RSS moves a step

The news that control of the RSS 2.0 spec was moved from Userland to Harvard Berkman was all over the Blogsphere today. The general consensus seems to be that this is a great move for RSS and that it will really help RSS move forward. I'm not so sure...

Don't get me wrong, I do believe this is a positive move for RSS, but as long as the RSS 2.0 spec remains frozen, how much can really change or move forward? All they can do is clear up some ambiguities in the spec.

I asked Dave for his opinion on possibly unfreezing the RSS 2.0 spec on his comments thread but unfortunately he has not (yet) responded.

If the advisory board were to vote on possibly unfreezing the RSS 2.0 spec, this may really change some things. Only then could they truly move RSS forward and possibly add some of the extensions that Atom is talking about. It might even allow the Atom project to be folded into the RSS standard so that we can keep a single all-encompassing spec. Now that would truly be a step forward.

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I'm curious. I keep hearing people talk about what is wrong with RSS. What exactly is so wrong with RSS that is going to be fixed with Atom that can't be fixed by clarifying stuff in the RSS spec?

I've heard most of the rants and they sound flat to my ears. However you're an aggregator writer so you may have a different perspective from all the other "RSS sucks" ranters I've read.

Posted by Dare Obasanjo at July 19, 2003 1:20 AM

Seeking common ground

Trackback from Sam Ruby at July 19, 2003 7:41 AM

Dare: one significant difference that is developing with the Atom specs is that Atom has several different document types: feeds, entries, archives, introspection (API), maybe a real "site summary" type, and possibly some others. In other words, a *set* of document types for users and tools to use -- some via an "API", others with plain old HTTP GET.

Really Simple Syndication only addresses one of those document types directly (channel) and one indirectly (an item within a channel). RDF Site Summary can address all of those as RDF, but only specifies vocabularies for channels and items, and a syntax profile only for feeds. Basing off of RDF Site Summary was suggested, but I think most believe that's a bad political move regardless and many won't go near RDF anyway.

*Could* Really Simple Syndication be modularized and extended with new document types for this purpose? Of course it could. My take on the process for doing that *today* is "write your own copy of the spec, publish it in some random place on the web, beg people to adopt it, in a couple of years maybe we'll take a look at making it the *real* RSS spec, but until then it's confusion and competition and we'll fight it tooth and nail, and for goodness sake please don't call it RSS during the uptake process."

The transfer of RSS to Berkman is an indication that "competition and confusion" might be less an issue today than it was, say, a few weeks ago, but there is still no indication of a willingness to adapt "RSS" in these ways and provide equal billing for those adaptations.

Posted by Ken MacLeod at July 19, 2003 1:01 PM

So basically there's little wrong with RSS besides the fact that it doesn't have a strong family of specs around it.

That's what I thought.

Posted by Dare Obasanjo at July 19, 2003 2:46 PM

You're welcome.

Now, where's the home page for putting this strong family of specs, and what are the rules for putting them there?

Posted by Ken MacLeod at July 19, 2003 3:08 PM

Ken, we have a directory on the RSS site at Berkman with lots of room for more specs. Yesterday we added a pointer to a spec written by Rael Dornfest and Chris Nandor, for example.

If you have some specs you think should be in there, let's get them in there. That's what the directory is for.

Posted by Dave Winer at July 19, 2003 4:39 PM

Done. First two links are for the ssf-dev mailing list and wiki. I think I submitted them to the wrong sub-directory though, due to the link from the home page and not seeing a link to the submit feature from other pages.

Posted by Ken MacLeod at July 19, 2003 5:36 PM

> The transfer of RSS to Berkman is an indication
> that "competition and confusion" might be less an
> issue today than it was, say, a few weeks ago,
> but there is still no indication of a willingness
> to adapt "RSS" in these ways and provide equal
> billing for those adaptations.

Here's one indication: I'd be delighted to see the extension mechanism of RSS 2.0 used to solve problems not solvable within the core.

FWIW, I believe that "funky" was meant not to deprecate any use of namespaced extensions in RSS 2.0, but rather to deprecate uses intended to supersede synonymous core functionality.

I wrote a column the other week about my experience as an app developer working in a Lisp-like language with a team who built the Lisp-like engine supporting my apps. It was incredibly productive because the boundary between the "core" and the "periphery" was flexible; things could and did move in both directions. When we got an extension mechanism into RSS 2.0 I really hoped we'd see that kind of dynamic, and I continue to hope that we will.

- Jon

Posted by Jon Udell at July 19, 2003 11:24 PM

There seems to be some confusion of what was actually transfered to Harvard from UserLand. Some people have seemed to reach the silly conclusion that the RSS format itself and control of it has been transfered. That, of course, cannot be the case since UserLand has disclaimed ownership of the format.

What was transfered was the text of the specification that resided on UserLand's server, and the copyright thereof, not the format itself, not the control of it, nothing more. How, exactly, is it a Big Deal (TM) that a document that describes RSS was moved and not the format itself and not the control of it? Or are UserLand or Dave Winer re-claiming control and ownership of RSS?

From the Advisory Board FAQ:

"Is RSS controlled by one person?

No. Each of the advisors must make up his or her own mind on the issues that come before the board. Each member has one vote. In order for any member's point of view to prevail he or she must convince at least one other member to vote the same way."

This insinuates that not one person -- but all three people of the board -- *control* RSS. What happened to that "nobody owns RSS" thing? Was that just a lie, a joke, or what?

Posted by Tomas at July 20, 2003 3:09 PM

Consider the possibility Dave Whiner has very personal reasons for keeping RSS as 'his baby'. It should be OS'd - and that's that.

Posted by Sam Labourne at September 19, 2003 8:40 AM
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