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Zonerender: An RSS Feed Generator For Zonelet Sites

I have written a tool which takes in a Zonelets site and spits out an RSS feed. This is a feature that is unfortunately missing from the stock Zonelets installation, although it is mentioned in the FAQ:

Can my Zonelet have an RSS feed?
Sort of. Neocities offers a very basic RSS feed that notifies followers when your site is updated. It doesn't have a blog-style feed where you can read the contents of posts from RSS feed-readers, and I haven't implemented a way to generate that easily. You can also encourage people to make their own Neocities accounts to follow your site.

Designing Zonelets specifically for use on Neocities is fine, but requiring its dependence on a particular service is directly contrary to the philosophy espoused by the Zonelets homepage:

The modern internet has coalesced around a few big sites, run by a few big companies. Social media giants absorb the vast majority of ordinary people's creative and expressive engagement with the internet. Many, myself included, spend much more time on social media than we would like. Creating a giant, decontextualized flood of micro-thoughts may benefit the corporate entities behind Twitter or Instagram, but does it benefit real human beings? Is this what we really want?

By leaving this as the only official option to have an RSS feed, the Zonelets author is encouraging the recreation of this coalesced Internet that they apparently are railing against. Suggesting that Zonelets authors require their readers to create accounts on Neocities just to get notifications of new posts is another step away from a decentralized web, it is another step away from self-ownership. Blogs need RSS feeds - this is a standard tool that has been widely used for the exact purpose of providing notifications and serialization of blog content for longer than most Zonelets users have been alive.

Possible Solution

It is possible that the developer of Zonelets could update Zonelets to generate an RSS feed from Javascript. I'm not actually sure if that is a possible solution since I don't think that Javascript can consistently be run from every single RSS reader out there. Maybe Zonelets could be modified to include some local script which the authors can run to generate their feed.xml file, but that in itself presents some problems:

  1. It requires current Zonelets authors to update their installation, providing no backwards compatibility.
  2. It requires Zonelets authors to use some external program.
    • If it is an interpreted language like Python, it requries the user to install and set up all of the relevant libraries.
    • If it is a compiled language like C, it requires the user to blindly trust the Zonelets developer.

I think that this is not a great solution. A good solution would make RSS feeds available to all Zonelets users (past/current/future) and require no additional work or blind trust on their part.

Extant Solutions

To create an RSS feed for a website that does not have an rss feed, various web services exist. Some popular ones which allow users to take in websites and generate RSS feeds include:

Fetch RSS is notable for its ability to take various different websites that would require a subscription and turn it into an RSS feed, including YouTube channels and TikTok feeds. However, it does not support Zonelets out of the box. Fetch RSS does provide the ability to select elements from a page to automtically parse into an RSS feed, but the real kicker here is that Zonelets archive pages are rendered in JavaScript for some reason. This means that all three of these RSS generators will not work:

The result of using various RSS generators

Furthermore, these sites want you to make an account and log in, and they all have various post count and usage limits. This is their business model and they have to pay for all that shiny web design.

My Solution

Here at Punkto, I don't have to pay for shiny web design, so I can afford to provide boutique services free of charge. I have written a tool which takes in a Zonelets archive page (such as this one) and spits out an RSS feed. I have made this service publicly-accessible.

In order to use this service, all you need to do is point your RSS reader at https://punkto.org/zonerender?thelinktothearchive. For an example you can look at https://punkto.org/zonerender?https://zonelets.net/archive.

Doing this will cause my webserver to reach out to the requested URL and generate an RSS feed from the provided archive page. It will then go out to each article in the archive and fetch the content to put in to the actual items, which will allow readers to read the content of the blogposts from inside of their RSS reader.

If you have any issues with this service or if you find a Zonelet archive which does not work, please contact postmaster (at) this domain.

Since this is a service that I am providing free of charge on a server that I pay for out of my own pocket, I have included an XMR address to donate to (89zUPdtgXvo268ZtbzE7LBTEdo2Y75V1FUSs1rETeaRudQZy8BRs4rwTQuFzWqkQ6VU14Ei5TUBGhYCY6TmbCoEvQ2YkqC9). Donations to this address will be used to pay for a better server and they will show me that people are interested in this so I will make the service more robust. This is running on a tiny VPS far away from everything, so the service will be quite slow. Please increase the default check interval in your RSS reader to keep server load low. If performance becomes an issue, I will implement caching.

Zonerender in action

If you want to help out with Zonerender but can't or won't donate money, you can help by making improvements to the main script that runs the service and sending your changes to the aforementioned email. The script can be found here.

This page is being served digitally. For a physical copy, print it off

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