· Technology
 · · Syndication

PubHubSunday · Which is to say, It’s Sun­day and I just wired up my lit­tle pub­lish­ing em­pire here to the new hot­ness in Web syn­di­ca­tion tech­nol­o­gy, PubSubHub­bub. If you’re run­ning a hub and you’re not evil, let me know and I’ll ping you ...
OK, You Win · Dear com­menters and email­ers and tweet­er­s: All right al­ready. I sup­pressed the week­ly tweet-blobs from the Atom feed ...
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Serious Syndication · This was turned up by Aaron Swartz: The hundreds-of-billion-dollars-big glob of US stim­u­lus leg­is­la­tion im­pos­es a bunch of guide­lines on re­cip­i­ents, which seems sen­si­ble. Espe­cial­ly sen­si­ble is the one say­ing that those re­ceiv­ing the fund­ing have to do sub­stan­tial re­port­ing, and that the key re­port­ing da­ta be avail­able in a syn­di­ca­tion feed, and I quote: “preferred: Atom 1.0, ac­cept­able: RSS”. I can’t think of any­thing to ad­d.
Ape News · There’s been some New-year Ape tin­ker­ing. A few bug-fixes from me and David Calav­era, and al­so I fi­nal­ly rolled in Joe Gregorio’s patch to make it work with Google’s semi-proprietary au­thent voodoo. Last and best, we have a new com­mit­ter, Si­mon Rozet, whose first patch was a Mon­grel adapter, so you can type ruby go-mongrel.rb and there’s your Ape on port 4000. Si­mon will prob­a­bly have checked that in by the time you read this.
mod_atom Status · Peo­ple who are in­ter­est­ed in the soft­ware shouldn’t have to read the acres of prose in the mod­_atom in­tro, so I’ll just keep this one up to date ...
mod_atom · This is a stripped-down im­ple­men­ta­tion of the serv­er side of the Atom Pub­lish­ing Pro­to­col as an Apache mod­ule, im­ple­ment­ed in C. It felt like some­thing that need­ed to ex­ist and I am better-qualified for this par­tic­u­lar chore than your av­er­age geek; hav­ing said that, I have no idea if any­one ac­tu­al­ly needs such a thing. mod­_atom ac­tiv­i­ty can be tracked on this blog, for now, here. If any in­ter­est de­vel­op­s, then I’ll trans­fer dis­cus­sion to a blog at mod-atom.net which will be driven, of course, by mod­_atom ...
Trouble for Atom · Yep, ladies and gen­tle­men, it looks like there’s trou­ble on the hori­zon. On the RFC4287 syndication-format fron­t, it may have been sta­ble since 2005 and wide­ly de­ployed, but watch out, there’s a new ver­sion of RSS 2.0! (2.0.9, to be pre­cise). RSS 2.0 is sort of RFC4287’s main com­pe­ti­tion, and if there are two dif­fer­ent spec­s, I guess that must mean it’s twice as good. On the Atom-Protocol side, Google’s John Panz­er has made a shock­ing dis­cov­ery, and I quote: “There seems to be a com­plaint that out­side of the tiny cor­ner of the Web com­prised of web pages, news sto­ries, ar­ti­cles, blog post­s, com­ments, lists of links, pod­cast­s, on­line pho­to al­bum­s, video al­bum­s, di­rec­to­ry list­ings, search re­sult­s, ... Atom doesn't match some da­ta models.” Wel­l, it was fun while it last­ed.
Ape News · It’s been lev­eled up to the Protocol-13 draft lev­el and the source is avail­able. While I’m still mas­sive­ly un­sat­is­fied, the Ape as it stands to­day is ac­tu­al­ly pret­ty use­ful ...
The Ape · I’ve put up an Atom Pro­to­col Ex­er­cis­er at www.t­bray.org/ape. It might evolve to be­come a sanity-checking tool some­thing along the lines of the Feed Val­ida­tor. I don’t want to call it a “validator” be­cause a feed can be said un­am­bigu­ous­ly to be valid, or not; but a publishing-system in­ter­face might be un­us­ably bug­gy or slow or have mo­ron­ic au­then­ti­ca­tion poli­cies; all the Ex­er­cis­er (let’s just say “the Ape” for short) does is per­form a bunch of op­er­a­tions that a typ­i­cal APP client might, and re­port the re­sult­s. Al­so I’ve tak­en lib­er­ties in re­port­ing some things that aren’t cov­ered by the spec that im­ple­men­tors might want to know about. One of the most use­ful things the Ape does is pro­vide a com­plete trace of ex­act­ly what the client and serv­er sent back and forth to each oth­er; im­mense­ly help­ful as a de­bug­ging aid. Quite a few in­ter­est­ing war sto­ries have been com­ing out of the Ape-building pro­cess. I’ll keep this post up­dat­ed with the cur­rent Ape sta­tus. [Lat­est: i18n is back, and Elias Tor­res has a guinea-pig APP end-point to try it out on.] ...
Johnson on Feeds · Dave John­son gave a talk this morn­ing at a lo­cal XML in­ter­est group. His slides (PDF) are the sin­gle best in­tro­duc­tion and overview I’ve ev­er seen about feeds and syn­di­ca­tion and RSS and Atom and all that stuff.
Feed Format Kitten Fight · Like your syn­di­ca­tion pol­i­tics tasty and fresh? Head over to DeWitt Clinton’s Un­to.net and read On RSS and Atom. Clinton’s at A9, Amazon.com’s Sil­ly Val­ley search-wonk caul­dron, and his stuff keeps com­ing across my radar in re­cent week­s. Any­how, he has what seems to me a clear-eyed and dis­pas­sion­ate eval­u­a­tion of the feed-format choic­es fac­ing im­ple­men­tors these days. There is one place he gets it back­ward, say­ing: “I’ve been con­sis­tent­ly im­pressed with how well the au­thors of the Atom syn­di­ca­tion for­mat an­tic­i­pat­ed the needs of the ad­vanced con­tent syn­di­ca­tion community.” No; Atom’s de­sign re­flects the back­ward-looking ex­pe­ri­ence we got in the last few years of work­ing with RSS; it turns out that the fu­ture is some­what like the past. But don’t stop when you get to the end of DeWitt’s piece, there are dozens of com­ments, most of them in­struc­tive, com­ing at the is­sue from all sorts of di­rec­tion­s. Scoble pushed back at length, fol­low the point­er from his com­men­t. Some­one who signs him­self “Raja” has an aw­ful­ly fa­mil­iar style. And a fi­nal note: when Mr. Clin­ton talks about XML, for ex­am­ple an RSS <description> el­e­men­t, he says <description/>. Now, that’s the kind of pedantry I can re­late to.
