ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

The RSS Problem —

So, I have a pretty major problem with the feed.

It doesn’t update in a lot of clients. It updates in others. But my readership is wondering if I died.

I’m working hard to figure out what’s going on, but it takes time – if previous situations are any indication, it’s some sort of ass-kicking parsing error, which causes certain feedreaders to stop looking any further. That might mean if I post a LOT of stuff, it will scroll off the bottom, but then people miss certain articles.

Nightmare, basically. But I wanted people to know I was working on it. Here’s hoping, advice always welcome.

UPDATE: Complicated installed spamware, probably from a bad plugin. Fixed, or at least at bay for now.

Glad to see people showing up, going “oh god, you didn’t die”. I guess “Penalty Box” is not the best entry to have stopped at.

So what this malware was doing was sitting on the output for the ASCII blog, and then every time something Google or Bing-Esque went by, it would switch to offering spam. Google was going “Well, fuck this!” and ignoring it, therefore not updating the site, therefore not adding to search, and so on. Ugly, ugly stuff. I still need to clean out some stuff but now I know how it likely happened. I’ll be doing some work to harden it up. Welcome back, readers.

Categorised as: housecleaning

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  1. David C. says:

    I tried grabbing with various user-agents, and for any user agent which includes the string “google,” your server returns the HTML contents of your homepage. Google Reader, which uses the user-agent string Google-FeedFetcher, sees this HTML and reports “A parsing error was encountered.”

    I noticed that you seem to be using WP-Super-Cache, and it seems others using this plugin are having similar issues with their RSS. (see WP-Super-Cache has some sort of user-agent discrimination feature, so this may be a good place to start.

    Good luck tracking the issue down!

  2. It doesn’t have to do with the appearance of “Google” in the user agent string, it is triggered by the presence of any unknown user agent. I reported the on your last entry

    One thing I also noticed, now that I have my feed reader set to retrieve the feed via curl without a user agent header, is that I still sometimes get the entries several days late, though other times I get them immediately.

    So fingering the cache plugin seems like a very good place to start…

  3. fruitbat says:

    In a somewhat related note, I definitely couldn’t see this post yesterday, yet the date on it is the 7th of January. I suspected that this delayed posting had happened before, but was never sure. Maybe there’s a date wrong on a server which is also causing the RSS error?

  4. Different Jason says:

    @fruitbat: I have the same issue sometimes. I always just figured that Jason saves his posts as drafts until he’s happy with them, and the date shown is the date the first draft was saved. I’m pretty sure I saw this one appear comment-less some time yesterday afternoon.

  5. Ken G. says:

    Maybe try FeedBurner?

  6. Eric says:

    I get the following error from my feed reader (fof redux)

    Warning: MagpieRSS: Failed to parse RSS file. (Mismatched tag at line 132, column 29) in /home/user/public_html/rssreader/magpierss/ on line 240
    URL is not RSS or is invalid.
    (error was: MagpieRSS: Failed to parse RSS file. (Mismatched tag at line 132, column 29))
    The validator may give more information.

  7. Steve says:

    Jason Scottwrote:

    This is something I do. That’s not it.

    I’m glad that that’s something you do on purpose, last month or so I kept checking in for new posts and nothing for ages and then a whole bunch appeared with dates all through when I had been checking. I thought I was going mental at first, or that something was screwy at my end. Glad to hear it’s neither.

    Keep up the good work J!


  8. Shannon Harris says:

    I just realized I’ve read the most recent posts after seeing them posted in the Twitter feed and now checking my RSS feed shows no new posts since December 10 – Penalty Box.

    I have tried re-adding the ATOM and RSS2 feeds through Google Reader, but neither shows any posts after that date.

    Is there a better feed to use for Google Reader ?

  9. Jason Scott says:

    No, I think part of the problem was something made my site appear to be spam.

  10. Jason Scott says:

    Something deep down in my wordpress installation has hacked into it and added a program that injects spam stuff when google visits. I’m investigating.

  11. Paul says:

    Whatever you did made the RSS feed update with on my (deal with the devil) for the first time since December. I no longer see the Penalty Box entry as the first thing!

  12. Shannon Harris says:

    I was still only getting up to Penalty Box on Google Reader under the rss.

    I switched to the and everything new is showing up again.