Weblogs in Research
Weblogs in Research - first posted Thursday, 15 May 2003
As I write this, we're seeing a burst of useful, practical innovation in the engineering practices that underpin our community's Web tools -- the things like Radio Userland, Technorati, Tinderbox, and NetNewsWire were use to keep in touch. I'd like to step back and show the non-technical audience what's going on, to the limited extent that I see it -- and to show why the digital arts must learn how to do this.
This week, I'm in Maastricht at the wonderful Jan van Eyck Academie, an advanced school for the study of arts and theory, talking about Personal Publishing Pandemonium and participating in a roundtable on the nature of the book, where my talk is titled Not Chopped Trees. So, I'm even further from the center of things than usual; at least, this lends perspective.
The core question is a very technical one, about the best way tools like Tinderbox should talk to Technorati, a service that keeps track of who is linking to your weblog. Sifry, the guy behind Technorati, added a new communication method early this week. Winer, the guy behind Radio Userland, said "hooray", and arranged for Radio Userland to use this new communication channel. But, he observed, this was harder to do than he thought was necessary.
The difference of opinion was interesting to a bunch of people because it touches on two things we all suddenly need to do. Things that each of us has done, but that are still new enough that nobody is completely sure how to do them best.
- How should we best talk to Web servers when we're asking questions, not just fetching pages? Web servers let us do two things; we can
GET something or we can
PUT was really intended, way back when the Web was first designed, for something else that never worked out, but the street finds a use for things. So, which should we use, and how?
- Nowadays, what we send to the Web server is often XML, and what we get back is bound to be XML. This has lots of advantages, but it also takes some work. One of the reasons Winer complained is that the new Technorati approach meant more work for him.
So, we have lots of discussion amongst technical people all over the world this week on these two interlinked questions. Some of it shows up in weblogs. Lots of it happens over email. Still more, I'm sure, happens around water coolers. But a few years back, it would have been water coolers all the way down, and you wouldn't even know it was happening.