Technology Weblogging

Consumer rights and RSS

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Yesterday was a disappointing technology day. I had hoped to use the position of devil’s advocate at the RSS-Dev group to see if we couldn’t get a firmer definition of what the group sees as its future direction, strategy, as well as specific reasons for use of RDF. I continue to see confusion reign as to a) what the group sees as its purpose, and b) what the group sees as its direction.

Last week, I found I was having a hard time justifying the use of RDF for throwaway syndication feeds. I’ve always felt that if you can’t easily justify something, or provide a solid argument in support, either you don’t understand the need, or there isn’t a need — one or the other. At this point, I couldn’t continue to support RDF for throwaways.

Phil found out in the last two weeks of very hard effort that sometimes RDF just doesn’t work for a specific application. Doesn’t mean RDF is ‘bad’ — I use it for 3 applications at my web sites and it’s wonderful stuff. But RDF isn’t a replacement for XML. Sometimes XML works better. Sometimes plain text works better. If we start developing an attitude of “It’s on the web, so let’s put it into RDF”, we’re guilty of using the right technology for the wrong task, which doesn’t benefit anyone.

Now, I can support RDF for a different type of business, such as persistently documenting each weblog or news item posting, using something that is Dublin Core like, but geared more towards the document sub-unit business. This then could be used for traditional syndication/aggregation, but would primarily be used to literally document our content — for searches, for identification, for whatever. And I tried to get the RSS-Dev group to bite off on this as a possible direction, but in the end I was left with “we’re syndication/aggregation”, or in another case, “we’re RSS and the purpose of this group isn’t justification but tools development”.

Making a long story short: though I respect many of the individuals involved with RSS 1.0, their effort and hard work and intelligence and capability as well as energy, I can’t continue to support RSS 1.0 or RSS-Dev. Not with this current level of confusion about what the group sees as its purpose.

Unfortunately, not supporting RSS 1.0 is seen as giving victory to Dave Winer at Userland, by forcing us into choosing an RSS 0.9x/RSS 2.0 path. However, I still don’t approve of Dave’s approach to implementing RSS and his unwillingness to give up ownership of it. I can respect Dave’s contribution, and his hard work and effort, and his intelligence and capability, but I can’t support a supposedly ‘open’ spec that’s controlled by one company.

Ultimately, supporting either specification means, to me, continuing to support this competition between the groups, competition which threatens to Never…Go…Away, as can be seen in the comments to Phil’s posting.

Sometimes, when I read these types of comments, I feel as if you and I don’t matter at all; that you and I are nothing more than scraps of meat being fought over by two junk yard dogs. Well, this just peeves me. So, I’m taking the route that’s been available to consumers since the beginning of time: I’m not buying.

I’m not buying into RSS 0.9x. I’m not buying into RSS 2.0. I’m not buying into RSS 1.0.

I changed my RSS 0.91 and RSS 1.0 templates to read the following:


RSS not supported here

This weblog does not support RSS 0.9x, RSS 2.0, or RSS 1.0. If you wish to view entries, may I suggest that you visit the weblog, and save your fast skimming for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.


My weblog. My web sites. My choice.