Funky Defined

Dave sent me a link to what he means by funky.

"A feed is funky if it uses extensions to provide information that can be expressed by core elements.

"If everyone strives to not be funky, then it becomes trivially easy to write aggregators, and new entrants to the market can get in quickly and at low cost, and users get more choice.

If we were to go the opposite way, with every source of feeds inventing their own replacements for core RSS 2.0 elements, the cost to enter would become increasingly high, and it becomes more likely that programs will express compatibility in terms of products, not formats. So "funky" is anti-interop; and "not funky" is pro-interop." – Dave Winer

He also adds:

"I never wanted to have to define this, because I hoped the issue would go away, quickly. But the people who could have done something about it refused to, so the wound festered. The problem, imho, isn't the term, but the practice. People should try to follow the spec, and if they don't we should ask them to explain why.

BTW, I don't think it's cool to repeat information two or more times in a feed. That makes it more complicated to understand. Keep it simple. That's the value of RSS. Anyone who can understand a little HTML can understand RSS. That's important!" – Dave Winer

I still like my Funkyness Illustrated post better.  Words are so…tiring.  I wonder how much exercise value Playboy foldouts have on its readers.  FYI, I am talking about neck tilting and stretching in case you were thinking other things.

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p dir=”ltr”>UPDATE: Unless I misunderstood his words, Dave and I disagree on whether an RSS feed can have both <pubDate> and <dc:date>.  I think it's harmless.  Dave don't think it's cool.

Comments and Replies on RSS

These are some of the comments and replies which I thought deserve being hoisted up into a post.

Optional Core Elements

"Don: Those "core" elements are *optional*. There's not anything wrong with not using them and the spec says absolutely nothing about it being wrong. Using Dublin Core — the ISO-Standard which is *not* related to RSS 1.0 — in RSS 2.0 is perfectly valid usage, as any RSS validator will tell you." – Tomas
"Tomas, have you wondered *why* those elements were made *optional*? Anyone who browsed through the RSS discussions will know that those elements were made *optional* for user's convenience, and not for RSS 1.0 crowd to lay Cuckoo's Eggs within RSS 2.0." – Don Park

Frozen means Unmeltable?

"Don, none of the specific 5 points Ben mentions are resolvable because they would all need changes to the spec, and that's frozen.  In an ideal world perhaps these and other changes could be included in an RSS 2.1, but this isn't an option." – Danny

"Danny, the spec is not frozen even if Dave say it is because he is not really in full control of it. If he was, we wouldn't have all this argument.  [snip]  If you think you can change the world as a person, changing a spec should be easier than changing the world. If you really want something wholeheartedly, you shouldn't know how to stop going after it nor stop short of begging for it. If Dave seems like an unstoppable force, it is because he throws his whole being into it and not like some intellectual college debate." – Don Park

"The spec can be changed, and even rewritten. I think that's what Rogers Cadenhead's group is doing. The people who want to see theselves stopped by the spec are lawyers not developers. If they were writing apps they would have been done with this kvetching a long time ago." – Dave Winer

"My understanding of the situation is that Dave will not prevent people from refining the spec itself for clarity and encourages people to add namespace-based extensions to RSS 2.0 that *supplements* without *replacing" the core elements.  Knowing Dave, I will even go further and guess that Dave will embrace good ideas and incorporate them into the core spec.

What was done can be undone. The man who wrote the word 'frozen' is still around, thankfully, so taking that word and using as an absolute truth against the man who wrote it originally makes zero sense to me." – Don Park

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p dir=”ltr”>Thanks to Danny, Tomas, and Dave for the guest appearance.  The star of the show is, of course, yours truely.  I particularly like the Cuckoo's Egg bit.  Joy of writing is appreciating one's own words like a baby without a diaper discovering a new toy, warm and soft, when he turns around.  Until the next episode of "As the Bowel Churns", goodbye.

Wes Felter on Funky RSS

Finally, someone who echoes the point I was making with my Funkyness Illustrated and Watch Your Six posts:

"I didn't want to dirty my hands with the RSS/Echo controversy (since I don't use an aggregator and I don't have any control over my RSS feed), but eventually my curiosity overcame me. I tracked the RSS funk to its source and I have to wonder what these people were thinking. Extensions are great, but it's a well-known principle that extensions are for adding new features, not replacing features that already exist in the base spec. If you think RSS has bugs, you can't make them go away by adding more." – Wes Felter in Hack the Planet

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p dir=”ltr”>I don't really care who originally made the booboo, who forgot to complain timely, nor listen to embarrassing apologies.  I am bad with names anyway.  But I do care when the booboo starts copulating and evolving in my living room.  Now let's just fix this damn problem (it is braindead simple to fix technically) and move on to something new to pour our hearts out over.  This Selfish Pig is getting bored.