With Bloglines to Atom · A few days back I not­ed ap­prov­ing­ly that Blog­lines was work­ing on their long-broken Atom 1.0 han­dler; and that there were a still a few relative-URI prob­lem­s. I got a puz­zled, po­lite email from a Blog­lines en­gi­neer say­ing “Uh, are you sure? I don’t see that, might have been switchover artifacts.” I went and looked and sure enough, they were gone. I did see one lit­tle Keith-and-the-roaches bug with a stray “&amp;” so I wrote back say­ing “fantastic, great work, oh BTW you’ve got a stray ampersand”. Within a few min­utes he wrote back “Just fixed the &amp; is­sue. It might not show up on pro­duc­tion un­til later.” This is the way the Web is sup­posed to work. (Sam Ru­by tells me there are some lin­ger­ing corner-case bugs; re­port ’em and I bet they’ll fix ’em.) As of now, I am ab­so­lute­ly rec­om­mend­ing Blog­lines to all news­read­er new­bies as a good place to start; and al­so to any­one, new­bie or not, who doesn’t want to deal with the fuss and both­er of a sep­a­rate news­read­ing pro­gram. And with Bloglines’ switch, ev­ery ma­jor piece of in­fras­truc­ture that I know of is now Atom 1.0-capable. So I just per­ma­nent­ly redi­rect­ed my RSS feed to the Atom 1.0 ver­sion. If this looks weird in your news­read­er, please do let me know; and more im­por­tan­t, file a bug so your read­er gets fixed. Once this set­tles down, I look for­ward to tak­ing the axe to a whole bunch of double-escaping and RSS-writing code.
Title Pain · James Hold­er­ness, a guy who re­al­ly knows his shit about syn­di­ca­tion tech, has been do­ing some torture-testing; see En­cod­ing RSS Ti­tles, which shows that if you want to do some­thing as ob­vi­ous as men­tion­ing “AT&T” in your ti­tle, you’re in deep RSS doo-doo. (Did I say tor­ture test? James blogs at www.詹姆斯.com; the boy’s got at­ti­tude.) Any­how, James es­tab­lish­es that there’s es­sen­tial­ly no safe way to do this. Quot­ing him: “Clearly if you want to sup­port Fire­fox or In­ter­net Ex­plor­er you’ve got no choice but to use the sin­gle en­cod­ing op­tion. For cer­tain strings, though, that would mean los­ing sup­port for at least twen­ty oth­er aggregators.” Yow. So I emailed James, ask­ing “Would it be over­sim­plis­tic to say: ‘Thus, use Atom 1.0?’” He wrote back “Somewhat. While Atom doesn't have the am­bi­gu­i­ties of the RSS spec, it has all the same prob­lems with bug­gy clients.” Fair enough. But I think that James proved that, with RSS, you can’t solve the prob­lem even in prin­ci­ple. With Atom, you can. Which seems like a de­ci­sive ar­gu­men­t, to me. [Up­date: Oh hel­l, James’ Chi­nese URI broke some­thing in the on­go­ing front-page gen­er­a­tor... un­til I’ve fixed it, use this.]
Bloglines · So, Blog­lines has launched their blog search thing and, of all the blog search en­gines I have tried, this is one of them. Paul Quer­na says that it’s bet­ter be­cause it doesn’t do tags. Uh, OK. Any­how, con­grat­s; now that this tri­umph has been record­ed, maybe that will free up some Blog­lines cy­cles for fix­ing the ac­tu­al core of­fer­ing that makes them in­ter­est­ing, that mil­lions of peo­ple use to cruise the bl­o­go­sphere, that I used to rec­om­mend to ev­ery­one, and that Sam Ru­by just broke again? I would re­al­ly like to be a friend of Blog­li­nes.
Atom Newsreel · I’ve been ac­cu­mu­lat­ing things Atom­ic to write about for a while, so here goes. Item: You’ll be able to blog from in­side Mi­crosoft Word 2007 via the Atom Pub­lish­ing Pro­to­col. Item: Sam Ru­by has wran­gled Plan­et to the point where it han­dles Atom 1.0 prop­er­ly. Item: Along the way, Sam re­port­ed a com­mon bug in Atom 1.0 han­dling, and his com­ments show it be­ing fixed all over (Plan­et, MSN, and Google Read­er, but not Blog­lines of course); the Kei­th ref­er­ence in Sam’s ti­tle is to this. [Up­date: Gor­don Weak­liem ex­tir­pates an­oth­er com­mon bug from the NewsGa­tor uni­verse.] Item: The Mov­able Type Feed Man­ag­er is based on James Snell’s pro­posed Thread­ing Ex­ten­sions to Atom 1.0; Byrne Reese seems to think that par­tic­u­lar ex­ten­sion is hot stuff. Item: Na­ture mag­a­zine is ex­tend­ing Atom 1.0 for their Open Text Min­ing In­ter­face. Item: The Google Da­ta APIs are old news now, but it looks like they’re do­ing Atom 1.0 and play­ing by the rules. Last Item: Over in the Atom Work­ing Group, we’re get­ting very close to declar­ing vic­to­ry and go­ing for IETF last call on the Pro­to­col doc­u­men­t.
It’s Odd · I’m quot­ing Stephen Dun­can Jr, de­scrib­ing the fact that Blog­lines would rather try to fool peo­ple who sub­scribe to my Atom feed by switch­ing in my RSS feed, as op­posed to just fix­ing their stupid­ly bro­ken Atom 1.0 han­dling. “Odd” is one word for it. Coun­ter­mea­sures are ap­pro­pri­ate and if I have to I’ll take them, but wouldn’t it be so much bet­ter to just, like, you know, im­ple­ment the In­ter­net Stan­dards? Nobody’s ask­ing any­one to stop pro­cess­ing RSS, but the world (un­like Blog­li­nes) didn’t freeze sol­id in 2003.
