diff options
authorNick White <>2011-01-24 23:28:45 +0000
committerNick White <>2011-01-24 23:28:45 +0000
commit2e7f1c47719839a0a90a9c854b1e870b6e680126 (patch)
parentccef43afa3395b1a71e937555e91468300134cc9 (diff)
Finish unburn essay
-rw-r--r--webdev/index.txt (renamed from webdev.txt)0
2 files changed, 52 insertions, 17 deletions
diff --git a/webdev.txt b/webdev/index.txt
index db6df9d..db6df9d 100644
--- a/webdev.txt
+++ b/webdev/index.txt
diff --git a/writing/unburn.txt b/writing/unburn.txt
index 9fdd9ab..64b84a2 100644
--- a/writing/unburn.txt
+++ b/writing/unburn.txt
@@ -13,15 +13,19 @@ Google has on you.
Feeds are not supposed to be like this. The web is not supposed to be
like this. The web is decentralised. Feeds make it easy to quickly
-collect information from many different places together.
+collect information from many different places together; they make the
+radically distributed infrastructure of the web more usable. They work
+by publishing information in a standard way (RSS or Atom), so that new
+works from sites of interest can be discovered without the need to
+regularly visit many separate websites.
The decentralisation of the web makes it difficult for someone to
find out all of the different websites you visit (except by
internet service providers and those with influence over them,
-though this can be defeated using [Tor](
-This makes practical surveillance of your reading habits difficult.
-Decentralisation also creates a resiliant infrastructure which is very
-difficult to censor.
+though this can be defeated using Tor.) This makes practical
+surveillance of your reading habits difficult. Decentralisation
+also creates a resiliant infrastructure which is very difficult to
## The problem
@@ -42,28 +46,30 @@ with adverts.
## The solution
+Feedburner works by forwarding requests for a feed through
+feedburner's own servers, tracking each person and adding advertising
+as they do so.
Fortunately it is quite easy to defeat the redirects to feedburner.
+Feedburner needs to be able to read the feed properly, so redirects
+are usually set up to let requests which claim to be from 'feedburner'
+through to the original feed.
Firstly though we need to find out which feeds are redirected through
-feedburner. This script will print any url from the file 'urls' which
-currently goes through feedburner:
+feedburner. A simple way to do ths on a unix like system is to use
- #!/bin/sh
- urlfile=urls
- sed -e '/^#/d' -e '/^$/d' < $urlfile | awk '{print $1}' \
- | while read u; do
- fb=`curl -s -I $u | grep -c feedburner`
- test $fb -gt 0 && echo $u needs unburning
- done
+ curl -I | grep Location
-Now you know the feeds to deal with, you can go ahead and unburn them.
+If a feedburner address is printed, then the feed is being redirected,
+so it's time to go ahead and unburn it.
The key is to claim to be feedburner to the website, and it will
-dutifully let you through to the real feeds. Do this by setting the
+dutifully let you through to the real feed. Do this by setting the
User-Agent string to 'feedburner' in your HTTP request.
If using a newsreader which supports Snownews extensions, this is easy
-to integrate. Create a simple shell script called
+to do. Create a simple script called
curl -s -A 'feedburner' "$1"`
@@ -74,3 +80,32 @@ Then replace the url entry in your newsreader with
Other newsreaders will have different procedures, but the same
principle applies; just set the User-Agent header string to
+### Other methods
+There are two other ways for feedburner to infect feeds, which are more
+difficult to deal with. These are 'hidden feeds' or subdomain redirects.
+In each case, the real feed location is somewhere else, and the
+advertised location is only served by feedburner. In these cases
+changing the user agent will not work.
+Feedburner are also active in podcasting, where they brand themselves
+"podtrac". These podcasts also tend to use subdomain redirects.
+Your only option in this case is either to try to guess the real
+location of the feed, or to ask the site owner directly (depending on
+their disposition, you could make the case against feedburner, or just
+claim that you have problems accessing feedburner's servers.)
+## Conclusion
+Website owners: respect your readers. Don't sell them out for
+a few pennies a month. If you want to better understand your readers,
+ask them to write to you. If you want to make money, do so in a way
+that is more respectful to your readers and your work than advertising
+and spying.
+Readers: there is a big market in trying to disrupt your life. The
+internet is seen by many as a perfect tool for surveilling and
+consumerising. However it doesn't have to be so. With good information
+and tools, we can keep the internet as a decentralised and free space.