Clarifying the RSS 2.0 Specification

I voted for the proposal to clarify the RSS 2.0 specification this morning. I think it's the proper interpretation of what the spec means regarding namespace support, and the board's the proper place to address it.

This is, of course, a controversial position. I have never found a non-controversial position involving RSS, other than "escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed."

The political debate between advocates of the board and RSS 2.0 lead author Dave Winer boils down to two positions:

  1. Nobody should speak with authority on the RSS spec.
  2. Somebody should.

The board's been that somebody for four years, though we've used the ability sparingly. I think we should decide what we think the spec means, edit accordingly and take our lumps.


Rogers, I guess we now know how you vote on the proposed compromise, but we don't know how your "board" feels about it, since you won't pass on the proposal for a compromise to them. Why not? What if they don't care as much as you do whether you're working on a profile or "the spec"?

I don't think your math works, by the way -- about the supposed five years that the advisory board operated. Why overstate your case so much, and why not respond directly to the proposal yourself?

Corrected five years to four; it wasn't intentional. I responded to your idea on RSS-Public. I'm all for compromise where it's possible, but I don't see any room for it between positions 1 and 2.

First, as you know, the "advisory board" stopped functioning. It's not four years. It did a little work for about a year, if that much, but it never really got its act together. That's the reality you keep ignoring. And it was never the kind of thing you're trying to make it, it was exactly the opposite. You don't get RSS, ROgers. If I wanted to do it in the W3C, or if Netscape did, it would have been a working group from the start. We've been through this over and over. I have no idea what you think you're going to accomplish, but it's not what you say it is, because I'm offering you a much easier path, and one in which I will be comfortable expressing an opinion, which I am not now.

I'm not answering questions about what the spec says because the spec is frozen. I've said it so many times, in so many ways. The spec itself says it. I know you've got the tiniest of little fig leaves that excuses what you're trying to do, but as you know, I don't buy it.

About your "board" -- I have a feeling most of them don't care much whether it's a spec or a profile. Why exactly do YOU care so much? What's your goal here. And why can't we talk with them directly, in public, Rogers? What are you scared of?

I guess I don't "get RSS" either. It seems to me that a public format for interchange of data should have a fairly rigorous specification. It sure would have saved me a ton of work so far, instead of having to account for all the variations in usage that abound.


There's always a tension between the rigor of a specification that the effort required to write code that meets that specification.

RSS has a (purposefully) simple spec... it's named "Really Simple Syndication" for that reason. After you start piling on all the potential use cases and make changes to the spec you cross that line from simplicity to complexity and now have a gun to shoot early adopters with because they didn't track the spec as it changed.

Atom is well spec'ed and is adding more specs going forward.

Typically the best approach to this dilemma between rigor and the ability to implement something quickly is an open sourced implementation that can be re-used. All the great standards had this approach.

There are many RSS implementations that grew from the simple spec[s].

Spec work is like committee work: boring, painful and inefficient but
important when there are MANY stakeholders.

At this juncture RSS has many stakeholders (users/implementors) and no effective committee. Or maybe it HAS an effective committee and a very disgruntled "founder".

This "story" has been spinning for years and you need a playbook to know all the players and all the plays that have been played.

In general, Rogers does good committee work... focused, productive, and committed to success. Dave gets ideas and loves to implement them... and see his implementations copied into other languages. He doesn't have the temperment for prolonged debate and compromise, IMHO.

But RSS is his legacy. Go figure.

"They just keep pulling him back in." (hat tip to Mario Puzo).

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