In a discussion about journalism on venture capitalist Fred Wilson's blog, Dave Winer writes:

... professionals make plenty of these kinds of mistakes. For example last week the esteemed NY Times said RSS was software and that it was co-written by a 14-year old on a mail list. It is neither of those things.

They never called me to check it out.

The 14-year-old he references is Aaron Swartz, who got some nice press recently from the Times for an incredibly ballsy stunt he pulled to promote public access to government documents. Swartz used a scraping program to surreptitiously download 19 million pages of court documents -- totaling 780 gigabytes of data -- over the course of six weeks during a free trial of the government database Pacer. The data was sent to the non-profit Public.Resource.Org.

The Lede, a Times blog, described Swartz's role in RSS:

In the technology world, Mr. Swartz is kind of a big deal, as the saying goes. At the age of 14, he had a hand in writing RSS, the now-ubiquitous software used to syndicate everything from blog posts to news headlines directly to subscribers.

Winer believes credit for RSS is doled out under Highlander rules -- all challengers must be decapitated, for "in the end, there can be only one!" But The Times is correct to credit Swartz for his important role in RSS. When he was still in junior high school, Swartz became one of the lead authors of the RSS 1.0 specification, the version of the syndication format that employs RDF. He also has hosted the specification for the past eight years.

-- Rogers Cadenhead

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