Navigation Habits Within Feed Readers

I’m really surprised at what I’m seeing in my web server logs. This morning when I was inspecting them, I noticed several people who were coming over from feed readers, over and over. From what I can tell, they are using their feed reader (in this case Bloglines) to inspect my feed, coming over to Bokardo to read those posts that they find interesting, and then going straight back to their feed reader to do it all again. So the logs look like this: a visit to one post at 4:53 am, to another post at 4:56 am, and to another post at 4:58 am. All from the same IP address (presumably the same person).

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I’m really surprised at what I’m seeing in my web server logs. This morning when I was inspecting them, I noticed several people who were coming over from feed readers, over and over. From what I can tell, they are using their feed reader (in this case Bloglines) to inspect my feed, coming over to Bokardo to read those posts that they find interesting, and then going straight back to their feed reader to do it all again. So the logs look like this: a visit to one post at 4:53 am, to another post at 4:56 am, and to another post at 4:58 am. All from the same IP address (presumably the same person).

What is interesting about this is that they don’t just come and stay, like I would think they would. More to the point, I’ve created a navigation scheme on my site, and I would think people would use it, but in some cases they aren’t using it. Instead, they’re using their feed reader as navigation, or more specifically my feed links within their feed reader.

This is both good news and bad news for me. As I anticipated back in November in Home Alone? How Content Aggregators Change Navigation and Control of Content (on Digital Web magazine), the rise of aggregators will change navigation. The good news is that this change is somewhat of a confirmation that navigation is really being handed off to aggregators like I imagined. The bad news is that the person who is losing control in this case is me. Now that I’m seeing it directly in my server logs, and realizing that people are ignoring my navigation, I’m starting to think that maybe now I’m getting what I asked for, and it isn’t all roses.

There is, however, evidence that people are doing both: either staying in their feed reader and using it as primary navigation or they’re coming and staying on the site. So there are still many different sorts of behaviors out there (probably about one for every person). But since I’ve seen it now in my web server logs, I’ll be watching with close interest how it develops.

Published: June 8th, 2005

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