This weekend, I discovered that the RSS feed on one of my WordPress blogs wasn’t updating properly. So this really seems like a great excuse to share this tale of troubleshooting. SPOILER ALERT: It has a happy ending.
I run my RSS feed through Google’s Feedburner (for analytics) so first thing’s first, I went there to begin detectiving. Their troubleshooting was giving me the error that my feed was over 512k which is too big for their britches. This was no surprise to me as I had just realized the photos getting put up on the site by my creative half weren’t compressed enough. So I grabbed the most recent ten photos on the site, compressed them to about a fifth of their size and uploaded them to replace their bloated brethren. Back to Feedburner… My feed was now no longer throwing a size error but it was throwing a non-descript “null” error. Arghhh!
In what could probably be filed under things I didn’t really need to do, I deleted the feed off of Feedburner. I was at a loss and part of me thought perhaps there was some sort of weird caching thing Feedburner was doing that was preventing the feed from showing up fixed even though it was. Then, I tried to reburn my feed with Feedburner and got an error saying my feed was broken. On the error page, they provided a link to a feed validator which also said my feed was broken and provided the explanation, “server timed out.” Double arghhhh!
I then compared this feed to the feeds from my other WordPress blogs. These other feeds were validating just fine so the validator wasn’t broken (that was a thought at one point). And I could see no difference in the XML between the working feeds and the non-working one. Arghhhh arghhhhh ARGHHHH!
Now, begins the Google searches. I googled my problem with every wording possible. Lots of people seemed to have had this problem or problems similar to this. One possible cause was errant characters in a blog post. This is usually caused by copying and pasting from Microsoft Word right into WordPress. I went through the most recent ten posts and changed every apostrophe and quotation mark I saw. This was to no avail. I went so far as to change the settings so my feed only includes one post, then I added a dummy post with just the word “test” and no images or anything. Still no good.
I continued my Google searching on the problem and I stumbled across a forum thread where somebody suggested that the cause could be a WordPress plug-in conflict. To confirm this, you have to deactivate all of your plug-ins to see if the problem is fixed and then reactivate the plug-ins one by one to see which one is the culprit. So, I did that. And guess what? This was the goll-darned issue.
It ended up being this plug-in,Sexy Bookmarks, I use to share my links i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Digg, etc. I had checked a box that included it at the end of posts in the feed and that was what did it. So, I unchecked that box. Then I was successfully able to burn that feed back on Feedburner. The problem has been officially troubleshot and solved. Sigh of relief.
To note, this whole process took at least eight hours over three days to solve. So even though this was all mind-numbingly frustrating, I was able to figure it out and fix it. I am not a genius and since neither are you, I trust that you have the abilities to troubleshoot your problems to a solution too.