Coding a Smarter RSS Podcast Button

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David Battino

David Battino
Sep. 17, 2005 02:07 AM

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When is a button not a button? When I click on the RSS button above this article, Firefox asks me where I want to download a file called “ ” (there’s just a blank space). Safari just redisplays the article teaser. The RSS and XML buttons on other sites (which look even more like physical buttons) bring up the whole geeky-looking XML file in Firefox.

The correct action, I’ve learned, is to right-click (or Control-click) on the button, copy the RSS file location, and paste it into my aggregator program.

I thought about this unintuitive procedure recently when trying to tell someone how to subscribe to O’Reilly’s new Distributing the Future podcast, for which I wrote the theme music. In that case, the third step was to click the Advanced menu in iTunes, select “Subscribe to Podcast,” and paste the link into the little box that drops down.

Coincidentally, one of my favorite podcasts, Space Music, came up with a clever workaround. When you click the RSS button on the Space Music site, a JavaScript prompt opens up, with the URL selected, and tells you to copy the URL and paste it into your podcatching program.

Here’s an example of how it works:

Smart RSS Button

<div align="center">
<a href="" target="_blank"
onClick="prompt('To subscribe to this podcast,
copy this link and and paste into your aggregator software
(e.g., iTunes or iPodder).',
''); return false;">
<img src="rss-btn.gif" width="36" height="14"
border="0" alt="Smart RSS Button" /></a>

Of course, “RSS” and “XML” are singularly unhelpful labels for a podcast feed button. At a minimum, I’d suggest “POD,” though “Podcast Link” would be better. But there must be a better way to fix a button that isn’t really a button.

David Battino is the audio editor for O’Reilly’s Digital Media site, the co-author of The Art of Digital Music, and on the steering committee for the Interactive Audio Special Interest Group (IASIG). He also writes, publishes, and performs Japanese kamishibai storycards.