Obama's White House Adopts Atom Format

I became the first subscriber on Bloglines to the feed for the new White House web site, which launched at 12:00 p.m. as Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States. As a syndication dork, I was interested to discover that the feed employs Atom as its format:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<feed xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom">
  <title>White House.gov Blog Feed</title>
  <link href="http://www.whitehouse.gov" />
    <title>A National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation</title>
    <link href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/a_national_day_of_renewal_and_reconciliation/" />
    <summary>President Barack Obama's first proclamation.</summary>

The Atom feed passes the Feed Validator, but there are four issues that trigger warning messages:

  • Your feed appears to be encoded as "utf-8", but your server is reporting "US-ASCII" [help]
  • Missing atom:link with rel="self" [help]
  • Two entries with the same id: urn:uuid:ca4baafc-b6bc-45e5-9144-79c5289d9518 (4 occurrences) [help]
  • Two entries with the same value for atom:updated: 2009-01-20T17:01:00Z [help]

When he has the time, President Obama can address these issues pretty quickly.

First, the XML element should reflect the actual encoding transmitted by the White House server:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="US-ASCII"?>

Alternatively, the feed should be published using the UTF-8 encoding.

Next, the feed's link element must include an rel="self" attribute indicating that it's the feed's own URL:

<link rel="self" href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/feed/blog/" />

Finally, steps should be taken so that each feed entry has a unique ID. I recommend using the tag URI format, which for the White House could produce id elements like this:


The final number in the id element should be a unique number, such as the index number of a blog entry.

The new White House site promises more feeds to come, but describes them as RSS feeds:

RSS is an acronym for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary. It is an XML-based method for distributing the latest news and information from a website that can be easily read by a variety of news readers or aggregators.

Either this is an error -- Atom feeds are not in RSS format, of course -- or Obama's effort towards national reconciliation includes the combatants in the RSS/Atom war.


I also noticed the incorrect timestamps! Also, sorry for the spam, but since you're a syndication dork, maybe you'd be interested in an RSS notifier I've just created: http://www.michaelfogleman.com/feed-notifier/ I'd certainly be interested in any feedback you have.

If you look *real* closely there is an XML byte-order mark at the beginning of the file and a curly apostrophe in "Honoring Dr. King's Legacy". (To be fair, the latter wasn't there when you originally found this feed).

This means that the feed isn't ASCII, it is utf-8. It also means that the White House doesn't support RFC 3023.

The only reason I knew to look is that the feed validator won't complain on the encoding if it is true that the feed would parse correctly with either encoding.

Obama's effort towards national reconciliation includes the combatants in the RSS/Atom war.

He should warm up on Israel/Palestine and before moving onto the really intractable problems.

Why not just use RSS?

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