BlogBridge · I wrote about this feed-reader be­fore way last year, say­ing it was good but slow. To­day, I got a gripe say­ing there were prob­lems with my Atom feed in BlogBridge, so I down­load­ed it and it’s still very good and not slow any more. Ex­cept for, when I first down­load­ed it, it wouldn’t work at al­l; mut­tered qui­et­ly on start­up about my pre­vi­ous “Guides” be­ing cor­rupt­ed, but then sat there sul­len­ly and re­fused to do much of any­thing. Not en­tire­ly un­rea­son­able, I fig­ured if I wiped out the set­tings from the pre­vi­ous in­stall I should be fine; but it took me the longest time to fig­ure out they were in $HOME/.bb as op­posed to some­where un­der $HOME/Li­brary; har­rumph. Any­how, yes, it’s slick and fast and fun to use and im­ports OPML just fine and (as it’s Java) runs ev­ery­where; so it’s now re­placed Blog­lines as my rec­om­mend­ed feed-reader for any­one who’s not on a Mac­in­tosh and thus can’t use NetNewsWire. And, oh, yes, it’s got a relative-URI bug in its Atom 1.0 han­dling, a sub­tle one which most peo­ple won’t no­tice. I filed a bug re­port, let’s see what hap­pen­s. [Up­date: Got a note from Blog­bridge say­ing “Try the week­ly” and sure enough, all fixed up. Good stuff.]
Real-Time Journalism · I got email late yes­ter­day from David Ber­lind: “Hey, can I call you for a minute?” He want­ed com­men­tary on a sto­ry he was writ­ing that I think is about the po­ten­tial for intellectual-property lock-ins on RSS and Atom ex­ten­sion­s. I say “I think is about” be­cause the head­line is “Will or could RSS get forked?”. After a few minutes’ chat, David asked if he could record for a pod­cast, and even though I on­ly had a cell­phone, the au­dio came out OK. The con­ver­sa­tion was rhyth­mic: David brought up a suc­ces­sion of po­ten­tial is­sues and an­swered each along the lines of “Yes, it’s rea­son­able to wor­ry about that, but in this case I don’t see any par­tic­u­lar problems.” Plus I emit­ted a mercifully-brief rant on the dif­fer­ence be­tween pro­to­col­s, data, and soft­ware. On the one hand, I thought David could have been a lit­tle clear­er that I was push­ing back against the thrust of his sto­ry, but on the oth­er hand he in­clud­ed the whole con­ver­sa­tion right there in the piece, so any­one who ac­tu­al­ly cares can lis­ten and find out what I ac­tu­al­ly said, not what I think I said nor what David re­port­ed I said. I find this raw barely-intermediated jour­nal­ism (we talk on the phone this af­ter­noon, it’s on the Web in hours) a lit­tle shock­ing stil­l. On bal­ance, it’s bet­ter than the way we used to do things.
Atomic Monday · First of al­l, im­ple­men­tors of any­thing Atom-related need to spend some time chez Jac­ques Distler; in par­tic­u­lar, the con­ver­sa­tion that plays out in the com­ments. Se­cond, there’s this piece of soft­ware called Plan­et Plan­et that al­lows you to make an ag­gre­gate web page by read­ing lots of feed­s; for ex­am­ple, see Plan­et Apache or Plan­et Sun. Sam Ru­by de­cid­ed that its Atom sup­port need­ed some work, so he did it. Now, here’s the ex­cit­ing part: he pinged me over the week­end and said “Hey, look at this” want­ing to show me his cleverly-Atomized Plan­et In­ter­twing­ly feed. I looked at it in NetNewsWire and was puz­zled for a mo­men­t; some but not all of the things in the feed were high­light­ed as un­read, even though this was the first time I’d seen it. Then the light went on. This is Atom do­ing ex­act­ly what we went to all that trou­ble to make it do. NetNewsWire has good Atom sup­port and, be­cause Atom en­tries all have unique IDs and times­tamp­s, it can tell that it’s seen lots of those en­tries be­fore in oth­er feeds that I sub­scribe to. That’s how I found Jacques’ piece. This is huge; any­one who us­es syn­thet­ic or ag­gre­gat­ed feeds knows that dupes are a big prob­lem, show­ing up all over the place. No longer, Atom makes that prob­lem go away.
Atomic Google Hacks · Check out Mi­hai Parparita’s Google Read­er Tid­bits, about how he used Google Read­er hacks to do a bunch of clever feed splic­ing. The ar­ti­cle is in­ter­est­ing, and I think Atom is go­ing to en­able a bunch of feed-mashup cre­ativ­i­ty that I’m not smart enough to in­ven­t. But I want­ed to do a deep-dive on the ac­tu­al Atom feed he gen­er­at­ed, which is prob­a­bly of in­ter­est on­ly to ob­ses­sive Atom 1.0 fetishist­s ...
Atom as a Case Study · This is adapt­ed from my talk of the same name at ETech 2006. The talk’s sec­tions were en­ti­tled Why?, How?, What?, and Les­son­s?; I’ve left out What?, the de­scrip­tion of what Atom is, since we’ve had plen­ty of that around here. That leaves Why we built it, How we built it, and what Les­sons you might want take away from the ex­pe­ri­ence ...
Feed Icons! · Hey check out the Feed Icons site. Now you, too, can have the Univer­sal Feed Icon in any size and (with a bit of Pho­toShop hack­ing) col­or that you like. Ob­serve the sam­ple here at on­go­ing, now small­er, color-coordinated, and repo­si­tioned. The idea of a sim­ple uni­form graph­ic that still has some room for cus­tomiza­tion, is that great or what? [Up­date: Ivan Sa­galaev pol­ished up the lit­tle green goober, giv­ing it rounder cor­ner­s; thanks!]
