Threadneedle and RSS

The problem with a developer being around during the design phase of an application is that the developer tends to pull things back to an implementation viewpoint – we can’t help ourselves.

However, a discussion about ThreadNeedle and RSS is, I feel, important at this time.

Why am I not creating ThreadNeedle as a new module on RSS (Rich Site Summary)? After all, as webloggers we’re familiar with RSS, weblogging tools already generate RSS files, and we’re used to using aggregation tools that process RSS. Why am I not piggy-backing ThreadNeedle on to the RSS specification?

RSS started as a way of recording information about channels – sources of information of interest. The adoption of RSS within the weblogging community grew out of Dave Winer’s and Userland’s support of RSS as an XML vocabulary to describe individual weblog postings. With RSS, news aggregators can grab this information, providing it for quick purusal.

RSS 1.0 is based on RDF – Resource Description Framework. RDF is, in reality, a meta-language, a way to describe languages so that any vocabulary can be described in RDF. One aspect of RDF is that it can be used to describe XML vocabularies, something we’ve desperately needed since the inception of XML.

In a manner similar to the relational data model being used to describe different business data within commercial database systems, with RDF you can create different vocabularies for different business uses, and the same tools and technology can work with each. So, I can create a RDF vocabulary for a post-content management system, and a vocabularly for ThreadNeedle, and process both with the exact same Java and Perl APIs as I can use with RSS 1.0. For instance, I’ve processed RDF from all three types of XML documents using Jena (Java API) with absolutely no change to the code I used.

Very powerful. Very handy. What’s been missing from XML since day one.

Best of all, through the use of “namespaces” – ways of identifying which elements belong to what vocabularly – I can combine different vocabularies in one document and the namespace designation prevents element collision: two elements with the same name from two different vocabularies combined in one document.

Within RSS, the use of namespaces is being used to add “modules” to the RSS specification -new additions to the vocabulary to record information about new types of sites, such as WikiWeb. These modules are, in reality, new vocabularies that can stand alone, but are meant to be used with RSS. With this, the core RSS specification doesn’t need to be modified to meet new business requirements (i.e. aggregate information from WikiWeb sites).

Good stuff.

However, RSS has a specific business purpose – to aggregate information from various sources of information, including weblogs, and to allow subscription to same. The point of focus of RSS is a specific news source – a weblog or a WikiWeb or a web site (technically referred to as “channel” within RSS) – and vocabulary elements become adjectives of same.

ThreadNeedle has a different business purpose. For instance, it’s main entity of interest is the discussion thread, which transcends any one source of any one point on the dialog thread. In addition, there is a connectivity between thread points that is critical information to capture – again something that’s not important from a business requirement standpoint for RSS.

Bottom line: trying to add blogthreading as a module to RSS would be the same as trying to use a banking database for an insurance company application. Yes, both are financial applications and both support customers and have to meet certain levels of accountability (government, stock holders, and so on). However, at this point the similarity ends – the business models differ.

More information:

RSS 1.0 spec
RDF Primer

Travel Weather Weblogging


Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I checked and it’s only 85 degrees and 20% humidity outside – St. Louis is 91 and 41% humidity. I’m going to die. I just know I’m going to die. I’m going to hit the sidewalk there and my toes are going to curl up and I’ll start melting into this puddle of goo, plaintively calling out “I’m melting. I’m melting.”

Allan posted a link to a cartoon send up of webloggers. Okay, I squirmed a bit with this ‘toon. I must write more in-depth political essays of the essentialness of the American experience, and our war on terror. And must weblog about sex more. Not today, though. I’m tired, and have a headache.

This is fun: AKMA, Wonder Chicken, and Rageboy have been given parts in a re-make of Dune. AKMA stars as Dr. Yueh, Wonder Chicken is Jamis, and Chris Locke is The Beast Rabban. Of course, now that they’re all big names and stars they won’t be socializing with the little people. We can kiss off the cozy meetings over coffee on Tuesdays, the Saturday socials.

Sheila Lennon writes about a byline strike at the Providence Journal, the Washington Post, Canadian publications and elsewhere. Article writers are withholding their bylines from stories in protest about not having a contract between their various Newspaper Guilds and the publications they write for.

This is an interesting protest because writers like to be given credit for their publications. I support the writers – of course – but wouldn’t a better strike be to not write for the publication at all?

Shannon’s a Godmother of a new baby girl, Charlotte. Can’t ask for a better nanny to sing one to sleep can one?

Hmmm. That last sentence was meant as a compliment. You all took that as a compliment, didn’t you?

And chocorate. I like chocorate.

Just Shelley

City of Salt

I stepped out for a look around earlier today, getting fairly well drenched in a summer rain storm. Afterwards, I felt like I was in a sauna and finally had to come back to the hotel to cool off. Adapting to the heat and humidity will take me a little time after the relatively cool, breezy San Francisco area.

