RSS Means Never Being Board

John Palfrey:

We've heard from a number of people about an uneasy (and unfounded) sense that something is happening with respect to the RSS 2.0 spec. Just by way of clarification, nothing has changed from the perspective of Harvard, which is the owner and trustee of the RSS 2.0 spec. ... While we are delighted to know that many members of the RSS community continue to work on relevant issues to move the industry along in various ways, including related to the spec itself, Harvard has no involvement with any of these efforts.

Dave Winer:

1. The spec is owned by Harvard. 2. The RSS Advisory Board, when it existed, performed a support function. Later, in case anyone was still confused, we disclaimed: "It does not own RSS, or the spec, it has no more or less authority than any other group of people who wish to promote RSS."

As a member of the RSS Advisory Board for the past 21 months and the current chair, I am surprised to learn that the organization doesn't exist.

I joined the board at Winer's invitation in May 2004, not long before he resigned.

The group operated in private without a charter, and as I said at the time, the reason I joined was to help guide Really Simple Syndication to a public, participatory model like that enjoyed by Atom and RDF Site Summary (a.k.a. RSS 1.0).

Doing anything on the board became difficult in the last half of 2005 when outside commitments kept members Adam Curry and Steve Zellers from participating, so for six months it was inactive. I served as webmaster, keeping the site free of comment spam but taking no actions regarding the RSS specification.

In January, I invited former board members Andrew Grumet, Brent Simmons, Jon Udell and Winer to a private mailing list to discuss whether it should shut down or recruit new members. The decision that came out of that list was to continue in a publicly accountable fashion, which culminated in a charter and eight new members.

Before they were asked to join, Winer told me in a Jan. 21 e-mail, "You can carry on the business in any way you want as far as I'm concerned, I just want that site, and the spec, to be left as-is. I won't even object if there's a pointer to the new site you want to start on the old one."

In part to address his concerns (and some voiced by Palfrey), I launched a new site for the board and we've been working on a newly written specification that seeks to resolve long-standing issues with RSS that make it difficult to implement, such as a lack of clarity on whether an item's description is the only element that can carry HTML. (The spec's not official -- it's published to solicit public review for at least 60 days. I encourage people who are interested in it to join the RSS-Public mailing list.)

Winer has now decided that the board doesn't exist and never had authority over the RSS specification, even though it has published six revisions from July 2003 to the present.

I don't agree, but now that the board's fully public, we're in a position to make his wish a reality.

The eight new members of the board are independent, strong-minded people who are well-respected in the syndication community. The organization has been trusted to publish the most-widely adopted Really Simple Syndication specification for three years, and I believe we should continue to do that, either by completing and adopting the proposed spec or relying on the current version.

I also think there's an opportunity for us to help improve détente among syndication developers by working with the creators of Atom and RDF Site Summary on areas of common concern such as the Feed Validator and the common syndication icon.

If we had shut down the board last month, I believe a new group would be needed to make RSS easier to implement and resolve issues with the format.

But my viewpoint's only one of nine.

If the board believes that nothing more should be done on RSS and the 2003 spec published by Harvard should be the last word on the subject, a vote of five members would close it down.


Since their is precedence for the RSS advisory board modifying the spec and nothing was mentioned at that time, I'm comfortable moving forward with our current efforts.

Excuse me, but I don't understand what is going on here. I tried to understand, but I don't manage to find an explanation for the way thing go as they go.


Forge ahead.

History indicates that you can't work on anything related to RSS without a lot control and controversy issues.

Forge ahead with your plan.

That link says that the advisory board "makes changes" to the spec. Apparently, when you took that seriously, Dave didn't like it and is seeking to declare the board null.

What's sad is that Dave gave up the spec to Harvard yet Harvard isn't working with the advisory board. At any rate, the CC license permits anyone to take the spec and do what they will as long as share the results with others and attribute the spec holder appropriately. No one has to listen to Dave or Harvard due to the nature of the CC license. The original is Harvard's and derivative works belong to others.

Syndication politics are every bit as twisted as any soap opera you'll see on daytime television. Only without the sex. And with a bunch of bearded fat guys in place of the pretty models.

You couldn't make this stuff up! Someday they'll make a movie...

I want to be played by Renée Zellweger.

