A user tries to follow the Echos of the RSS debate

Echo: Stop the madness!.

Log Format Roadmap. There seems to be quite some excitement around Ram Ruby’s Roadmap. At first I was a little skeptical on the project (why not calling it YASF as in Yet Another Syndication Format?). After reading Tim Bray’s why we need a new format at all I think that it’s worth a try. Recent history tells us that the main divide was between people saying “It has to be powerful and thus not necessarily easy to understand, we will build tools to manage the complexity” and others saying “It has to be simple so that anybody will be able to hack new solutions using it without being an expert”. Both positions make sense. You don’t really need to understand how the jpeg format works to create cool images, but at the same time all of us learned html looking at other people’s pages, because it was relatively easy to understand. Ultimately it’s only a matter of a very little number of tools vendors, most of them small companies, agreeing on a new standard and changing the world. [Paolo Valdemarin: Paolo’s Weblog]

My first thoughts were “don’t we have enough format arguments as it is?”  I guess I am less skeptical now.  Maybe this is a chance to end the madness and get our collective shit together.

I like the sound of Echo as a name for the new format (much more than PIE).  I think a new name is essential to avoid getting into squabbles about RSS 1.5, 3.0, whatever…

I would prefer that it not use RDF unless that is absolutely necessary.  If there are advantages to having RDF available then Danny Ayers has already shown how this can be achieved.  On the other hand I would like to see some advantage taken of the work that has been done on topic maps, like XTM, XFML and ENT.

I’m also hopeful that Dave’s comment (I was a little suprised not to find a permalink) indicates that he will support the new format although I notice he has not added his name to the list of supporters.

[Curiouser and curiouser!]

Matt pulls together a good collection of posts on what’s been going on in trying to specify a format for weblog posts. The place I found the most usefuf starting point was Tim Bray’s explanation of why we need a new format at all. I found it nicely user oriented.

I depend on other people’s efforts to build the tools I use to do my work. When the engineering debates spill over into incompatibilties and inconsisentcies among the tools my life is harder. As one current example, I would like to subscribe to the RSS feed from the blog thought?horizon. I used to subscribe but it got upgraded to something that my current aggregator tool chokes on. I could send David Buchan an email and point out the problem. Or not.

As a user I don’t really care about the pissing contests that developers like to play. I don’t have the time or the patience to deal with them. I’ve been an early adopter of technology since before I knew what that was. I’m willing to tinker and I like to understand how things work. But I don’t like getting whipsawed. If Bill Gates and Microsoft do something annoying it’s usually time to BOGU. When it’s one of the little guys I’ll place one or two bets and then I get annoyed and then I go somewhere else. 

I want to find ways to support and encourage the innovations like weblogs and wikis that get built because some smart programmer has an itch they need to scratch. I think I get an edge from finding tools before the rest of the pack. And I like to help bring those tools to others who trust me. One way that I control my risk is to make sure that I can get my data in and out of formats that I have some reason to believe are reasonably standard and wide spread. Right now I mostly watch these arguments, worry a lot, and hope they’ll get resolved so I can get on with managing my information environment.