Using ROME to get the body / summary of an item

I’ve been using ROME for a couple years now and I’m still learning new things. Today I was working on an issue in Clearspace where we give users the ability to show RSS / Atom feeds in a widget, optionally giving them the choice to show the full content of each item in the feed or just a summary of each item in the feed. The existing logic / pseudo-code looked something like this:

for (SyndEntry entry : feed.getEntries()) {
  if (showFullContent) {
  } else {

The assumption was that description would return a summary and contents would return the full content. The problem is that Atom and RSS are spec’ed umm.. differently. RSS 2.0 says that ‘description’ is a synopsis of the item but then goes on in an example to show how the description can be much more than just a short plain text description. So then you’re left with descriptions that aren’t really a synopsis, it’s the full content… or it is sometimes and sometimes not. Then Atom came along with well defined atom:summary and atom:content elements which means ROME had to figure out a way to map description and content-encoded elements in RSS to atom:summary and atom:content. Dave Johnson summarized the mappings nicely in a blog post discussing the release of ROME 0.9, in short the mapping looks like this:

RSS <description> <--> SyndEntry.description <--> Atom <summary>
RSS <content:encoded> <--> SyndEntry.contents[0] <--> Atom <content>

Anyway, all this is to say that if you’re doing any work with SyndEntry, you’ll need to check both description and contents. Generally, if you’re looking for the full content, check the value of contents first. If that’s null, check the value of description. If you’re looking for a summary, check the value of description first BUT don’t assume that you’ll actually get a short summary. Use something like StringUtils.abbreviate(…) to make certain that you’ll get a short summary back and not the entire content.

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