I used to live in Salt Lake City years ago when I was 15. In fact, I was a “teenage runnaway”, hitting the road and hitchhiking all over the west. I settled in Salt Lake City because I met some people who gave me a place to stay until I found a job as a waitress is a small cafe. Naturally, I lied about my age, telling everyone I was 19.

I have always had ambivalent feelings about Salt Lake. It’s a beautiful city, not too big, not too small, nestled at the foothills of some incredible mountains. If you watched the Winter Olympics earlier this year, then you know that Salt Lake is one of the favorite ski places in the country.

However, Salt Lake has a dark side – an underground population that exists in the streets and the backways, usually ignored by the good citizens of the town. While it’s true that all cities have underground populations, Salt Lake seems to have people who are either Ozzie and Harriet or Undergrounders – no slightly left of center, somewhat in, somewhat out people such as, well, myself.

When I lived in Salt Lake City years ago I was part of the Underground, hanging with kids who did drugs and partied all night. Once a friend OD’d on speed and we had to rush him to the hospital. The ambulance pulled up to the ER room, the nurse came out, took one look at my friend, and told the drivers to take him to the county hospital. Luckily he didn’t die because of the delay. But if he had, I suppose the good people of the City would think that it was one less Undergrounder, one step closer to God for the city.

I remember walking all night with a guy named Blue and looking up at the gold figure on top of the Temple, thinking that if the city was truly based on the foundation of God and brotherhood, why were I and my friend walking around all night, carefully steered away from the ‘good parts’ of the city by the police. You could die knifed to death in the city as long as you didn’t bleed on the sidewalk in front of the Tabernacle.

Today when I was out and about I could see the changes in the city, particularly from the Olympics. Salt Lake has a new light rail system, which is nice. There’s a large new outdoor mall near the city, which I’ll try and visit later this afternoon. Lots of new shops, but many of them look closed.

I also noticed people wearing clean khaki shorts and cotton blouses, hair conservatively styled, several children in tow. Clean cut, wholesome Americans who most likely vote for Bush and fly the American flag from their front door, their reading restricted to those works that bring comfort and feelings of peace and tranquility.

In between the good people were individuals wearing spiked collars and shaved heads, black t-shirts, jeans riding low until the cracks of their butts showed. Haunted looks in their faces – lone wolves trying to find the rest of the pack among all the sheep.

Just Shelley Travel

Pardon me—whose unwanted baggage am I tripping over?

The storm had cleared and with it took much of the humidity. The temperature was still warm, but manageable. Best of all a gentle breeze was blowing down off the mountains.

I went walking around Temple Square, drifting in and around wedding parties, tourists, and Mormon Sisters who were helping folks. I walked by one Sister and she gives me a big smile, asking how I was doing and if I needed help. I realized I was next to the Tabernacle and had hoped to hear the Choir sing. When I asked the young lady about choir performances, she not only gave me times when they were playing but enlisted the help of another sister to work out a strategy for me so that I could get excellent seating. They worked with the precision of enlisted soldiers determined that I, visiting from San Francisco, had a chance to hear the choir at its best (tomorrow morning, be there early, sit in this location – got it, Sergeant).

photo of Temple

I also splurged on a horse-drawn carriage ride throughout the city – I am a sucker for horse-drawn carriages. My driver, Emily, obviously loved the city, and the horse, Cleo, was young and very spirited. I had a wonderful trip, not only seeing what really is a beautiful city – a unique city – but also talking with Emily and enjoying the antics of Cleo (who does NOT like loud rock and roll by the way).

After the ride, I asked someone on the street for directions and she not only pointed me out where I needed to go, but also took me by the arm, walked me to the end of the street and literally pointed out the building I was looking for, chatting with me the whole time about making sure I see the Beehive house and the Joseph Smith Museum and…and…

Sometimes we can view things, people, and places through glasses shaded by past trauma and sadness. Rather than rose-colored glasses, these are smoky at best, fogging our vision and impacting on our interpretation of what we see. When I walked out this morning, comparing the City of Salt with young memories, all I could see was Ozzie and Harriet on one side of the street, Undergrounders on the other. This afternoon, I took the glasses off and I saw a city made up of Undergrounders and Ozzie and Harriet, true; but I also saw people like me, like you.

I walked around downtown enjoying the beauty when I noticed a crowd gathered around a group of young women with harps. These were students and friends of Elizabeth Smart the young girl kidnapped from her home June 5th. They were performing at a concert to raise awareness of Elizabeth’s kidnapping and to provide support for Elizabeth’s parents.

Elizabeth’s parents spoke first, not 15 feet in front of me, mother stoic, father breaking down in tears. In another place, in another time, they would be Ozzie and Harriet. Today, they were the grief-stricken, terrified parents of a little girl who was stolen from everything she knew, a family of love and taken for what reason we may never know.

photo of harp players

And then the harp players, ages 4 and up, started playing:

Bah, Bah, Black Sheep have you any wool?

Yes, marry have I,

Three bags full.