Feed Breakage · Er­ror anal­y­sis is im­por­tan­t. When you build op­er­at­ing sys­tem­s, you ex­am­ine crashlogs. When you run search en­gi­nes, you look at the search­es that pro­duced ze­ro re­sult­s. When you run a Feed Val­ida­tor, you look at what kinds of mis­takes peo­ple make. Then, you have fun writ­ing about it.
What Dave Said · I’d just like to high­light Dave Winer’s re­marks to­day on the RSS 2.0 roadmap. No­body can say Dave hasn’t been 100% crystal-clear about this. Those of us who thought there was ba­sic, im­por­tant work that still need­ed do­ing in the area of syn­di­ca­tion for­mats had three choic­es; RDF-wrangling in the RSS 1.0 con­tex­t, namespace-wrangling in the RSS 2.0 con­tex­t, and putting a new name on it; to use Dave’s word­s, “make a new for­mat as an evolution”. Thus, Atom. We don’t have to agree about ev­ery­thing, but if the In­ter­net de­pends on any­thing, it de­pends on stan­dards that are sta­ble, and the frame­work of trust around that sta­bil­i­ty.
Favorites · Tech­no­rati launched Fa­vorites to­day. it’s a sim­ple enough idea, you nom­i­nate a bunch of your fa­vorite feeds and they’re avail­able both as a page to vis­it and an ag­gre­gat­ed feed any­one can sub­scribe to. For ex­am­ple, here are mine; ob­vi­ous­ly, I haven’t had a lot of time to put in­to the se­lec­tion. Near as I can tel­l, this is much like what Dave Winer’s been call­ing Read­ing Lists, on­ly with a rea­son­able GUI. One as­sumes there’ll be an im­port/­ex­port fea­ture even­tu­al­ly, to make them portable. The next step is rea­son­ably ob­vi­ous: in­stead of just “Joe’s favorites” you could imag­ine “Joe’s bud­get trav­el feeds” and “Joe’s manga-fan feeds”. But maybe that’s a false vi­sion; the whole thing about a blog is that it’s a clearly-sourced well-defined voice, so maybe an in­di­vid­u­al person’s fa­vorites is what you re­al­ly wan­t. Frankly, I’m not sure what the use-case here is; but then again, we’re just mak­ing this stuff up as we go along. [Dis­clo­sure: I have a con­flict of in­ter­est as re­gards Tech­no­rati.]
Why We Need Atom Now · Check out Mozil­la Bug #313441. Lots of juicy stuff: se­cu­ri­ty risks, open source good­ness, RSS 2.0 am­bi­gu­i­ties bleed­ing down in­to RSS 1.0. Blog­lines be­ing, uh, a lit­tle slow to catch up. And Atom be­ing the so­lu­tion. My fa­vorite quote: “If you need to use the char­ac­ter ‘<’ in a feed ti­tle, which Bugzil­la ab­so­lute­ly does, you have ex­act­ly three choic­es: be in­valid and work, be valid and fail, or, the *on­ly* re­al choice, use Atom instead.” It works for some oth­er peo­ple who re­al­ly care about se­cu­ri­ty, too. But maybe the security’s just a sideshow; the re­al ben­e­fit of mov­ing to Atom would be to avoid the an­nu­al RSS food-fight.
He’s Back! · Mr. Safe, I mean. I in­tro­duced him in 2003 (scroll down to “Houston, We Have a Problem”) and lots of oth­ers seemed to en­joy invit­ing him to their blogs for a chat about syn­di­ca­tion pol­i­tic­s. For those for­tu­nate enough not to have no­ticed, there’s a sil­ly brouha­ha go­ing on in the RSS world. Check out Rogers Caden­head, Shel­ley Pow­ers, and Dave Win­er. Sam Ru­by had al­ready pub­lished Toss­ing Ros­es, which I thought was kind of po­lite and help­ful but re­al­ly ir­ri­tat­ed Steve Gill­mor. What a mess... clear­ly, the man for the job is Mr. Safe, so Sam brought him back.
Photo RSS, Sort Of · Apple’s lat­est soft­ware bun­dle wraps RSS to­geth­er with photo-publishing and they call it “Photocasting”. Rea­son­able enough. Dave Win­er and Kevin Yank have point­ed out that there are some re­al prob­lems with the RSS. So Mark Pil­grim did a deep-dive and it’s not just bad, it’s spec­tac­u­lar­ly bad. To quote Mark: To sum up, the “photocasting” fea­ture cen­ters around a sin­gle un­doc­u­ment­ed ex­ten­sion el­e­ment in a names­pace that doesn’t need to be de­clared. iPho­to 6 doesn’t un­der­stand the first thing about HTTP, the first thing about XML, or the first thing about RSS. It ig­nores fea­tures of HTTP that Netscape 4 sup­port­ed in 1996, and mis-implements fea­tures of XML that Mi­crosoft got right in 1997. It ig­nores 95% of RSS and Atom and gets most of the re­main­ing 5% wrong. This is re­al­ly hard to un­der­stand. [Up­date: The mob howl­ing at Ap­ple may have been a bit over-excited; check out Sam Ruby’s care­ful and bal­anced look at the sit­u­a­tion, in­clud­ing the follow-up com­ments. And I apol­o­gize for leap­ing to con­clu­sion­s; those with painful knowl­edge of the his­to­ry of syn­di­ca­tion pol­i­tics will per­haps un­der­stand why, when the peo­ple list­ed at the top of this en­try are all say­ing the same thing, one might as­sume that it’s prob­a­bly true.]
New Technorati Stuff · Dave’s post­ed a note about the new re­sults list, and it’s an im­prove­ment all right. But I’ve been pay­ing more at­ten­tion to the Ex­plore thing they’re work­ing on over in the kitchen; for ex­am­ple, Pol­i­tics. There’s a re­al in­ter­est­ing com­bi­na­tion of tag and link-rank and re­lat­ed­ness pro­cess­ing lurk­ing in here some­where try­ing to get out. [Dis­clo­sure: I’m on their ad­vi­so­ry board­.]
