Thanks for sending the stuff through. A couple of points from your email...
jerrymartin wrote:The xml file does validate but with the errors I posted on the forum.
There's no such thing as XML that validates but contains a few errors
XML is very strict on this, either it's 100% valid or it's wrong. I suspect the errors you're referring are coming from the Feed Validator. This doesn't validate XML (if the XML is invalid, it can't even start to do anything) but instead checks the contents of your feed for errors or other things that might cause problems. For example, it checks that all your items have associated URL's, they have titles, etc.
jerrymartin wrote:The strange characters seem to be <& ' and others. I have tried with and without cdata and both produce these same chars. I have to recheck but it seems that Awasu and IE do interpret these characters correctly but it looks ugly in the xml and is an error when validated.
Yes, these characters have special meaning in XML and therefore need to be handled carefully. XML is, unfortunately, inherently ugly
and there's no getting away from having to escape these characters in your feed XML. However, XML is there for computers to read, not humans, so if it's ugly, it's not too important.
The "error" you're referring to is actually a warning, coming from the Feed Validator. Every error and warning it issues comes with a link with more information and this particular warning ("title should not contain HTML: &") is well worth heeding.
RSS is notoriously deficient when it comes to specifying what should happen when special characters appear in item titles, since it doesn't say whether the title should be parsed as HTML or plain text. People have tried to come up with "best practices" and guidelines for how to deal with this issue but the bottom line is that since it's not explicitly stated what's going on, feed readers can do whatever they want and you, the publisher, have absolutely no control over what the end user sees. If you're generating your own feed, you can kinda sidestep the issue, by not using these special characters, but if you're publishing feeds created from content retrieved from elsewhere, you have to deal with it.
I tried to be Switzerland during the RSS/Atom format wars but people paying attention would have noticed that the feeds generated internally by Awasu were quietly converted over to Atom for the simple reason that it works, RSS doesn't (RSS works most of the time but in cases like this, you're screwed since there's no way
to resolve the problem). There's a small learning curve with Atom since it makes the effort to specify things properly and fully (RSS is really easy to learn because it doesn't bother handling special cases like this) but it's not too hard to convert an Awasu template that generates RSS into one that generates Atom and it's worth the effort since your feeds will then work properly
In the olden days, it was an issue that not every feed reader supported Atom but those days are long gone. Have a look at the Atom templates in the Awasu installation directory to see how they work.
The warning about bad characters in the feed (\x95 and \x96) are a similar kind of thing. If you are generating feeds created from content you've retrieved from elsewhere, and those other feeds contain bodgy characters, those bodgy characters will be re-published in your own feeds. Run the feeds you're retrieving through the Feed Validator and you will almost certainly get the same warnings. They typically end up in the feed because somebody's written the text in Microsoft Word or some other funky editor, then pasted it straight into their feed XML without realizing it might contain some gnarly characters (Microsoft's "smart quotes" are one of leading culprits when it comes to invalidating feeds