I'm On Board with RSS

I've accepted an invitation to join the RSS Advisory Board, the group that evangelizes the RSS 2.0 specification.

Contrary to what you may have read elsewhere, RSS 2.0 isn't owned or controlled by vendors. The specification has been released under a Creative Commons license and the format it represents has no trademark or copyright claims. My new job has very little actual power associated with it, sadly enough, and only one groupie.

The Advisory Board's primary task is explaining why the format has been successful and how new publishers can adopt it.

Recently on a mailing list, a longtime web geek who I respect stated that RSS was "a crufty kludge that must evolve or die."

Even if it never changed again, the RSS 2.0 format would continue to fill an important role as the simplest XML syndication format for Web sites.

On technical grounds, there's nothing that requires the format to change or be replaced. It's valid XML supported by hundreds of programs for thousands of users. None of Mark Pilgrim's lovingly documented incompatibilities has prevented it from becoming one of the most popular XML formats on the planet.

Additionally, the simplicity of RSS 2.0 helps sell syndication, because many web publishers who look at an RSS file decide it's easy to implement.

Compare that to Pilgrim's Atom feed. Would anyone be doing this today if that was the first approach to syndication?

Atom has found a significant audience thanks to Six Apart and Google and may take XML Web publishing into new areas, so I'm not knocking the effort.

However, we've reached critical mass with RSS, which creates opportunities for new sites, software, and businesses. RSS has become so popular today that people are starting to make "imminent death" predictions about overloading the Internet.

Even if another format was so perfectly specified that it made grown computer scientists weep, it would be a crime to drop RSS now. That's why I made an empty threat to boycott Google last week in the New York Times:

Because Google is so popular, its smallest decisions can carry great weight. Rogers Cadenhead, a Web site developer and author, said he was disturbed that Google supports one format for distributing Web log entries over another. "I would boycott Google if I could," said Cadenhead, of St. Augustine, Fla. "But I can't. It's like boycotting gas."

The "do no evil" crowd should offer its existing RSS support in Blogger rather than favoring one Internet protocol over another. The decision fails the if-Microsoft-did-it test big time.

At this point, you probably recognize why I was suggested for the board.


Oh. I'm sorry. Never mind.

So who else was added? Or did someone leave? There's supposed to be an odd number, isn't there?

And congratulations :)

Speaking of the difficulties in the implementation of Atom, Google is offering Atom feeds for their Google Groups Beta. I know it *is* a beta, but I find it somewhat humorous that the feeds generated are not valid Atom (at least the one I tried.)

Here's an example feed


And here's a link to the feed validator:

http://feeds.archive.org/validator/check.cgi?url=http%3A%2F%2Fgroups-beta.google.com%2Fgroup% 2Fdripmail%2Ffeed%2Fmsgs.xml

If Google can't even get the details right, what does that say about this format? (Or Google, but I'm not going to go there.)

Also, I don't all think the problems with the feed are minor, they reflect that some of the decisions made for the format are fundamentally flawed, which I wrote about on my site here: http://trenchant.org/dripmail/2004-05.html#224

Congratulations - better late than never :-) I was surprised you weren't on board from the start - from a perspective of skills and knowledge of RSS2.0.

"how new publishers can adopt it"
1.) Re-open the ssf-dev group - you were making quite a bit of progress there.
2.) A Best Practice document of implementing RSS2.0.
3.) A reference implementation of RSS and its APIs would help.

Good luck.

Congrats, Rogers, but this doesn't strike me as a surprise. What would have been a surprise is someone appointed who has been critical of the RSS 2.0 syndication feed, Dave Winer, or both.

So when is Andrew Grummett getting an appointment?

Sorry that's Grumet, not Grrrrummett.

Congrats! Hopefully you can bring a critical eye to RSS 2.0, and do something more constructive than FUDding the alternatives.

I can't really see a huge difference in the complexity of the RSS/Atom examples you point to - a few more attributes. The most notable being the ones which remove the ambiguity over escaping found in the RSS 2.0 spec. If anything, I'd have said the Atom listing is a little more newbie-friendly - no need to ask "what's a ?" and "what does describe?"

heh, the curse of escaping - that should have been: "what's a [guid]?" and "what does [description] describe?"

Thanks, everyone.

It's possible I'm basing too much on my personal experience, Danny. When I was learning XML, I found it a lot easier to understand XML dialects without namespaces or attributes.

As for appointing a critic of RSS 2.0 to the advisory board, it's a group of evangelists, so naturally the people who end up there are unabashed fans.

First I heard that advisory boards were the same as cheerleaders. I thought that the important component was bringing in a non-biased perspective, to ensure that the spec was open and reflected community opinion.

You just called it a group of evangelists. You realize that you just condemned the openness of this group? At least the professed supposed openness of this group?

Is Jon Udell an RSS evangelist? I'll have to send him email, ask him.