Orange, but Unhappy · If the IE team and the Fire­fox team agree on some­thing, can it be a bad idea? Ac­cord­ing­ly, pages at on­go­ing now have a lit­tle or­ange here’s-the-feed splodge at the bot­tom of the right margin. De­spite that, it is a bad idea; a tem­po­rary mea­sure at best. Based on re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence with my Mom and an­oth­er Mac new­bie, this whole feed-reading thing ain’t gonna be­come main­stream un­til it’s re­al­ly re­al­ly in­te­grat­ed. By in­te­grat­ed I mean that that if a page has a feed, there should be a stan­dard but­ton some­where in the browser, one click and you’re sub­scribed, and on that but­ton should be the word “Subscribe” in your na­tive lan­guage. The no­tions that this should de­pend on a but­ton that the au­thor has to put in the page, that it should be dec­o­rat­ed with a vac­u­ous icon or a geek acronym, and that the the us­er has to copy the link and paste it in­to some oth­er pro­gram, well that’s just lame-brained, and Mom won’t do it. To be fair, the Mac now gets this part­ly right; it has the no­tion of a “default feed reader”, and it does au­todis­cov­ery, and a blue RSS glyph ap­pears in the brows­er chrome as ap­pro­pri­ate, with dis­patch to the de­fault read­er. There are still two prob­lem­s: First, a blue rect­an­gle with a white “RSS” on it means ap­prox­i­mate­ly noth­ing un­less you’re al­ready feed-savvy. Se­cond, when most peo­ple click on it, they get the Sa­fari read­er, which is pret­ty fee­ble. Steps in the right di­rec­tion, but I look for­ward to am­pu­tat­ing the or­ange lozenge soon­er rather than lat­er. [Up­date: It’s bet­ter than I thought; this will end up in both browsers’ chrome. So in a cou­ple of years, when maybe half the pop­u­la­tion has a brows­er with one-click sub­scrip­tion, we’ll find out if feeds will ev­er be­come main­stream.]
RFC 4287 · I hadn’t seen the an­nounce­men­t, but this looks like a sta­ble of­fi­cial IETF link to RFC 4287, The Atom Syn­di­ca­tion For­mat. A lit­tle more work and we’ll have the pub­lish­ing pro­to­col done and I can re­turn to my plow (or equiv­a­lent). The work of the WG and ed­i­tors was just out­stand­ing, and the IETF did, as ad­ver­tised, pro­vide a use­ful quality-control pro­cess with­out un­du­ly get­ting in the way. Thanks ev­ery­one. The world now has a general-purpose syn­di­ca­tion for­mat that is smal­l, sta­ble, based on the last decade’s lesson­s, clean, and wide­ly im­ple­ment­ed. I feel hap­py.
Seems Like Forever · But it’s on­ly Technorati’s third birth­day. I don’t re­mem­ber when I first stum­bled across them, but I ac­tu­al­ly paid re­al mon­ey for a feed of point­ers to my brand-new blog. No­body who hasn’t been be­hind the fire­wall at Tech­no­rati or one of their com­peti­tors can grasp how patho­log­i­cal­ly hard it’s been to keep a ser­vice like that up and run­ning in the face of the con­tin­u­ing in­sane growth of the bl­o­go­sphere; they’ve had some tough times but it’s been a long time since they weren’t there when I need­ed them. To­day, Ni­cholas Carr tries to ex­plain the big pic­ture that Tech­no­rati and their sec­tor fit in­to. I don’t know, I think any­one who claims to un­der­stand what’s go­ing on is be­ing aw­ful­ly damn brave. In­ter­est­ing­ly, I’ve heard Dave Sifry make a com­pelling big-picture pitch sev­er­al times that’s as con­vinc­ing as any­thing I’ve read, and as far as I know he’s nev­er ac­tu­al­ly writ­ten it down. Dave? [Dis­clo­sure: I may have a con­flict of in­ter­est with re­spect to Tech­no­rati.]
Feed Rates · I was glanc­ing at my serv­er log­files, and was im­pressed, as al­ways, by the huge num­ber of feed-readers out there. So I made a graph of how of­ten the on­go­ing feeds have been fetched so far this year, and the pop­u­lar­i­ty of RSS vs. Atom 1.0 ...
Web Tracking Snapshot · There are many ser­vices that claim to be “blog search”, but that’s the wrong way to think about it. There are a (very) few oc­ca­sions when I want to go and search for “what’s new on X”, and there are lots of ways to do that (the new Sphere is look­ing good in that space). But what I want to do 24/7, as long as the com­put­er is turned on, is what I call Web Track­ing: be­ing told right away when there’s some­thing new on the Web that I care about. I sub­scribe to a lot of Web Track­ing ser­vices; here­with a snap­shot of my im­pres­sion­s ...
Measuring It All · Dave Sifry has launched an­oth­er State of the Bl­o­go­sphere se­ries; nor­mal­ly I’d wait till he’d fin­ished up the whole se­ries and point to them al­l. But Part 1 is worth high­light­ing be­cause he has some num­bers on the splog surge that got so much at­ten­tion this past week­end. Dave’s num­bers sug­gest that there’s less there than meets the eye; that the num­bers and reach of splogs are lim­it­ed. It’s just that their au­to­mat­ed con­tent gen­er­a­tion man­aged to cause them to fill up the ego feeds of a bunch of loud­mouthed widely-read blog­ger­s, who all screamed si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly. Of course the re­al news is: yes, the ’sphere con­tin­ues to dou­ble in size ev­ery five month­s. Th­ese are get­ting to be some big num­ber­s, mom­ma.
Buggy Google Blog Feeds · So Google has blog search. Sum­ma­ry: It’s fast, it’s rea­son­ably com­plete, it’s stripped-down in the typ­i­cal Google style, the re­sult rank­ing needs work, the time win­dow is way too deep. They’re al­so pro­vid­ing feed­s, which is good, but the feeds are hor­ri­bly bug­gy [Quick re­spon­se; One big bug’s al­ready fixed!] ...
Unatomic Bloglines · Sev­er­al peo­ple have writ­ten to tell me that the on­go­ing Atom 1.0 feed is thor­ough­ly borked in blog­lines, most vis­i­bly in white-space and link han­dling. I sent them a note a cou­ple of weeks ago, but no fix yet. Could some­one at blog­lines please have a look?
