By Tim Caynes on Feb 20, 2008
Its sometimes the small additions to a web design framework that make a difference. Well, to me they do. As I went through the weekly process of trying out the latest feed readers the other day, just to say that I'd tried out the latest feed readers and decided to stick with google reader after all, again, I took some time to revisit the feeds & subscriptions (yes, they're the same thing, but it depends who you talk to) that are available across sun.com, blogs.sun.com, developer, bigadmin, java.net and all those lovely places we call home.
Its thanks to folks like Lou and others that we've done such a good job of getting our subscriptions embedded all over our web venues - and there are a ton of them to choose from now. Sure, there are the occasional dead ends in the subscription paths, but in general, there's a whole range of rss/atom/xml links out there for you to pick and choose from, whether you're a java developer, a press analyst, a system administrator, or even all of those things and more. You might even just want to get a regular feed of the blogs here at Sun, notwithstanding the drivel like this that you might have to wade through to get to the NetBeans or Glassfish entries.
The fact that there are so many can be a challenge, however. From a web experience perspective, we want to be as consistent as possible in terms of the presentation of these available feeds and their context, so that when you're at the place where it's relevant, its an obvious and trivial exercise to to move from content consumer to content subscriber. Now, obviously, as web designers, we hate it when we spend 6 months on a design framework and then you just go and suck out all the content and read it in an application something akin to notepad on acid, but, if you're gonna do that, we want to make even that customer experience a good one. We're so good to you.
Which leads me on to the teeny tiny feed icon. If you snoop around sun.com or our developer site, you might have already noticed it. Its not big, but it is clever. It's driven by metadata attached to the content, and the drop-down menu of available feeds is built dynamically as the page is rendered, so its always current and context-driven, rather than a 'global' subscription list. I mean, we have one of those, but you're not targeting anyone by including that on every page. Check it out yourself on the top right area next to the social bookmark icons on the developer site or the sun.com download page. Simple, but nice.
By the way, as Andrew and Greg aren't around at this time of day, I had to work all that technical stuff out by myself, so I'll go and lie down now...
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