Well, that was interesting

I didn’t mean to stir up the shit today, but it looks like that’s what I managed to do. Among other things, I got some very rational observations in my comments on the piece about the Echo project that made me think twice about the whole issue, namely that this could be a way to avoid the whole RSS 0.9x vs. 1.0 vs. 2.0 battle for good (which would be great) and that Echo is aimed at building a full blown, honest to God standard, which would make RSS an easier sell in more conservative vertical markets like banks (see Tim Bray for a remarkably well written scenario that illustrates the problem). Thanks to Matt Haughey for the pointer, and for the reference to Evan’s post about the Blogger API vs. the MetaWeblog API which (in between some fingerpointing), Evan illustrates a serious technical concern about MetaWeblog, namely the lack of support for appkeys.

Then Dave rewrote his original pointer to my piece to quote a long snippet of it and posted a qualified endorsement of the Echo project, saying that if and when the format reaches closure, he will recommend that UserLand support it and RSS 2.0.

Today felt like a therapy session for me. I posted something that went against the groupthink that was starting to form around Echo, Dave linked to it and got the concerns out in the air, and then there was some forward movement. Amazing. This actually, despite some of the peripheral mudslinging that’s been happening, speaks quite well about how everyone in the community is going through this process.

Is the air cleared? Good, then here’s the takeaway from what I wrote today:

  1. There are sufficient technical and business concerns with the way RSS and the MetaWeblog API work today that Echo isn’t just about rebuilding things for the sake of doing it.
  2. Users and institutions who have already embraced the existing paradigms will continue, like me, to freak out about this. There better be a pretty good marketing guy associated with Echo to work will the existing adopters.

Fair enough?

A hamhock in your blog

Ah, it’s too nice a day to be pissed off. I will note, however, as long as I’m stepping in things, that I think the word “funky” is being misapplied to RSS 2.0 feeds with extra items; but for different reasons than Don Park does.

Fundamentally, funk is about booty, not XML. (Yes, I said booty. Loose booty! More Loose Booty!) What is funk? Funk is, like soul, a hamhock in your cornflakes. Funk is not domestically produced! Would you trade your funk for what’s behind the third door???

I think everyone needs to adopt this motto from Funkadelic:

For nothing is good unless you play with it. And all that is good, is nasty!

And remember, heads I win, tails you lose.

A civilian in the format wars

Brent yesterday declared his neutrality in the brewing revolution called the Echo Project which is working to displace RSS and the Meta-Weblog API (among others) as the blogging wire formats of choice. Good call, Brent. As a civilian observer and consumer of these formats, I’m going to have to go a little further. This is one of the stupider things I’ve ever seen, from a technology AND business strategy perspective.

Is there anything wrong with the technology that we have right now? No. Meta-Weblog works, though it needs wider implementation, as an API to allow multiple tools to work with multiple different kinds of blogs. RSS works, and if it doesn’t do what you need it to do you can expand it with namespaces. I understand the frustration of underspecified formats, but let’s get it straight: every groundbreaking 1.0 project is underspecified. And adoption happens anyway.

Furthermore, this couldn’t come at a worse time. Blogs are finally getting respect. RSS is gaining widespread adoption by BigCo publishers like the New York Times, the BBC, and Microsoft (I can’t imagine that MSDN’s RSS feeds will be the last, and more importantly both programmers and execs are blogging). The market has converged on a standard, and now it’s not about tech any more. It’s about implementation.

But all this is happening because RSS is essentially baked. If you re-open the debate with a project like Echo, you’re sending a strong signal that RSS isn’t ready for prime time—either the technology, or the community around it. And, more importantly, you’re also granting license to other people to do the same thing. One of the beautiful things about RSS is that it can be adopted without question, largely because it just works. What’s to stop some smart guy in a large software company from saying, “there’s no consensus out there, so I’m just going to build my own format.” And if the software company is large enough, lock in happens around that format instead and we’re right back where we started.

Update: Adam Curry and Don Park on the topic.

Update #2: Dave accuses me of eloquence and sums it up in a phrase: “anyone who uses weblogs and aggregators should be angry as hell when developers try to rip up the pavement, break everything and start over.”