Geeky Blogger Tech Tips: RSS XML Parsing Error–WHOOPS!

Posted January 18, 2013 by Felicia S in Technical / 20 Comments


Geeky Blogger Tech Tips: RSS XML Parsing Error--WHOOPS!

I haven’t done a Geeky Blogger Tech Tips article in awhile because I haven’t really been changing anything to learn something new.  What I found out today is that things can break without you knowing and sometimes they aren’t that simple to fix.

Kelly from Reading the Paranormal is going to add this thing I found today to her blog work checklist.  Y’all need to check out these posts.  It is a good reminder to do a little blog housekeeping now and then.  It doesn’t hurt to make sure things are healthy and up to date behind the scenes so you aren’t scrambling like I was today!

Here is what happened: Someone tried to subscribe to my RSS feed and got the following..

XML Parsing Error: XML or text declaration not at start of entity
Line Number 1, Column 2: xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>

I was confused because my RSS feed (yes I subscribe to my own) was working just fine. The posts were coming through like they always do.  However, if I wanted to add my feed to another reader I got that parsing error.  Who would have thought that the feed would work for those already subscribed but not new subscribers?  NOT ME!  So now this is going on my checklist of things I need to check every time I do an update to the site.  I will be checking RSS and Email Subscription for sure!  The rest of them should be static links to other sites so changes on my site should not be causing issues.

Geeky Blogger Tech Tips: RSS XML Parsing Error--WHOOPS!

How did it happen?  Since I am not sure how long it has been broke I can’t say with any certainty what broke it.  From everything I have been reading it could be any update to your theme, plugins, or wordpress.  Basically any update that writes to your .php files.

What causes it?  For me it was a blank line in my php files (8 of them) that was causing the issue.    Though from everything I read it is usually a blank line or space in either your function.php or header.php file.  If it is a blank line it will usally appear in line 2 right after < ? php in your code.  If it is a space, it is usually right before the < ? php in your code:

Geeky Blogger Tech Tips: RSS XML Parsing Error--WHOOPS!
It should look something like this. There should be no space before and line 2 should not be blank.

I think because I use a non-wordpress standard theme aka Weaver 2 that there are more points of failure.  I think this would be true if you use any number of themes out there that aren’t the Twenty-Eleven theme.  So if you are using another theme, check the standard php files first and then start with the theme specific files.  Also make sure to close your browser between each test (I tested after every file change) so that you aren’t getting a cached error. You want to make as few changes as possible.

How do you fix it?  I had to manually go into my file manager and open every php file till I checked them all.  However, there are some things I tried first that I think would work for 90% of the people out there.

WARNING: Before you do any work to any file–TAKE A BACKUP!  Seriously you do not want to spend your day reinstalling everything.  Depending on your file manager you should be able to download a copy of a file before making changes.  I did all of my changes outside of wordpress and in my actual site control panel as the code editor for bluehost is faster than the editor in word press.  However, if you feel uncomfortable making these changes send an email to your host provider.  They may actually provide support as part of your package.

Overall what I learned today was that I need to check my subscribe functionality any time I make a change.  I think it would have been easier to fix on the day it broke as opposed to further down the line.  I might have been able to simply uninstall the plugin, theme change or wordpress update that caused the issue.  That would have been much simpler than having to check the files manually.

So learn from my mistake and start checking your subscription methods periodically.  It will save you a headache in the long run!

Felicia S
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20 responses to “Geeky Blogger Tech Tips: RSS XML Parsing Error–WHOOPS!

  1. great tip.. I try to check my subscription stuff regularly, and I just recently updated it all… it definitely gave me a headache though (darn feed burner!) 🙂 I need to put the broken link checker plugin on my blog I think… ugh, lots of work maintaining a blog… Book Savvy Babe

  2. aurian

    Okay, so that is why I got an email yesterday, or 2 days ago, with dozens of new posts. I thought you were on a blogging break or something like that!

  3. Hi Felicia! Okay, so to check it, do I just click on the RSS button? And it’s working if the ways to subscribe show up?

    *hangs head in shame* I don’t know how to back my blog up. I used to on blogger, but not since I switched to WordPress.

    • If you click on your RSS feed and it give you a subscribe method you are good! 🙂

      There are a couple of ways to backup your blog. Depending on your host, you might already get SQL backups. I use vaultpress to back up my blog but that cost money. Jennifer over at Bawdy Books just posted a link to a plugin that backups to dropbox. Also you can just export your blog out to a file on your personal pc. That is more manual but at least it is a backup of your blog 🙂

  4. I’m linking to this post in tomorrow’s Blog Housekeeping. I’m glad you mentioned it to me, Felicia. It really isn’t something I had even thought of checking.

  5. Great post..i see this error all the time when i try to subscribe to blogs, I click on my rss button and all of my social media buttons once a week to make sure they are all functioning. In my upcoming blogger tips and tricks i show how to make social icons that open in a new window and do not take reader away from your for it on the 26th 🙂 awesome tips chicka!