After visibly enduring coporeal pain while trying to autodiscover the feeds produced by all of the major blogging systems, Brad Neuberg just put together this Autodiscovery Hall of Shame (or in some cases accolades).
The basic idea of autodiscovery is to provide a well-defined way for services to locate a blog’s syndication feed (and other semantic resources associated with that site.)
Who really cares if a blog publishing system supports autodiscovery? Mostly, the users (and developers) of news aggregation software care. They use various newsreaders to find and subscribe to news and blog feeds. That way, it is possible to view updates from hundreds of favored sites all in one place as the stories are published. Soon, most blog readers won’t be actually visiting blog sites to read them, but rather aggregating the posts in syndicated form made possible with Atom or RSS.
For example, lets suppose you want to subscribe to my blog. You might know the base URI of the blog, and you can assume that somewhere on my site, there ought to be an RSS or Atom syndication of my posts. Your news aggregator (if it can autodiscover) can look in the metadata of any page on my site and find an HTML <link> tag that tells it exactly where my Atom feed is.
So, what happens if your blogging software doesn’t support autodiscovery? In that case, anyone who wants to subscribe to your feed will need to come up with the full URL for the appropriate syndication file. You could let them hunt or guess, but why leave technical hurdles between your message and your audience? If your blogging software doesn’t support autodiscovery of your feed (or worse yet, doesn’t create a feed at all) you will be missing out on all the readers who wanted to subscribe to your blog but couldn’t do so easily.
Hope is not lost for those who are using something listed in the hall of shame. If your blogging software didn’t set up autodiscovery in your feed for you, just do it yourself. First, find out the full URL of your atom or RSS feed. For my blog, it is: http://www.eakes.org/blog/atom.xml
Then all you need to do is add a line like this in the <head> section of your blogs template:
<link rel="alternate" type="application/atom+xml" title="Atom" href="http://www.eakes.org/blog/atom.xml" />
After that, most readers can subscribe to your feed simply by providing the base URI for the blog, e.g.: www.eakes.org/blog/