"Even if it never changed again, the RSS 2.0 format would continue to fill an important role as the simplest XML syndication format for Web sites."

Um, no. There's a reason some of us are still using RSS 0.9X until Atom becomes a bit more mature.

And all of your slams against Mark Pilgrim/Atom while announcing that you're joining the RSS board is just plain petty.

Where am I slamming him? I linked to his Atom feed because I figured he's likely to be doing Atom right (I don't know the format well enough to judge), and I discussed his "nine versions of RSS" piece because it's probably the most well-researched slam on RSS 0.9x/2.0 ever written.

I'd just like to nominate Shelley for the 2004 Prescience Award. Brent Simmons and Jon Udell have apparently chosen to leave the Advisory Board, and Andrew Grumet and Adam Curry are two out of the other three new members.

I'm judging the purpose of the RSS Advisory Board by the language on its Web site (emphasis mine):

"We answer questions, write tech notes, advocate for RSS, make minor changes to the spec per the roadmap, help people use the technology, send flowers to developers, maintain a directory of compatible applications, accept contributions from community members, and otherwise do what we can to help people and organizations be successful with RSS."

Though I wouldn't have problems with board members with less-than-glowing praise for RSS, I'm comfortable being on there as an evangelist.

Then it shouldn't be sold as a way for the community to have open communication in regards to the specification, or that this 'board' is somehow an alternative to an open standards based effort. As it has been promoted in the past, and still being promoted now.

I am not suprised at Udell's resignation form this so-called board. Or Grumet's appointment.

But I am surprised at how long I've maintained an RSS 2.0 feed for my weblogs. Must remedy that.

I don't think it's productive to respond to the sneer that we're a bunch of lackeys, Shelley. You'll just have to judge by our actions whether the four new board members are receptive to public opinion.

Bryant, thank you. I accept that award. Crystal ball readings next Saturday.

Thank you Dave.

Thank you Dave.

Thank you Dave.

The day this board makes a decision about RSS that runs counter to Dave Winer's own opinion and choice, is the day I'll reinstate my RSS 2.0 feed. How's that for giving the board a chance, Rogers?

Dan Gillmore: My first question was whether some people in those communities will assume that Simmons, having worked for Winer, will be a rubber stamp.

So Mark's calling the RSS board a "puppet government" and Sam's digging up a year-old link to make similar insinuations.

This is a shame. You're in a position to make Atom a W3C standard, which in my book is a hell of an accomplishment. Why are you denigrating someone else's attempt to make RSS 2.0 better? You've both said several times you wanted to escape the political climate of RSS. So go already. I'd like to start missing you as soon as possible.

Prove me wrong. Prove that you're not just a bunch of starry-eyed RSS sharecroppers. Jon and Brent worked very hard to try to provide some forward motion in the RSS community, and they found that no forward motion was possible without Dave's consent. (cf. Relative links, markup in titles, core namespace, acceptable use of other namespaces... this list goes on.)

Maybe you, Andrew, and Adam can do better, but I doubt it.

Will there ever be anyone on the RSS Advisory Board who

a.) Has no financial or historical tie to Userland or its products (i.e. a former employee, an investor, or someone who sells a book about the product)


b.) Is not a personal friend of Userland's current/former leadership?

I'm sure Userland's RSS-supporting competitors would be interested in a (serious) answer.

Rogers, actually, I was pointing at a weblog entry where Dan Gillmor described an early vote where Dave was in the minority.


Coming to the comment party late, but here goes:

Rogers--congratulations. Any advisory board appointment is noteworthy, whether it's a local civic traffic board for a city council or one advocating the wider use of a syndication format.

All that are of the Atom/RSS fight brigade: Please go play somewhere else. Atom and RSS both have a place. Atom can be a higher end API and syndication format (and a dessert topping for those who remember SNL's early days) and RSS can be a simple syndication format.

I like to compare the two with the 2.4GHz spectrum. The FCC licensed it for experimental use and we got 802.11 wireless network connections (or RSS in my analogy). There still exist licensed microwave bands for people who need something else either more restrictive or more robust (Atom).

I like RSS for now. I might like Atom later. But lets not kill *either one* by running over them with a semi-truck full of hate and discontent.

Please? Is this all that intelligent people can do together is fight? Rogers has made great attempts in this thread to keep it civil--thanks.

I have hand coded XSL Transforms for both RSS 2.0, & Atom. I did not find Atom any more difficult than RSS to generate and I've learned to do this for both formats simply by reading their specs and looking at example feeds. Both of the feeds I generate validate easily. I am currently generating both since not all feed readers support Atom yet. I do like, that Atom clears up the problem of including html with in the content, where RSS official spec doesn't support that. Many feed readers do seem to support the xhtml:body element in RSS though.

I'll probably move to Atom alone because I like the way you can specify the format of the content with in the feed. IE text/html/xml ...

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