Social Media

Scrambled eggs

It’s Easter morning where I am. The storms of last night were mild in our area, and the sun is up, the birds singing, and a nice breeze blowing through my windows. The trees are mostly green, except for the dogwood, with it’s pink and white dog tooth blooms.

If I were a Christian, I would end my post here, because it is Easter, after all. Oh, I might mention the bunnies running around earlier. Since I’m not a Christian, and weblogging is neither all Christian (or any other religion) nor all based in the US, one can continue on as usual despite this holiday or that. Well, other than one can’t order any camera equipment for this week. (And I so wanted that 600mm.) I wish now, though, that I’d bought a new spring outfit. I always used to buy a light yellow outfit for Easter. Yellow is not my color, but I only wanted yellow for Easter. Go figure.

Sam Ruby pointed to a Matt Mullenweg post titled, The Feed Validator is Dead to Me. It seems that Sam et al at the Validator made a correction in how the case is treated for wfw:commentRSS. This, in turn, led to Matt’s rejection of all things Validator:

Is anyone else sick and tired of the so-called feed validator changing its mind on fundamental issues every other week? I’m sure Sam Ruby and whoever else is still working on the Validator mean well, but the constant ivory tower decisions to change the way it interpets “valid RSS 2.0″ is making it seem more like a political advocacy tool than anything else. Perhaps I should give the benefit of the doubt and “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

Whoa! It is just such tirades that make me hesitant about porting back to WordPress. It’s not that the software isn’t good — I like it. Or that the developers aren’t hardworking–they are, and I appreciate their hard work. It’s that Matt has a real strong arbitrary streak himself, all the while that he disdains what he perceives to be an arbitrary streak in others. This inconsistency tends to grip my graw, as we used to say back in the home country.

Hey, I’m all for arbitrary, but not in my tech. I want my tech to be mind numbingly consistent. I don’t want the developers of Firefox’s JavaScript engine to suddenly decide that wouldn’t it be fun to process all math operations in Firefox as base 8 rather than base 10 by default.

A technology validator’s primary purpose is to validate against a known specification or standard: no more, no less. If the specification or standard is open for interpretation, then the results may not be consistent against various implementations. If a feed specification or standard is clearly defined so that there are no ambiguities, then neither Sam nor anyone else can make any form of arbitrary decision as to what the validator will, and will not, accept. There would be no issue of personalities, because either the feed is valid, or it’s not.

It’s the same with code: either a PHP program is written using valid PHP, or it breaks. I would expect that someone who has spent time with WaSP, as Matt has, would understand this one. After all, I seem to remember this organization’s intolerance to Mozilla’s growing pains back in the days when this effort was fairly young. As for myself, I have finally taken WaSP’s message to heart–so much so that I want my syndication feed to be without ambiguities, and valid.

I know, same old story: the syndication ‘wars’ continue, in which case most of you turn away in ennui. The thing is, I don’t think many of you realize how fragile the whole syndication thing is. When you have imprecise specifications, undergoing change from many different players, the whole thing is held together by a thread. The only reason it’s worked to this point is that most feed aggregators include code to handle all the many arbitrary differences. Frankly, who this serves, I have no idea: I think it’s an abysmal waste of development skill and time.

I’m more or less deciding to drop my RSS 1.x feed, primarily because I can incorporate my use of RDF into many other applications. I’ve never thought that syndication was the best use of RDF, and to too many people, it is RDF (as witness WordPress use of RDF to signal an RSS 1.0 feed, rather than rss1, which would be more appropriate). I’m thinking of making my full content Atom feed my main feed and removing the username/password, as some folk have had problems with this. I figure if my content ends up being re-published in its entirety at another site without my permission, I’ll then handle it the way it should be handled: by using my skill with tech to demonstrate to the site the error of its ways.

The Atom feed is the only feed I know of currently being actively supported by an organization outside of this environment. Support for RSS 1.x seems to have died out. RSS 2.0 is doomed to be forever broken because of an ill-advised assignment of the specification to an organization that seems to be indifferent to the problems associated with it. Okay, fine. Atom: one and only.

Still, I’m not sure how redirecting my feed of one type to another will work. Will have to try, see what happens.

But to return to the concept of arbitrariness, when I do have the time to finish porting back to WP, then I know I’ll be committed to spending time having to create plugins countering some of this arbitrariness. That’s okay, I can publish the plugins; a developer likes to see her work used by others.

As for the syndication feed Validator, frequent changes are perhaps not the best approach when it comes to what the Validator will or will not accept–I would suggest those maintaining the Validator consider a Fix Friday, once or twice a month, preceded by a note about what will change. No need to add to the chaos.

Oh and for those of faith: Happy Easter, May your Passover be a happy time with your families.

My goodness, Bloglines is really broken. It absolutely refuses to acknowledge a new syndication feed URL. If it isn’t in the repository, it literally doesn’t believe it exists. Luckily I’ve been making a move to Newsgator to manage my feeds between my different machines.

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