And with a bunch of bearded fat guys in place of the pretty models.

I have to tell you, when I first heard that the new RSS Board had nine members, I immediately thought of the "7 of 9" character from Star Trek Voyager. I looked up the RSS Board members to see who was 7th, and... it's Randy. That's just wrong on so many levels.

Some comments on the draft,

- pubDate, lastBuildDate
I strongly urge you to use the ISO 8601 format, or mimic Atom and use RFC3339 (which is a subset of ISO 8601).

- description
Please create a means to publish unescaped XHTML, e.g. a descriptionXml element.

The above two are my main gripes with RSS 1.0. In addition to that, the draft contains the following that I don't like:

- height / width
If not specified, it should take the intrinsic size (or at least ratio) of the image instead. Specifying default heights and widths in pixels is also not friendly towards users of higher-res displays, and frankly, pointless.


If there was ever a line that needed a solidly referencing link:

> Winer has now decided that the board doesn't exist and never had authority over the RSS specification "When it existed", eh?


Get rid of the word "board", rename the RAB to "RSS Support Services", then light up the bat-phone.

Care to enlighten us to why Jon Udell bailed so early?

Rogers: You're fighting the good fight on this one. Keep it up.

Laurens: Your date and description suggestions have already been addressed. Simply include atom:updated or atom:content elements in your RSS feed, and you've got what you want.

How about renaming the board to People's Front of Judea?

I think you'll find that should be The Judean People's Front my friend.

Quote from NetNewsWire:

"So it seems now that anything that isn't being guarded will be grabbed and someone will try to own it. This the kind of hopeless desperation that we're surrounded by. Feedburner, Technorati, SixApart, Newsgator, these are companies that are so desperate to get bought out, presumably, that they literally tried to hijack ownership of the RSS specification from a much larger institution, a much older one, one with hugely deep pockets. I wonder what they were thinking. I wonder why they didn't make any inquiries with their lawyers before they tried it. Did they even do a Google search to find out if this large institution took ownership of this spec seriously? Or did they send me an email to ask what's up, or pick up the phone to call? Are they really as desperate as it seems they are? My guess is taht it's not, they jost belong to an industry with a tradition that personal relationships mean nothing, a very short-term way of thikning, that's mistaken. We'll all be back after our current ventures either succeed or fail, adn then all we'll ahve are our reputations. You may end up working with someone you ewre competing with.
In any case, the RSS 2.0 specification is owned by Harvard University, and I don't think they're planning on selling it or giving it away. It's very generously licensed under teh Creative Commons share-alike for-attribution license. There's a contract that gives them the ownership. I am the author of the spec.
So here's the idea. Next time someone makes you an offer that's too good to be true, before you agree to it, check it out first. If they're offering you something that someone else owns, check with the person or people who own it and see if it's okay with them, before you make a public announcement about how thrilled you are to be the new owner of this thing. Save everyone the embarassment of having to undo the mistake you would otherwise have made. And pat yourself on the back because you helped make your stupid industry a little less stupid."

J, where did that quote come from? Was it on the front page of SN and got pulled, was it on the WordPress site, or was it somewhere else? I'm just curious...

And Rogers, you're a saint for being willing to go through all this; most people who this affects in any real way understand that it must take true devotion to the usability of RSS for you to have to endure what you inevitably are enduring by pushing forward with the RAB's work. You have our support (or mine, at least, since that's who I can speak for!).

Feed diffing tools are wonderful, wonderful things. Somebody archive that somewhere safe, and mirror it.

OK, two people here are so wrong.

d.w., sex is involved, just don't make me explain, it's embarrassing.

mark, resistance is futile.

I'm sorry--I'm still back on the friendship essay.

The eight new members of the board are independent, strong-minded people who are well-respected in the syndication community.

So, Loic Le Meur is a strong minded people who is well-respected in the syndication community ?

Come on Roger, he's just a carpet seller !

The "Advisory Board" has a gap from June 2004 to January 2006:

"when it existed" is fairly accurate. Sheesh.

Been here, too many times. Aah, well.

I'd be content if there were only an explicit statement of how many enclosures are permitted per item. The de-facto standard seems to be "as many as you like, but don't count on the aggregator downloading any more than the first".


Where are you?

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