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Publish feeds using PubSubHubbub

As for now, I track questions within my area of interest using Miranda (the instant messenger) with RSS plugin which polls the feed with my tags and notifies me of updates.

This is of course not a best solution both for the server (as it is polled very frequently and I believe not only by me) and for the client, since the feeds are cached and the cache expiration time is too long: it is about 5 minutes.

Why is it too much?

What is so great about Stack Overflow and (probably) sister projects is its outstanding response time.

I wrote a simple query to show the response time statistics for the most popular tags:


We can see that half of questions in most popular tags get an upvoted answer in seconds since being asked.

50% of fastest answered questions (those tagged syntax) get an upvoted answer in between 25 and 295 seconds, 158 seconds in average. The other popular topics have similar response times, also measured in minutes. Folks who ask don't have to wait: they usually receive an answer before they manage to reread the question and correct the typos.

As every clicker trainer knows, immediate positive reinforcement is a key to successfully establishing a behavior (in our case, behavior of answering the questions).

The strongest positive reinforcement for many (including me) is not getting rep points. This is of course a good thing too, but what really matters is being the first to give a good answer.

The keywords, here, again, are both "first" and "good", not just "first".

If I see a bunch of mediocre answers — even upvoted, even accepted ones — I add my own, I'm satisfied, even if I don't get a point.

If I see a single good answer which I have nothing to add to, I'm disappointed, I close the question page.

A side effect of this is that those addicted to that positive reinforcement (hello, my name is Alex, I'm 31 and I'm a Stack Overflow addict) would do anything to be the first to answer. This, of course, implies reading the question as soon as possible.

Doing it is only possible with repeatedly hitting F5 (which people get tired of fast so that it does not reinforce anymore) or subscribing to a feed (which is not so fast and does not reinforce too). Also, "losing because of stupid me" and "losing because of stupid feed cache" are different things: the former makes you grow, the latter makes you give up.

Shortening the feed expiration time would imply too much load on the server, I believe.

Given all this, I suggest implementing an XMPP notification, using a dedicated server, or own Pubsubhubbub hub, or a third-party hub, or something else.

This would improve the project's response time yet more, reduce the load on the servers and make us even more addicted: a win / win / win situation.


Well, you could use the Stack Exchange API -- not RSS -- and this:

StacksGuru: a near realtime bot for all Stack Exchange sites

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  • Thanks, did not know about the bot! I actually tried to implement one myself but by the time I tried it seemed that the API was cached even more aggressively that the feeds. – Quassnoi Apr 18 '11 at 11:42

We now support pubsubhubbub on question feeds and pings for new answers.

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