cache to restore almost everything. It was a tough lesson, but I’ve never forgotten it. I don’t think I realised that Google Reader keeps a history, but that’s good to know, Jenn.

    • Jennifer Mattern April 19, 2011 Reply

      Oh yeah. How could I forget the cache? All the content I wrote for new pages that didn’t exist under the old design had to be re-done too. The cache fortunately had all but one or two, so that saved me another major headache. Thanks for the reminder! :)

  2. Cathy Miller April 19, 2011 Reply

    What a fantastic tip. I never would of thought about that. I don’t currently subscribe to the comment feed. I do have the RSS feed and the email subscription, but I did just delete the emails. I primarily subscribed just to make sure there wasn’t any feed problem.

    Thanks, Jenn-this could deter excessive cussing – not all – but some. :-D

    • Cathy Miller April 19, 2011 Reply

      Make that never would HAVE *sigh* so many typos-so little time :-)

    • Jennifer Mattern April 19, 2011 Reply

      I wasn’t subscribed to my own comment feed until this happened. I figured “what the hell?” and I tried subscribing. Google Reader fortunately pulls up the recent history, and it gave me more than a month’s worth of comments to cover everything missing. So should disaster strike, it might not be too late (thank goodness).

  3. Marion Driessen April 19, 2011 Reply

    Jenn, this is a truly amazing tip. I have immediately subscribed to RSS to my own blogs. Thank you!!

    • Jennifer Mattern April 19, 2011 Reply

      You’re quite welcome. And I hope you never need to actually use them for similar reasons! :)

  4. Lori April 20, 2011 Reply

    My gawd, what a nightmare you’ve had! I’ve never thought about backing up the blog. Great advice, Per usual. :)

    • Jennifer Mattern April 20, 2011 Reply

      Oh wow. You don’t have any kind of backup? *saying a little prayer to the bloggy goddess that nothing ever goes wrong*

  5. Leslie A. Joy April 20, 2011 Reply

    That’s a really great tip. I subscribe to my blog in Google Reader to make sure that everything is updating correctly, but I never thought to use it as backup. Definitely will keep that in mind.

  6. Sarah May 18, 2011 Reply

    Interesting. I don’t even know how to set up RSS feed yet, but I also don’t have a backup plan or method, either. It sounds like learning how to set up the RSS and subscribing could solve both those problems.

    • Jennifer Mattern May 18, 2011 Reply

      If you have a blog, it should already have an RSS feed associated with it. Blog platforms should automatically create them. For example, the blog included with your comment here has a feed at the following address:

      http://chainthewolf.net/feed/

      That feed information can be found in your sidebar in the meta info area as the entries RSS. There’s also a feed linked there for your comments. (And on that note, our old comments still might not be saved… running into problems getting them unassociated with myself… very frustrating.)

      You can subscribe to it using any feed reader or email subscription service. I use Google Reader (http://Google.com/reader) but there are plenty of others. You just sign up for one and then enter that feed URL in their service to subscribe. :)

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