Ming the Mechanic:
Syndication and Web Standards

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Syndication and Web Standards2002-03-17 17:06
pictureby Flemming Funch

I'm excited about the possibilities in syndication of web content through open web standards. In part because I have a vision of creating better wiring for the global brain, and this stuff fits right in there.

In short, there are simple wide-spread protocols that make it possible for different websites to pick up content from each other, and to contribute to news feeds of various kinds.

In part what is cool is that the most workable schemes have been developed by small groups of creative people and have been adopted on a grassroots basis.

That is in clear distinction to the standards that international standards bodies come up with. They usually take a number of years to develop, and they're developed by committees who work hard to coordinate long lists of special interests, and the standards often end up being unnecessarily complex and dense.

So, people who just make something simple that is flexible and that works, and then spreads it around, are sort of heroes in my eyes. One of them is Dave Winer of UserLand Software. He is responsible for several of the protocols I'm talking about, and is also an evangelist for their use, and for continued creativity in terms of connecting all sorts of things together.

The protocols I'm talking about are specifically RSS and XML-RPC.

RSS is for creating news channels or feeds. These feeds can be picked up by programs people run on their desktop, or by news aggregators (e.g. NewsIsFree or Syndic8), or by other websites.

I just finished the features for optinally outputting RSS from your News Logs, and I also set it up for some of the things that appear on the NCN home page. There is a page explaining that.

That is only a slim beginning. Many things are possible. I'd like to see a widespread sharing of resources amongst many sites and networks. Resources such as event listings, websites, opportunities, needs, services, information, news items and more.

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17 Mar 2002 @ 17:41 by ergodicity : Second URL not working?
I just downloaded Vista. Looks interesting.  

17 Mar 2002 @ 18:23 by ming : Which one was not working?
I'm using FeedReader on my desktop. And also just picked up Radio Userland which I'm playing with. That one is not free, however. But I wanted to see how they do things as well. It both lets people pick up feeds and also having your own web log. And I want to be sure I make similar features here.  

17 Mar 2002 @ 18:56 by ergodicity : http://www.xmlrcp.com/
The second one in your article. For some reason Vista is not hooking up to my one account with Yahoo. Guess I've got more research to do. Will check out the freeware title you list.  

17 Mar 2002 @ 18:57 by ergodicity : Oops
Actually the fourth link.  

17 Mar 2002 @ 20:35 by ming : Got it
Ah, I spelled it wrong. Got it now.  

18 Mar 2002 @ 05:56 by mmmark : The Tip Of The Iceberg
Sounds like this is happening stuff Ming. I am still very dedicatd to forming the CEN and these standards will help. I am also glad that you porting the data, but where will it go, who is receiving it, or will?  

18 Mar 2002 @ 05:57 by jstarrs : Thanks, Ming...
...will try NewsFeeder and let you know how it goes. Great idea...
Done! Just need to figure out how to personaliez the menu? Ideas?  

18 Mar 2002 @ 09:54 by ergodicity : Working
I got FeedReader and Vista working. Vista seems to have more options than FeedReader. Should be able to check out the page of how to use RSS posting with our newslogs, last link in your post, later. Thanks for the heads up.  

18 Mar 2002 @ 12:10 by ergodicity : RSS
Went looking for the definition of RSS and found "Rich Site Summary", a standard for packing information about a web site into a small XML file.  

18 Mar 2002 @ 17:27 by ming : Icebergs
Mark, it might get to make more sense along the way. These are some hooks that different websites and groups can use between each other. And I'll add many more at this end. Doesn't mean anybody will necessarily use them, but it makes a much better case for linking different groups together if they're there and it is relatively clear how it can be done. My strategy is that then it depends less on persuasion. Meaning, there will be hooks that a techie could work out how to connect with in an hour or two, even if they weren't familiar with them. As compared to persuading several groups to engage in a common project and direct resources towards collaborative infrastructure. That's good too, but this might have a lower threshold.  

28 Mar 2002 @ 10:55 by lostboy : Creating a network
I have come to NCN as webmaster of tetrica.com for this particular reason. You allready had conversations with Dave Zero about the possiblity of our sites sharing info like this, no ? Dave posted a message about it on the tetrica tech list (a list for discussions about the development of our website), but i didn't get to see it untill now because of some weird mail problem.

I saw the message yesterday, and i immediatly thought it is a good idea. Over at tetrica we have the infrastructure (linux, apache, mysql, php and phyton) to set up some kind of public channel through XML. We also have enough knowledge to start development on it. So i'm very interested in seeing what kind of results can come from a collaboration between NCN and tetrica.

kind regards,

6 Apr 2002 @ 22:49 by ov : Audience and Community
Came across this article today about the factor of size and how it relates to audiences and communities. http://shirky.com/writings/community_scale.html

I've been thinking we need more layers. This is a conceptual thing but it relates to how it is all linked together. Shirky's article indicates that a community size of more than 150 is very difficult to maintain because of the number of personal connections that have to be maintained; you only have time for so many friends. Audiences on the other hand scale up real easy because they are primarily a one to many transmission. One way of getting bigger audiences is to produce quality content, and I think this requires a stage of review and analysis by peers followed by revising the content from first draft to final form, and attaching the reputation of the peer group to the article as an endorsement. This collaborative review would be at the community level which has the best communication through shared experience (you personaly know the people) but limited in size. The audience on the other hand operates at a different level of discussion but is able to start with some confidence that at least the facts are credible, if not the conclusion.

So the layers come into this in two different ways. First having a community as an added layer between the individual and the audience; which is a little different than having the community as the audience. Secondly, the content should be packaged in a finished form; abstract up front, indexes, summaries etc for large articles, or simply a well organized essay or report, but in either case with less noise than was used to create that content.

Just another point of view.


7 Apr 2002 @ 00:54 by jazzolog : Wonderful Idea
I support this notion wholeheartedly---even wholemindedly. There is a bunch of stuff out at the log-in splash page, but I have no idea who selects and how it's done. I should think the selection of the peers to do collaborative review would be crucial. What process for that has anyone in mind?  

7 Apr 2002 @ 22:40 by ov : Self Selecting Peers
I was thinking that the peers would be self selecting, in the sense that anybody that took the time and energy to critique or add information to the article would be a peer, (and if he wasn't credible somebody would point it out). The point being that there would be time for a review and fixup before submitting the article to the news feed. This makes your articles better, and in turn for this you "pay" by contributing to somebody else's article.

Maybe what I'm thinking of is a journalism co-op.

Where's the software fit? I don't know. A means of submitting an article after it has been posted, could be hours or weeks. Some marker that says it has been reviewed by "yourcommunitynamehere." If it went beyond this to votes and polls and slash dot style it might be more trouble and politics than it was worth.

If a system like this were to mature, I imagine that each different community would have a different area of expertise, or school of thought, or reputation of some sort. All of this becomes the context which supplies more meaning. For example, a report that comes out of Cato would be read different than a report from newciv.


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