Blog Imperialism · Hey, check out Technorati’s new blog find­er. I went and did a lit­tle land-grabbing, and if you want to find blogs about Atom, Busi­ness, Ja­va, OS X, Pho­tog­ra­phy, Search, Sun, Syn­di­ca­tion, Tech­nol­o­gy, Web, or XML, well there’s no es­cap­ing on­go­ing (it won’t last). Time will tel­l, of course, but this might turn out to be use­ful. Note that this works very well with Atom 1.0’s feed-level “category” el­e­men­t. [Dis­clo­sure: I may have a con­flict of in­ter­est of in­ter­est as re­gards Tech­no­rati.]
The Real Problem · The syn­di­ca­tion jun­gle drum­beats are throb­bing back and forth over what to call ’em and how to sub­scribe to ’em. Feed­s, I mean. Which is ir­ri­tat­ing: the im­por­tant problem—how to make them easy to use—is easy, and we could solve it pret­ty well right now if we fo­cused on it, in­stead of on the oth­er problem—what to call them—which doesn’t mat­ter very much, and we can’t do much about it any­how. [Up­date: Dare Obasan­jo writes that the prob­lem will be solved in a year, one way or an­oth­er.] ...
Podcasting and Patricia · I got a nice email this af­ter­noon from Pa­tri­ci­aBar­ber.­com, let­ting me know that there’s a new con­cert DVD for sale, and invit­ing me to drop by the A/V sec­tion for a sam­pler. So I did, and you might want to al­so, the video’s good and there are some pret­ty nice au­dio tracks there for down­load. I’ve writ­ten about Ms Bar­ber be­fore, I’m a re­al ad­mir­er. So, here’s a gift­ed artist out there in the Long Tail with a mod­er­ate but de­vot­ed fan base, here’s this hot new pod­cast­ing thing run­ning up head­lines ev­ery­where... am I the on­ly one want­ing to con­nect the dot­s? Right now I buy all of Ms Barber’s disks, which I think is less than one a year on av­er­age; so giv­en record-company eco­nomic­s, she’s mak­ing maybe $10/year net from me. Would I sign up for a bi-weekly pod­cast for a cou­ple bucks a mon­th, re­cent live per­for­mances and so on? In a flash! She could dou­ble or triple her tak­ings from this typ­i­cal fan, and the costs of stag­ing the stuff wouldn’t be that much. Yeah, there’d be pira­cy, but a Long Tail per­former like this might even wel­come it, be­cause a cer­tain num­ber of illicit-recording re­cip­i­ents are go­ing to be­come de­vot­ed fans and want to sign up; what I be­lieve they call “marketing”. What am I miss­ing?
BlogBridge · The ag­gre­ga­tor back-link said: “ongoing: Our rat­ing: 12.69”. Puz­zled, I fol­lowed the point­er to BlogBridge, which turns out to be an­oth­er yet an­oth­er ag­gre­ga­tor, yawn. Ex­cept for, that 12.69 rat­ing puts on­go­ing at #1 on the list of their readers’ fa­vorites. Ob­vi­ous­ly a bunch of ob­ses­sive, pedan­tic geeks then. But I clicked on Down­load, and then on Mac­in­tosh, and there was a dis­cour­ag­ing lit­tle note along the lines of “No spe­cial Mac pack­ag­ing, click here.” So I did, and it was a Ja­va We­bS­tart, and soon I was won­der­ing why you’d need “Special Mac Packaging” any­how, be­cause it down­load­ed it­self and start­ed it­self and im­port­ed NetNewsWire’s OPML just fine and seems like a pret­ty slick ag­gre­ga­tor. It us­es the space­bar for just about any­thing (if Brent Sim­mons were Mi­crosoft, he’d have a U.S. Pa­tent on this by now). Fur­ther­more, it claims to sync it­self up be­tween dif­fer­ent com­put­ers (haven’t tried that) and since it’s Ja­va it ought to work about the same on dif­fer­ent kinds of com­put­ers (what a con­cep­t, eh?), so I can see some­thing like this be­ing a re­al at­trac­tive pack­age for some peo­ple. Here’s a screen­shot ...
Wikipedia Repair · Dave Winer’s right, the Wikipedia’s ar­ti­cle on RSS is a crock. Dave’s gripe is that it’s “highly political”, mine is that it’s just wrong: for ex­am­ple, the in­tro­duc­to­ry bit sug­gests that full-content feeds are im­pos­si­ble. Al­so, it’s badly-organized. Dave’s prob­lem is go­ing to be hard­er to ad­dress be­cause RSS it­self is high­ly po­lit­i­cal; but at least the po­lit­i­cal nar­ra­tive should be co­her­en­t. Any­how, it would be nice if some­one level-headed were to take re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for it. I cur­rent­ly ride herd on two or three oth­er ar­ti­cles and that’s all my Wikipedia cy­cles. It’s not as hard as you might think, and here’s why: the kinds of peo­ple who want to put stupid, ir­rel­e­van­t, badly-written junk in the Wikipedia in my ex­pe­ri­ence are eas­i­ly dis­cour­aged. Just hang in, keep on fix­ing things they break and ex­plain­ing why in a calm tone of voice on the Dis­cus­sion page, and pret­ty soon they go away.
Longhorn + RSS & Atom · Hey, I see Mi­crosoft an­nounced RSS Sup­port in Longhorn; good stuff! The ser­vices they plan to pro­vide (sub­scrip­tion list, da­ta store, sync en­gine) sound pret­ty plau­si­ble. As for their list-control ex­ten­sion­s, it’s up to the im­ple­men­tors and the mar­ket to de­cide if they’re use­ful; they look like they won’t break any­thing, so the ex­per­i­ment is free. I’m some­what amused by the last paragraph’s “We will sup­port Atom 1.0 when it’s released.” That will be in the next few week­s, which is to say at least a year be­fore Longhorn is.
