Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2021/ Wishful Thinking 009: Anytime RSS

Wishful Thinking 009: Anytime RSS

Blogs are great entertainment, but they have a problem: they are chronologically sorted, and there is a strong bias towards reading the latest entries and ignoring all the others. Some blogs have years and years of excellent archives, but I rarely (if ever) dive into them.

There is a project called by Joey Hess that replays Usenet posts. When the project started in 2011, you could read posts from 1981 as if they were fresh. As each day passed another day's worth of the archive would be posted. It's a great idea, because it allows you to explore Usenet history without getting overwhelmed.

I think it is possible to do something similar with most blogs -- certainly, for blogs on Blogger and Wordpress. These blogs have "next entry" and "previous entry" links, and Wordpress has an API. It is probably possible to point a program at a point in time, then generate an RSS feed of that blog as if that starting point was the current date.

For example, say a blogger's archive started on January 7, 2003, and today was April 30, 2021. The blogger then posted entries on January 9, January 10, and January 15 of 2003. The Anytime RSS feed for this blog would start on April 30 2021 with the entry from January 7 2003. Then on March 2 it would update with the post on January 9, on March 3 would update with the entry from January 10, and on March 8 would update with the post from January 15. A reader could then follow the old blog archives as if they were new.

For all I know such a script already exists. I have not even looked. Certainly you would need adapters for every CMS that can publish a blog (and something like my blog would be nontrivial -- I guess you would have to parse the archives page). But I think such a script would unlock a lot of rich history that is currently neglected.

I think producing an RSS or Atom feed makes sense because we have software to consume those feeds, and because those feeds are simple text files. But if you don't like living in 2005 and want to produce something in JSON instead, then that might be okay too.

Project status: nonexistent. I feel as if this is a side project I should write myself, but I doubt I will do it. Blogs may not be popular anymore but I am overwhelmed with more blogs than I have time to read.