How do I delete embarrassing blog posts from online RSS readers?
 by Casey Markee

How do I delete embarrassing blog posts from online RSS readers?

  • I occasionally publish a blog post, review it, and realize I shouldn't have published it at all. I then delete it, yet that post still comes up on RSS readers like Google Reader. What's the workaround on this issue?

Answer: There are few things more embarrassing for bloggers than realizing too late that you shouldn't have hit that publish button at all, especially if the post was written in a hasty manner, contains mistakes or was just written while you were emotional (it happens) . It's only after this post comes up on your RSS reader and you actually read it that you realize, whoops, you probably shouldn't have written that in the first place and scramble to correct it.

The main mistake most of us make in this situation is just to delete the post completely and start over rather than editing it for content or tone. Unfortunately, the problem you'll run into is that most RSS feeds (in particular Google Reader) don't completely remove deleted posts. That post still remains viewable online much to your chagrin. Google Reader maintains a copy of every item from all feeds that a specific user may request, similar to how your current email client will keep a copy of all emails sent to it. The problem arises with the RSS and Atom specifications of Google Reader which currently provides the publisher without a way to say "hey, I deleted this post stop serving it."

Luckily, there is a workaround for this problem: change the content in the post, DON'T delete it completely! Most RSS readers, including Google Reader, support post updates. You can change the offending post to something like "this post has been removed" or just update the post with the new, correct content. Google Reader's crawler will in turn recrawl the post, update the cache of the post, and show the corrected copy as long as the item ID remains the same.

It is worth noting that although Google Reader will crawl updated content with stable item ID's, not all feed readers may do this. You may still run into problems despite the above...

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