AdSense For Feeds, Say What? · I was go­ing to in­ves­ti­gate Google’s AdSense For Feeds, be­cause I’m keen­ly in­ter­est­ed in eco­nom­ic mod­els around self-publishing. But take a sec­ond and fol­low that link, there are a cou­ple of se­ri­ous­ly weird things go­ing on. [Up­date: Another tri­umph for the bl­o­go­sphere.] ...
NetNewsWire 2.0 · It’s out; while I don’t see any­thing ob­vi­ous that wasn’t there in the be­tas, that doesn’t make it any less neat. If you’re on Mac­in­tosh and you’re still us­ing a Web Brows­er for most of your Web Brows­ing, stop do­ing that and go get this.
Still Growing · Last mon­th, Dave Sifry pub­lished three more in­stall­ments in his con­tin­u­ing State of the Bl­o­go­sphere se­ries (parts 1, 2, and 3). Those are some im­pres­sive num­ber­s, and Dave is do­ing out­stand­ing work in dig­ging in­to them from a bunch of dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion­s.
One-Click Subscription · Re­cent­ly, Dave Win­er point­ed out that there’s a prob­lem in how peo­ple go about sub­scrib­ing to to RSS feed­s, and made a pro­pos­al to ad­dress it. Dave’s idea—essentially One Great Big sub­scrip­tion dispatcher—should work, near as I can tel­l, so any prob­lems would be around busi­ness and pol­i­tic­s, not tech­nol­o­gy. John Robb does some more think­ing, as does Phil Wind­ley. If we can’t find the busi­ness cre­ativ­i­ty, Atom has an­oth­er so­lu­tion that RSS could maybe bor­row ...
Private Syndication · Over at the ZD BTL space, David Ber­lind writes good stuff on some­thing I’ve been talk­ing about for a long time, pri­vate syn­di­ca­tion feed­s. My fa­vorite ex­am­ples have been feeds from my bank ac­count or cred­it card or stock port­fo­lio, but David has an­oth­er for peo­ple like EBay, who can no longer email their cus­tomers be­cause ev­ery­one re­ceiv­ing such an email as­sumes it’s a phish­ing at­tempt (it usu­al­ly is). David won­ders if ex­ist­ing RSS-based sys­tems can scale up for mass one-to-one us­age; the an­swer is “yes, obviously”; post-and-poll (as in syn­di­ca­tion) is me­chan­i­cal­ly sim­pler than store-and-forward (as in email), it’ll scale just fine. One de­tail: I think that for this kind of content-critical, all-business feed, Atom is a more at­trac­tive choice than any of the RSS fla­vors.
What Do Tags Mean? · I’m al­most con­vinced that this new Tech­no­rati Tags thing is im­por­tan­t, but I’m 100% con­vinced that I don’t un­der­stand where it’s go­ing or what the im­pli­ca­tions are. Which is OK, be­cause I sus­pect no­body else does ei­ther ...
How Many Percent? · Via Brent Simmons’ Ranchero, some RSS traf­fic stats from FeedBurn­er, in­clud­ing the sur­pris­ing claim that RSS cir­cu­la­tion is grow­ing by 1% ev­ery week­day. Here­with num­bers from on­go­ing; low­er but in­ter­est­ing ...
CNN Does RSS · Via Paul Beard, I hear that CNN has launched some RSS feed­s. They seem to work. [Up­date: A nice per­son at CNN (whom I’d name ex­cept for he says “I have enough to do with­out risk­ing be­com­ing the In­ter­net face of CNN”) writes me to say the full list of RSS feeds is now avail­able here.]
A Wider Hosepipe · For those of us who just can’t be up-to-the-minute enough on what the Net’s say­ing, a new good­ie: Technorati’s “keyword watchlists”. Get the de­tails from Dave Sifry. I tried it, it seems to work.
The Atom End-Game · I re­cent­ly pro­posed to the IETF Atom Work­ing Group that we might be near­ly fin­ished. Some peo­ple think that’s a mis­take be­cause, as they point out, Atom doesn’t have much more in the way of fea­tures than RSS. Here’s why I dis­agree ...
Technorati Revised · Check out Dave’s sum­ma­ry. My fa­vorite add-on is the fast key­word search, but there are lots of oth­er good­ies there too.
Podcasting Idea · My, my, the ex­cite­ment over pod­cast­ing. Think­ing about it, I was hav­ing trou­ble get­ting in­ter­est­ed. For me, ra­dio hap­pens ei­ther in the car or at home in the evening; I turn the reins over to some­one else to play me some mu­sic they picked, for free. There are enough de­cent sta­tions with­in my reach that I don’t feel the need to time-shift; and for in­for­ma­tion or dis­course, sor­ry, I pre­fer text. Then an ob­vi­ous app came in­to mind: Mu­si­cians could use it for to­tal dis­in­ter­me­di­a­tion. If some mu­si­cian of whom I’m a ma­jor fan, say Ry Cood­er or Em­ma Kirk­by, were to launch a sub­scrip­tion where you pay them a few bucks a month and they promise, once or twice a mon­th, to drop some­thing in­to your iTunes, well, where do I sign up? There’d need to be some en­force­able le­gal­i­ties; ba­si­cal­ly, a promise not to post what you get on the pub­lic We­b. Should be do-able.
Feedreading News Flurry · Lots of ac­tion this week in the syndication-feed tech­nol­o­gy space: NetNewsWire, Blog­li­nes, Atom, J2ME, dig it. I tried to squeeze it in­to a para­graph but it just sprawled and sprawled, so you’ll have come to on­go­ing for the full dump. [Up­date: Blog­lines is be­ing bad.] ...
Electoral Vote Syndication · Over the week­end, and in be­tween events at the IETF, I got in­to a di­a­logue with “the Votemaster,” who runs the Elec­toral Vote Pre­dic­tor 2004. I find the Pre­dic­tor un­equaled as a dai­ly read-out on the state of the Bush-Kerry con­test. I sug­gest­ed by email that the page could use a feed, and he wrote back “Say what?” and I ex­plained and he hacked and de­bugged, and now, here it is. He says it’s a be­ta, but it works fine in all the read­ers I try and al­so val­i­dates, so what’s not to like?
