Want to be Wayward?

We’re looking at opening the doors for the Wayward Weblogger co-op here in the next few weeks. Still having to work issues through, and still helping some of the original group make their move. The issue of permalinks and using different weblogging tools becomes more obvious all the time.

I also posted my first rough draft of the look and feel for the at the co-op weblog. Thanks to Ben from my comments, I’m getting help with Blosxom, so there’s hope for me yet.

So much technology to play with, so much to write, so little time…


Centralization? No

Since the talk this week is going to be on weblogging portability – you can see it in the air, you can smell it in the wind, this is the topic this week – might as well continue the discussion I started in the last posting. In fact, I should move my Weblogging for Poets permalink essay up and write it here rather than wait until I get the weblogs going.

For now though, John Robb comes up with the following in regards to weblogging portability:

I would start with single repository of weblogs where the owner of the weblog can change the location of their weblog and other descriptive data by signing into an account. This service would need to be tightly controlled and trusted. If you don’t own the domain, your hosting company or hosting sponsor would need to support the account creation.

John then sees this repository being used by the weblogging tools as a way of checking to see who is moved. A centralized repository of weblog domains? Not a chance.

As stated in the last posting, you should use your own domain name for your weblog, you really should. With this you can move from host to host and literally take your weblog with you. However, if you find yourself someday kicked out of your hosting service, say at or or any number of other hosted services, then the best way to advertise that you’re moved is just how John’s doing it – use the weblogs and pass the information via word of mouth…urh…blog.

Using a centralized DNS wannabe morphed weblog finder to solve the problems of moving away from a centralized host, is not the answer to this particular problem.


John Robb’s new location

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I’m not what you would call one of John Robb’s biggest fans. However, when a person’s weblog is summarily yanked, as if to make this person vanish from the ether, then I’ll do everything in my power to help him resurface.

John Robb, in his new weblog locationwrote:

NEVER (under any circumstances) publish a weblog to a domain that you don’t control.

Considering that the majority of webloggers publish to domains they don’t control (i.e. blogspot, Bloghorn, Live Journal, JournURL, AOL, and even John’s new effort at Mindplex), this might be a bit difficult for most folks to follow. Difficult, but not impossible, if a few rules were agreed to by weblogging tool builders and hosts:

1. Hosted services support domain pointers.

If your service can support something like (or, it can support a unique domain name for the weblog. They might need to charge a small fee for this service, but it’s doable. If your host can’t support this effort, run for your life and find a different service.

If they do support this service, then get a domain – you’ll be happy eventually that you did. Just ask any number of people who have moved recently what a pain in the butt it is trying to deal with mega-broken linkdom.

2. Hosted services and all weblog tools support the same permalink format, or allow the person to set the permalink format.

It doesn’t help that Blogger using some kind of algorithm to set permalinks, and MT uses a unique identifier (though this can be changed) – there is no compatibility between any of the products when it comes to permalink format. Either the tools need to allow you to specify a format of your own choosing, or the builders and hosting services need to get together and agree on one.

3. Keep a backup of your weblog entries. All weblogging tools, hosted or not, should provide a backup mechanism whereby you can download your material periodically. If they do, backup your material at least weekly.

If all three of these can be met, problems involved with moving between tools and hosts are solved. If the tools can’t meet these three rules – ask the toolmaker, why not?

In the meantime, John Robb’s new weblog address is above. I would also add a corollary to Robb’s Law of posting:

No one service, no one government or organization, and especially no one person should have the power to arbitrarily make another person’s writing, weblog or otherwise, disappear.


Lots of FOAF

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

There seems to be a great deal of activity about FOAF lately, as pointed out by Danny Ayers:

The FOAF (“friend-of-a-friend”) page on the project Wiki is growing into a great link collection, so presumably there’s a fair bit of cross-project interest.

The FOAF project now has a new home page, a weblog, a Wiki and IRC channel (#foaf on

It’s also getting additional use out at Technorati, according to Joi Ito:

Technorati reads the FOAF file from your blog and creates a profile. Your picture from your FOAF file and a link to your profile shows up when you appear in people’s cosmos listings.

These are all good activities, particularly from an RDF perspective. Unlike HTML, RDF isn’t going to come blowing through the front door – it will creep in quietly through the backdoor with different applications that are based on the RDF model, and use the RDF/XML syntax.

However, having said this…

FOAF, as with RSS, does not make the semantic web, all by them lonesomes. Marc Cantor, also getting heavily involved in the FOAF world, recently wrote:

The connections between (n)Echo-Atom and FOAF should be obvious. Now throw in some ThreadsML and RVW – mix it up and out comes a semantic web!

Uh, no.

FOAF is an excellent way of identifying people whom you say you know, with some assumptions, but no guarantees, that they know you back. There is no inherent basis of trust or indication of relationship with FOAF, until you expand on the understanding of what ‘knows’ means in FOAF.

If one were to make a decision on buying a car or a computer based on the fact that you know a person who knows a person who knows a person who knows another who made a recommendation about this car or computer – all relationships documented with FOAF – well then, you deserve what you get if you get a lemon. Trust is diluted with each level of ‘knows’, within the current FOAF vocabulary and existing implementations of same.

There is little semantics in FOAF beyond the fact that it helps to loosely tie together a network of people, and provide some additional information about the people. With this and something like ThreadsML, you can also eventually find out the conversations the person is involved in. Add in this some RSS/Echo/Atom/whatever information and you’ll have a better idea of what they’ve written lately – but all of this combined is not “the Semantic Web”. It’s all just a piece, and a small one at that, of what will eventually become the Semantic Web.

We need a Turing Test of the Semantic Web, a test by while you’ll know the Semantic Web exists when you can do _____ on the web. For instance, I’ll know the Semantic Web exists when:

I can search for a poem about the loss of freedom, and one that uses a closed door to represent this feeling, metaphorically. In addition, I only want to see poems that someone I know, directly or indirectly (3 levels down, show relationship) has either reviewed or recommended, or discussed at some time. My preference would be British poet, a Romantic. Perferably, I would prefer a style similar to Wordsworth.

When I can do this, and I don’t get a lot of crap back as a result, then I’ll know that the Semantic Web is here.