· 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 “&” 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 & 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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