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.


Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2002/05/19.html#a252