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Rethinking RSS 1.0 (was Re: XULing or Grueling)

From: Bijan Parsia <bparsia@cs.man.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 8 Oct 2007 02:30:17 +0100
Message-Id: <847E3621-EA58-474D-B5FC-CD3FAA376610@cs.man.ac.uk>
Cc: "SW-forum Web" <semantic-web@w3.org>, "Linking Open Data" <linking-open-data@simile.mit.edu>
To: "T.Heath" <T.Heath@open.ac.uk>

On Oct 5, 2007, at 11:10 AM, T.Heath wrote:

> Hi Bijan, (CC Linking Open Data list),
> Nice. I think we could all use more prompts to stop and reflect.


> Some
> comments inline...
>> Now some of these may have had other factors as well (RSS 1.0 is an
>> obvious example). But it's not clear to me that RSS 1.0 is such a
>> great idea. If we could press a button and eliminate all the other
>> flavors and Atom, or RDFize all of them, would we do so? Would it be
>> a good idea?
> Yes. Speaking purely at a practical level I really appreciate being  
> able
> to manipulate RSS data using a common set of RDF tools, and wish I  
> could
> do this more often. Finding non-RSS1.0 feeds is always kind of  
> annoying.
> I'm sure there's a stack of other reasons related to the innate
> linky-ness of RDF that sets it apart from other syndication formats.

Back in the day, I was writing an article series for XML.com on RSS  
1.0 driven websites. Never finished one in the series, alas.

Let's break this down a bit. It's clear that RDF tools work for you  
and you work well with them. That's immediately a biasing factor.  
Indeed, when selling to some clients my folks will often point out  
that RDF is *one of many* possible solutions, with different  
strengths and weaknesses, and that one of the strengths it has for  
projects involving us is that we're real good at and with it. But  
this is true for Smalltalk guys too. Or Lisp folk.

But let's suppose that RDF does given you an edge in manipulating RSS  
data (for certain tasks (more on this below (and you know I'm nesting  
like this because of the Lisp reference above :)))). How *much* of an  
edge would it have to have before that edge became a reason for  
people to switch? (In general, minority tech comes with prices in  
terms of infrastructure: generally there's less effort thus less  
mature tools and less experienced workforce. So just winning isn't  
enough, you have to win by a very large margin. That or be cool  
enough so people don't care about the cost.)

Is there *any* RSS reader that uses RDF inside? I've long wanted to  
take JSpace and make it into a kick ass blog reader...but the appeal  
there is the interface. We'd use RSS 1.0 internally just because  
JSpace per accidens speaks RDF.

Perhaps we can make one? One with FOAF or XFN savvy? A show case  

Does RSS have to be RDF on the wire? Can't you use something like  
Mark Pilgrims very permissive parser and get all the 1.0ness you like  
out of XML? Aren't there lots of issues in generation and parsing  
that RDF would not only not help, but might get in the way?

Do your manipulations support users in any interesting way not seen  
in XML based manipulations? Would it improve the atom protocol?

If you work with RSS 1.0, you kinda have to give up XSLT and XQuery  
(oh, you can fake it, but that really really sucks in my experience).  
And decent CSS (at least reliably). Is this a good idea?

So, what would a World Class Syndication Data Library look like?  
Presumably it'd have to consume all flavors of RSS and Atom pretty  
flawlessly. It should be easy, nay, trivial to *generate* feeds and  
files in all those formats. What then? Can we build such a kick ass  
library (partly out of existing stuff)? Does one already exist?

To sum: I think RDF has definitely lost the wire format war in the  
syndication space, and for good reasons (are they good?). At the very  
least, it doesn't provide enough of a value add and has significant  
downsides. Do you disagree? (Your reply indicates so, but because you  
care about the backend. Doesn't GRDDL, or even, y'know, just  
transforming, do the job for you?)

Sorry to be so query oriented. It's pretty easy to throw out  
questions; rather harder to answer them. I'd be interested in a case  
study document on RSS 1.0 and on XUL *esp* if they were negative :) I  
could write one pretty easily on the downsides of RDF and OWL for  
syntax. (See my cri de coeur:
But the follow up is interesting.) (Note, there are dissenters.)

You might find this post interesting as well:

In short, I found it much, much easier to get my data linked when I  
didn't go through linked data, so to speak.

Received on Monday, 8 October 2007 01:31:33 UTC

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