Sage · Sage is a news­read­ing ex­ten­sion for Fire­fox. It’s not bad at al­l. I couldn’t get the OPML im­port to work, but us­ing The Awe­some Pow­er Of Emacs was able to mo­gri­fy the NetNewsWire out­put in­to the pu­trid, hor­ri­ble Mozil­la Book­marks file for­mat that Sage us­es. Sage is nice and sim­ple and good-looking and gets out of the way and seems to han­dle all the dif­fer­ent syn­di­ca­tion for­mats just fine. I orig­i­nal­ly saw it look­ing over Lau­ren’s shoul­der, she’s us­ing Fire­fox on Win­dows; so I went & got it and in­stalled it and it worked. I won’t be switch­ing over from NetNewsWire be­cause I’m pressed for time and NNW is ab­so­lute­ly the world champ at scan­ning a whole lot of news re­al fast. Stil­l, I think Sage would hit a sweet spot for a lot of peo­ple, and I’ve thought for years that one way or an­oth­er news­read­ing would mi­grate in­to the browser. Hold on now... what is it writ­ten in? There’s some sub­stan­tial log­ic go­ing on here and it runs on both Win­dows and Mac? Are there ac­tu­al­ly sep­a­rate bi­na­ries? Hah, it’s all done with JavaScript & XUL & XBL and so on. I think it’s go­ing to take a while for us to learn what we can do (and, im­por­tant­ly, not do) with this plat­for­m.
Rome · I see an­nounce­ments both chez P@ and from Tu­cu about Rome, which, by its de­scrip­tion sounds like the equiv­a­lent of Mark Pilgrim’s pythonoid Univer­sal Feed Pars­er for those in Java-land. A lot younger of course and I bet they’ll have some fun deal­ing with the var­ie­gat­ed re­al­i­ties of RSS As She Are Spoke out there in the big bad In­ter­net, but these are smart guys so I’m op­ti­mistic.
Predictable · Per Godwin’s Law, the syn­di­ca­tion tech­nol­o­gy de­bate is over. Good enough, it was get­ting kind of lame.
Bubblets · There are now lit­tle talk-bubbles at­tached to the ar­ti­cles here on the front page of on­go­ing; each one is a branch, via Tech­no­rati, to who­ev­er out there might have point­ed at the ar­ti­cle it’s at­tached to. Which pro­vokes a cou­ple of ob­ser­va­tions and pre­dic­tion­s ...
Syndication By The Numbers · I spent to­day at a con­fer­ence, speak­ing and lis­ten­ing. The best lis­ten­ing was to a guy named Dave Morse, who helps run a big chunk of net­work be­hind a par­tic­u­lar­ly thick fire­wal­l. He’s sav­ing time and mon­ey big-time us­ing syn­di­ca­tion and he can prove it ...
How To Post to a Feed · Sup­pose I want to use one of the blog­ging APIs, for ex­am­ple, the under-development Atom Pub­lish­ing Pro­to­col, to post an en­try to a blog or what­ev­er, with the ex­pec­ta­tion that this is go­ing to show up in my syn­di­ca­tion feed. Sup­pose that the en­try in­cludes some pic­tures or movies. Should be easy, peo­ple do this all the time, right? ...
Has CNET Gone Crazy? · CNET has start­ed pro­duc­ing a syn­di­ca­tion feed that is not RSS 0.9, 1.0, 2.0, or Atom. I guess the old apho­rism “Never as­cribe to mal­ice that which can be ex­plained by stupidity” ap­plies here. Mark Pil­grim wields the clue­stick. [Up­date: John Roberts of CNET writes to tell us that point­er was a to rogue ex­am­ple of an old feed that es­caped in­to their RSS page ac­ci­den­tal­ly; they’ve since cleaned up. That’s a re­lief. Apolo­gies to CNET for the grief, but no apolo­gies for rais­ing a hue and cry at ap­par­ent bad be­hav­ior.]
Blogging Strategy Funnies · I didn’t think I was com­ing to Sun to work on blog­ging and syn­di­ca­tion, but it turns out the whole in­dus­try has wo­ken up to the fact that There’s Some­thing Hap­pen­ing Here, and so it’s burn­ing quite a few of my cy­cles, and has al­so gen­er­at­ed a cou­ple of amus­ing (and in­struc­tive) anec­dotes ...
A Keeper · I for­got who an­nounced this, but Keep­Me­dia (an or­ga­ni­za­tion about which I know noth­ing) now pro­vides a “Featured News” feed. It’s re­al­ly very good, a hand­ful of sto­ries once a day, from big-name pub­li­ca­tions (Busi­ness Week, The At­lantic, Esquire, USA To­day, etc.) all on the same sub­jec­t, usu­al­ly one of the day’s hot news­buzz things, but oc­ca­sion­al­ly a bit fur­ther afield. High­ly rec­om­mend­ed.
Newsfeeds and Language Learning · I have no gift for for­eign lan­guages but due to hav­ing grown up over­seas can limp along in bad French. I usu­al­ly get to France once ev­ery year or two and af­ter a few days find that I am limp­ing faster. I just re­alised that Libération, the news­pa­per I read while in France, has an RSS feed, so I sub­scribed and now I’m read­ing a few hun­dred words a day en Français (with oc­ca­sion­al help from ei­ther this French-English dic­tio­nary or this one). Why is Libération my pa­per of choice? Among oth­er things, be­cause it’s a tabloid and easy to car­ry; if you walk in­to a café or restau­rant or store in France with a copy of Libération stuffed un­der your ar­m, the lo­cals will in­stant­ly as­sume you’re not a gringo and you’ll prob­a­bly get treat­ed a lot bet­ter. Try it, it work­s.
Subscribing to a Document · The W3C TAG is putting lots of time in­to edit­ing the Ar­chi­tec­ture of the Web doc­u­men­t. It’s stored in CVS, and some­one at W3C just set up an RSS feed of changes to it as they’re checked in. First time I’ve done this, but I think it’s go­ing to be ad­dic­tive. You’ve been able to get this kind of no­ti­fi­ca­tion by email for years now. It’s mak­ing me won­der: What are the dif­fer­ences be­tween an RSS feed and an email fold­er, re­al­ly? Does any­one know?
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