I’ve mentioned in various platforms before that I’m a big fan of reading webcomics via RSS feeds. I follow enough of them that it’s almost impossible to click through a series of bookmarks, checking for updates, much less keeping track of everyone’s update schedules mentally. And I’ve personally found online tools like Comic Rocket to have some challenges with their usability. So, years ago, I set up a feed reader exclusively for the webcomics I want to follow. It’s the easiest and most efficient solution I’ve found to keep track of hundreds of webcomics’ updates—what’s new, what I have/haven’t read—and be able to access it from any of a number of devices I might be using.
An interesting side-effect of reading so many comics in this manner, though, is that it’s easy to lose sight of any one’s status. Not all of the comics follow even a regular schedule, much less a daily one, so when a once-a-week update slips to once-every-two-weeks, it’s easy to miss the change. And when an irregular schedule slips into an inadvertent hiatus, it might be months before I realize it!
I took a little time today to read through my subscriptions a little more carefully than usual. Many of them I skipped over because I knew I had read an update within the past day or two, but many I checked out because I couldn’t remember the last time I saw an update from them. Typically, when I do this, I just check the last update dates. Even if I see it’s been a year or two since the last update, I let a lot of feeds slide because they still might return and it’s not really doing any harm keeping the feed in place. But this time, I opted to click over to the sites themselves. Sometimes, I’ve found, creators wind up switching the location of their feed without alerting readers, which leads to months of catching up I have to do.
But this time, it turned out that several of the sites were no longer valid. Some had let their domain names expire, while others had been taken over by hackers converting many of the images and text into crass sales pitches. But because my feed reader had already pulled the info about their past updates, they were still showing up in my list. I could still go back and check out all the previous updates; it’s just that when I clicked over to the site, I got either an error message or something questioning my manhood. Either of which may or may not have been in English.
One certainly can’t lay blame on the creators here. Keeping up a webcomic when it’s active is insanely difficult, and the impetus for trying to keep the site up and running when it’s not even being updated is virtually non-existent. And while it most likely won’t do any harm to let an old feed sit idle in the background, it’s certainly not helping you to scroll through your list of updates any quicker either. So consider today’s column a PSA: take some time to do some spring cleaning of your webcomics. If nothing else, you can cross off a few “whatever happened to…” questions off your list.