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Sunday, May 19, 2002

Extending RSS: first things first

On the always-thorny question of how to extend RSS, I guess I'm for a first-things-first aproach.

Rory Perry:

If the WV court has an XML feed for recent opinions (which we do), the lawyer in New Orleans could subscribe to that feed and watch for orders and opinions regarding asbestos mass litigation.

Sam Ruby:

If we want Internet-scale standards (whereby the likes of Rory Perry can create discipline-specific extensions), we need to get to the point where everybody has equal opportunity to create modules.

I am not religious about this stuff. I see no problem with Rory and his legal pals agreeing on some tags (like <asbestos>) which they'll use by mutual consent. The immediate bottleneck is getting software into their hands that enables one user to pop such a tag into a feed, and another user to discriminate based on the tag. And then getting them to the point where they can actually experience that.

For a while now I've been sending out RSS channels with things like <pubDate>, <blurb>, and <fullitem>. Nobody's complained, so apparently it's not breaking any existing aggregator. Thanks to the new ability, in Radio, to replace the RSS writer, I can -- and indeed will -- replace my feed with RSS 1.0, using Dublin Core metadata and possibly defining a module to account for the variant elements (long vs short description) in my feed.

The phrase "Internet-scale" always worries me a bit, though. Until and unless the likes of Rory and friends can start bootstrapping the process of creating and consuming customized feeds, there's no scaling issue to worry about. If and when namespace collisions start to become a problem, then people will be in a position to see the value in modularized readers and writers. At which point, it shouldn't be hard to transition to them.

But do people need modularized readers and writers to even get to first base? Or do they just need to find out what it feels like to hit a few singles, using the simplest tools? Given Sam's (and my) surprise that even the most basic use of RSS is still relatively new to many bloggers, I'm inclined to take things one step at a time.

 

11:41:45 PM    

Sam Ruby, sounding like a cross between Mark Twain and Jonathan Swift, makes a priceless comparison on the rest-discuss list:

It is a bit ironic that a set of architectural practices under the title of "Representation State Transfer" defines virtually nothing about the way in which state is to be represented, and instead focuses on how Objects (or more precisely, resources) are to be accessed.

Similarly, I find it a bit ironic that a protocol originally created as an acronym for Simple Object Access Protocol specifies nothing about how an object is to be accessed, but instead focuses pretty much exclusively on how messages are to be represented.

He concludes:

It is my hope that some day a paper can be jointly authored which shows both SOAP and REST in a positive light, shows the strengths of both, and how they can be used in concert.

Amen.

11:13:12 PM    

The secret life of numbers

One day, fiddling with Google, I noticed that you could search for plain integers -- 3, 42, 80386, whatever -- and get pagecounts that seemed to vary in interesting ways. Somebody should do something with this, I thought.

Just now, following a backlink, I stumbled across the Art and Architecture section of the rodcorp blog, and lo, Golan Levin and friends have taken that idea to the absolute limit. The Secret Life of Numbers is a breathtaking Java applet that visualizes results from "a popular search engine" along the dimension of integers up to 100000. Left-click-hold to zoom in, right-click-hold to zoom out. Wow!

 

8:29:44 PM    

Manhattan project for energy independence

Tom Friedman nails it in today's op-ed. The problem isn't that we can't think like the bad guys, it's that we're not thinking like good guys.

I don't blame President Bush at all for his failure to imagine evil. I blame him for something much worse: his failure to imagine good.

I blame him for squandering all the positive feeling in America after 9/11, particularly among young Americans who wanted to be drafted for a great project that would strengthen America in some lasting way a Manhattan project for energy independence. [New York Times]

Amidst new reminders that we are not out of the woods, in terms of security -- as, of course, we can never be -- Friedman's essay should ring a lot of bells. Some of the best minds of our generation are idling right now, waiting for the economic engine to start turning over again. I ran into quite a few of them last week at the ETECH conference. Some are working on 9/11-inspired security projects, but with no real sense of satisfaction or hope.

A Manhattan project for energy independence is one example of the kind of initiative that could raise hopes, enhance security,  and put idle minds, CPU cycles, and bandwidth to work again.  

 

6:58:04 PM    

Hyperlinks (are supposed to) matter

An InfoWorld article of mine called Hyperlinks Matter appeared online yesterday. As Robert J Seymour points out, the title was ironic in view of InfoWorld's no-links policy:

If you really want to rally for better URL addressing, please start with your own article. This would be a far more useful article if direct links were provided to the quoted sources and mentioned discussions. [rsjr]

Agreed. I hope to see a more web-friendly InfoWorld in the future. Meanwhile, here are some of the links related to the piece:

- Sjoerd Visscher's URIs for Dynamic Pages

- W3C Technical Architecture Group mailing list, May 2000

- Paul Prescod's Extreme Web Services posting to rest-discuss

- W3C primer on URIs, URLs, URNs...

And here are some that were in the illustration that will appear in the magazine, but did not appear on the web:

1. Macromedia publishes an XML-formatted newsfeed for developers

2. The W3C's XSLT transformation service

3. An XSLT stylesheet that transforms Macromedia's feed into RSS format

4. An RSS version of the Macromedia news feed

2:53:16 PM    


© Copyright 2002 Jon Udell.



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