Watch Your Six

Ben of Six Apart explains why Six Apart has pledged support for Echo.  Unfortunately, his list of reasons are mostly resolvable technical complaints against RSS.  For example, Ben writes that Dublin Core elements are technically superior.  I'll agree with that.  If you would like to use Dublin Core, use it to supplement the existing elements, meaning add them alongside <pubDate> and <author>.  Even better, I would insert them under a single element.  That is how RSS is supposed to be extended.

While I understand his enthusiasm for Echo, I don't think attacking your bread-and-butter format in favor of a format that hasn't even been defined yet makes much business sense.  Just saying that the Echo is a good project and Six Apart will implement it if and when it becomes available should have been more than enough.

Ben, Echo is no excuse to stop enhancing and supporting interoperability of RSS.  Since I doubt this was your intention, please make this clear because your list of RSS problems seems to imply that RSS is a deadend for Six Apart.  If you need an MT template that uses Dublin Core without being funky, I can help you with that.

Why I Blog

I blog because I am selfish.  I get ideas, opinions, and noise in my head that want out in one form or another.  The least expensive form is blogging.  As I streak across the sky called life, I pickup debris that will slow me down or change my direction unless I cast it aside.  My blog is the long tail of a comet called me.

However, not everything I post are castaways.  I frequently post information that I think will help others.  Am I performing a service for the world?  Maybe.  I do this mostly because it makes me feel good just like taking a hot shower after a day long hike feels good.  Othertimes, I do it out of habit.  Do I want the world to be grateful for the service I provide?  Yes.  Why?  Because I would be unhappy otherwise.

I blog because I am a Selfish Pig.  Scratch my back a little to the left please.  Ahh.  That feels good.  My Selfish Pig view of life was intentionally constructed in my youth because I felt confused and miserable.  After a failed shopping expedition through all the existing suits of philosophies and religions, I found nothing that fit me comfortably.  So I proceeded to build one myself, one that fits me perfectly using a fabric with no ends so it can't be unraveled later.  The result is the Selfish Pig:

  • I am happy when I am scratched.
  • I am unhappy when I am poked.
  • I am a pig and no more.

Three simple ingredients that interacts with the nature of the container, me, to explain and guide the comet's path.  By now, you should have realized that my use of the word Selfish differs from how most people use it.  Mother Teresa and Buddha were Selfish Pigs that felt most happy when others are happy.  If you find previous sentence upsetting, try removing all negative aspect of the word Selfish and Pig.  Whether there is even an ounce of truth in Selfish Pig matters little.  I like it because it is useful and fits me well.

Dave, try putting on a coat of Selfish Pig lotion and see if it makes the pain go away.  If not, I can try to whip up something that will.  Most importantly, you should do what makes you happy, Dave.  Don't think about what others think unless not doing so makes you unhappy.  While you are at it, please scratch my back a little.  Your poke today made me sad and unhappy.

My Take on Echo’s Future

The question of whether Echo will succeed in replacing RSS seems to be on many bloggers' mind just now.  Scoble thinks Echo has no chance.  Many people on the Echo supporters list think otherwise.  I put my name on that list as well, but I don't think the chance of Echo replacing RSS is very good.

RSS is far more than just a spec as Scoble explained, but engineers tend to focus only on technical side of things so it is no wonder most Echo supporters don't see it that way.  Just looking at the process of picking a name shows clearly how naive most of them are.  I meant naive in a good way so I hope they don't take this comment as an insult.

Although I don't think there is an optimistic future for Echo, I signed up as a supporter because, as I wrote before, I think it is a Good Thing.  There has been pent-up energies among developers that demanded something like Echo.  I don't mean Echo the spec.  I mean Echo the project.  Echo project is a good outlet for all that creative energy which could be destructive and chaotic if applied wrongly.  In my opinion, funky RSS was an example how destructive and chaotic creative energy can be.

I am happy that the funky RSS storm seems to have passed for the most part and creative energy has been released toward more constructive path via the Echo project.  Just as I think Dave is trying to Do The Right Thing, I believe everyone working on Echo are trying to Do The Right Thing.  Even if Echo the spec end up a dud, I think the effort is worth doing and was inevitable in one form or another.

History will happen as it does and not as it should.  Questions, discussions, and predictions are, in the end, no more than memories of turning pages.  So there is no point of asking who will win nor whether it should go on.  Besides, good ideas from Echo can be incorporated into RSS eventually so the users will win no matter which format wins.

Ann Frank to Tony Perkins

In Dying To Tell You Our Stories, Halley Suitt has a message for Tony Perkins* of AlwaysOn, a supposedly blog for Insiders:

"Let me start by saying, Tony Perkins is NOT Anne Frank.   …enter this inner sanctum with head bowed, hat in hand. Tread lightly in this place. Show us your real self. We're naked here, are you? We're alive here, but we're also dying. Dying to tell you our stories." – Halley Suitt

Halley has good eyes and know how to tell it like it is.

* I tried to find a link to Tony Perkins' blog, but all I found were articles he wrote in AlwaysOn.  Tony has a lot of learning to do ahead of him if he insist on his interpretation of what a blog is.  Frankly, I think he'll do much better if he stopped associating AlwaysOn with blogging.