diego's weblog: September 14, 2003 Archives
Unbelievable. How a solution can be staring you right in the face and still not see it.
Call it a blinding flash of the obvious.
One of the problems I tend to think about when writing follow-ups to things I've already discussed is that, while you can point back to a previous entry, you don't really want to go back and start modifying the original entry to point back to the follow up, allowing me to follow the evolution of an idea for example. Now, I think there are plugins for MT that let you specify "related" entries, but I've never gotten around to investigating them (I tend to prefer the minimal amount of plugins and extensions necessary, both on software I use and software I write).
Now, as I was posting my previous entry on RSS discovery, I just realized that I could simply ping the entry through trackback and so provide a pointer to the follow up. Simple. Effective. To the point.
I can come up with all sorts of reasons why I've never seen this before (like "Oh, well, you've always thought of trackback as a useful tool to connect different weblogs"), but the reality is that this is so incredibly obvious that... I can't understand at all why I didn't see it before. :-)
Isn't trackback great?
rss autodiscovery, take 2
Being a weekend, not a whole lot has happened, but there have been several good comments on the topic of rss autodiscovery, which has made me think further about the choices we face in making it a reality...
As a recap, Jeremy proposed coming up with an OPML-based standard for specifying lists of feeds on sites, and Russ brought up the idea of using RSS, which some, including me, liked. I followed that up with a couple of mockups with both OPML and RSS so that we could compare that pros and cons or each, along with some comments on the apparent tradeoffs for each.
A note, before going on. The second I read Jeremy's post I thought: "but don't we already have RSD?" I immediately checked and got my answer, but I thought that, for completeness, I'd include it here. The answer is: no. RSD is intended for autodiscovery of APIs that will be used to access/modify the content programmatically. Similar solutions that have been proposed for Atom also deal with APIs rather than feeds. The bottom line is that re-using current autodiscovery techniques/specs from APIs would imply re-spec'ing them, at least partially, which brings us back to square one.
Using either RSS or OPML seems to me like a good solution that will get things done. It might not be the most perfect solution, but it will work. There seems to be some resistance to using OPML. The main basis for this resistance is that OPML can't be validated (or easily used) because its spec is relatively loose. However, I think that if OPML was used for this, it have to be specified properly; which means that what could (and could not) be done would be known and therefore it could allow validation. The fact that the current iteration of OPML cannot be validated is not enough grounds to reject it out of hand, in my opinion. A few small improvements in the spec of OPML or this new OPML-derived format would do the trick.
In summary, my (possibly narrow-minded) view is that all we're doing is agreeging on using a number of tags and the structure of a document. Any solution will look similar to any other, and I think it's eminently useful to base things on a format that can already be parsed by most, if not all, aggregators, as is the case with both RSS and OPML.
There are other possibilities though. Tima put forward the idea of using WSIL (also echoed in this lockergnome entry). As I don't know the intrincacies of the format I can't come up with an example that will re-write in WSIL either of my two mockups and be sure that it won't be broken, and for comparison purposes we need, I think, to be looking at exactly the same content. Conclusion: if Tima or someone else would have a bit of time to re-write my mock-up structure using WSIL, it would be most welcome!
Regardless of format, the main issue that seems to me would drive how the format is used is how hierarchy in the feed is handled. Hierarchy will be necessary to provide the structure used by many news sites (e.g. "Technology/Mobile Technology/Phones"). So, with a heavy emphasis on how hierarchy would be represented, here's a summary of the issues in choosing one format or another as far as I can see:
In his entry, Tima mentions that WSIL describes hierarchy through the use of multiple files, much like the second RSS alternative mentioned above.
A final element that would also have to be agreed upon is how this master file is usually found. Jeremy, in his original posting, proposed using a standard location similar to robots.txt, and with a standard name, like feeds.opml or rss.opml which sounds quite reasonable.
Okay, so what would be the steps necessary to be able to spec this? A possible outline would be:
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