RSS Advisory Board

We didn't get as far as I would have liked during my talk at OSCOM, about a way forward for XML-based syndication. Had I been able to complete my thoughts I would have asked the audience to comment on this idea. (Note that Sam Ruby was sitting in the front row.)

Sam Ruby didn't get everything he wants in RSS 2.0, neither did Tim Bray. They both want the same thing, the ability to include elements of RSS in other XML formats.

My philosophy is to try to accomodate all reasonable requests, as long as they don't cost too much to implement, don't break users, and don't make the software, format or protocol much harder to use. Every feature, no matter how well conceived costs something, introduces the possibility of breakage, and makes the system somewhat harder to use. In this case I think all three can be managed, if we place an emphasis on clear communication, professionalism, and careful testing.

The safest way to give them what they want is to invent a new format called, say, PSS, where the P stands for Portable. We can discuss what the S and S stand for (I think Simple and Syndication, but ymmv). The definition of the format is as follows: PSS is RSS 2.0 minus namespaces plus the ability to include its elements in other XML formats through a namespace. The canonical uri for the PSS namespace is (fill in later).

This approach has the obvious disadvantage of creating another format, one that's really only useful in the context of inclusion in other XML packages. There would never be a reason (that I can see) to create a file that's in PSS format, since it's less expressive than RSS. Maybe that's a good reason, but that's something else to discuss.

The simpler way is to try an experiment with all known aggregators and feed readers (AKAFRs). Create a few sample files that have an xmlns attribute at the head of an otherwise validated RSS feed, and run them through AKAFRs and see what happens. If it works or not, make an effort to contact the developer and let them know. If all pass the test at some point, I would be willing to add a note to the RSS 2.0 spec, explaining that we tried this experiment and it worked. I suspect it would work. But this is where the communication, professionalism and care in testing come in. It's certain that there will be flaming about this. Not sure what to do about it. I guess the flames will delay any movement. It would be great if once we didn't get dragged too deeply into other peoples' fear.

I have another reason to try to give Sam and Tim what they want. More than anything I want this community to elevate itself out of the powerless ways of the past. I want crisp thinking, and respectful collaborartion. We can disagree without dragging the other guy into the mud. Think about it.

PS: There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that the simpler way is the correct one. It requires some community work, but that's a good thing.


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