It seems like The New York Times just wants to continue to mess with success. For the early stages of its Internet existence, the Times seemed to be anxious to make themselves the kind of standard source of information that they have strived to be in the newspaper business, with articles URLs remaining valid for years, albeit behind a registration wall.
Then, they locked up every article more than 7 days old behind a “pay wall,” breaking many WWW pages and online reference sources. Mysteriously, the pay wall disappeared, only to return one month later.
Just over a year ago Dave Winer stepped into the fray, and he managed to work a deal with the Times such that URLs gleaned from Userland’s RSS feeds would include a set of key parameters that would ensure that the pay wall would not rise up after the article aged past its 7-day expiration date.
Now, the Times has started to monkey with their feeds. While the original feeds were generally pretty extensive, ensuring that those who subscribed got a complete picture of what the Times had to say inside of specific topic areas, these new feeds are significantly more limited, both in terms of scope and time — miss a day’s feed and you miss the persistent link — something that made some sort of sense when it came to the op-ed or front page, but is less sensible for the technology feed, IMHO.
Worse, the feeds are now far from comprehensive. For example, my Thursday was a busy one, so I relied on the Times’ RSS feeds to select articles from the Circuits section. Yet, I never would have seen the article on DVD’s had Ernest Miller not noted it in CopyFight. And, for, example, today’s NYTimes Magazine feed does include the story I wanted to cite on the Fox documentary fight, but leaves out several other interesting stories.
Now, maybe that was a feature of the way that Userland constructed the NYTimes feeds. Or maybe the Times supplied them like that to Userland. I don’t know. But I do know that these new feeds are far less useful to me, and have gotten me started on looking for new strategies, new aggregators and new tools for collecting, sorting and archiving feeds. So far, there’s nothing working right for me, and now I’m getting ready to move everything over to a new computer (my G5 arrived Friday), so there are going to be a lot of changes behind the scenes around here over the next month or so.
It looks like one of those may be far less reliance upon the Times’ RSS feeds. Sure, I’ll keep pulling them down so that I can get a true “permalink” when it’s available. But I’m probably going to have to go back to poring over the entire Times site each day to make sure that I actually get "All the News That’s Fit To Print.".
And, it also means that I’m going to have to get started on working through the old URLs to make PDFs, like I used to before Dave stepped in.
‘Cuz you never know when they’re going to pull the rug out from under you.
Web-based resources are a great thing — until somebody decides that, now that you rely on them, they can start charging (see Gracenote). Despite what the ideologues say, my experience says that turning communities into markets means losing something. Maybe I’m getting too old and too cynical, but I smell a rat.