Tuesday, 1 July 2003

Bring out da funk, bring in da noise

Mark Pilgrim has removed all the namespaced elements from his RSS feeds. Presumably this makes them non-funky, although the funkiness of the now-elided (but valuable) content:encoded seems debatable—which, I guess, is the whole problem with the “funkiness” issue. One man’s duplication is another man’s way of expressing alternative representations of the same data. (Mark, to his credit, does write up separate excerpts, so they are generally more valuable than your run-of-the-mill “chopped off plaintext representation of the HTML” excerpt feed, like mine.)

He explains:

I want to do all sorts of fancy things that RSS doesn’t allow for. Sure, I could shoehorn a bunch of stuff into namespaces and call it RSS, and it would be, technically; I’ve been doing that for months now. But that’s fundamentally the wrong approach; I see that now. I need a format that is geared for power users like me. It will still have a relatively simple core (probably not as simple as RSS, I mean, how could it be?) but it will have a wide array of well-defined extensions, well-documented, well-maintained, well-organized, and (I hope, someday) well-supported.

Now, I’m not sure where the “power user” line is at; I’m not much of a power user in the grand scheme of things, and even I’d like to see straightforward support for things like geographic and hierarchical aggregation, a unified content model (so my syndication feed, posting API, and TrackBack metadata would share the same code), and sensible treatment of multiple content payloads. I’m not even sure RSS works well for much of anything beyond the “My Netscape” design it started out as. But with RSS and “Echo” soon to be available, people can use the latter when they need to go beyond RSS’s capabilities—without accidentally breaking compatibility with apps that can’t grok advanced features like XML namespaces. And that, my friends, is a Good Thing™.