RSS, OPML and the XML platform.
Copyright 2012 World Readable
I've been doing a lot of work with widgets of late. Much of it involves pushing widgets or providing embed code to social network sites like MySpace and Facebook. What I have found is that nothing actually works anymore. I remember when widgets first evolved on the MySpace platform, you could simply paste a bit of HTML into the editor and get a nice looking widget. Today, you need the MySpace widget rulebook to have any chance of pasting HTML onto a profile. I even tried very simple HTML with an anchor around an image and I wasn't able to get it to work. If you scan a few dozen profiles, then you'll find the most common widget is the angled bracket widget and the error widget.
A lot of people have simply abandoned their MySpace profiles, which have gone from ugly looking profiles to ugly looking profiles with a lot of error messages and angled brackets. I even tried posting a widget to my own profile using the viral functionality of a very popular widget framework and simply couldn't get it to work. The widget company insisted their stuff worked perfectly. I scratched my head to wonder how users without 20 years of computing experience get anything done on the Internet.
On the other hand, you have Facebook, which requires a PHD in flash widgets in order to do anything. Imagine the average user struggling to post a blogthing to their Facebook profile. Geeks simply don't understand usability. There must be something better than the mess we've created.
This morning, I was building an image and video application and needed some RSS sources to seed the image and video database. I picked three feed sources; Google Video, Yahoo! Video and Flickr. The first thing I noticed was that only Yahoo! Video used RSS enclosures, where as all three used Media RSS. I decided to write the code once using Media RSS and drop RSS enclosure support. I wasn't too happy about making this decision. Had Flick and Google simply used RSS enclosures in addition to the Media RSS, then I could've written this application for general RSS enclosure support. It's not like this would've been difficult as RSS enclosures look almost exactly like Media RSS content. A sample of each element follows.
<media:content url="http://www.youtube.com/v/aVN_VZhLiCg.swf" fileSize="30" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" height="356" width="450" duration="1"/>
Using an extension element in place of an equivalent core RSS element is what we call Funky RSS and much not appreciated by people trying to write RSS applications. The reason we don't appreciate it is because the core RSS elements are better understood and you don't end up with the ridiculous situation that I'm about to describe.
Although all three sources use Media RSS, I had to write separate code for all three implementations. All I wanted to do was access the media:content/@url attribute and all three conveniently had unique access paths to this variable. Here's three feeds that I'm looking at.
Using fully qualified element names, the access paths are as follow.
Two and a half years later, Dave Winer is still pushing for a centralized solution to the RSS subscrition problem (a.k.a. the Yahoo! problem). We've already seen Dave's Share Your OPML centralized subscription and OPML solution spark and fade. Why would we try this route again? In the meanwhile, Web browsers have evolved and now understand RSS. Although the approach isn't exactly like USM, it's close enough for me to say that the ocean is boiling.
Widgets, widgets, everywhere. You guessed it. Even Amazon is doing widgets. OK, they've always had widgets like Omakase and product links, but now they've gone widget crazy just like the rest of the Web. Honestly, most of the widgets don't seem very interesting, but I'm sure they'll sell a few extra books. The Unbox widget is cool!
Dave Winer has given us an ETA of Thanksgiving (U.S.) for carving OPML 2.0 in stone. It's not perfect, but it's sufficient. If you have any concerns, then it's now or shut up. Don't worry ;-) I won't shut up either.
Yesterday, I recorded my first TalkShoe show. You can listen to me embarass myself online. This is the perfect platform for starting an audio podcast show. You can broadcast, record, syndicate, link to the mp3, your listeners can join-in on the conversation via both audio and text chat (ok the chat history is really confusing). The audio isn't horrible and I have a $1 store mic. I'm so impressed that I'm thinking about starting my own show.
Ian Forrester blogged a list of requirements for his perfect RSS aggregator. He has some interesting requirements and notes. Excerpts follow.
and much more...
Today, I'm spending a little bit more time looking at TalkShoe. I'm switching between live audio channels and listening. I gotta tell you that feature wise, this is likely the best audio podcasting platform on the Web. On the other hand, the user interface is crazy horrible.
Mostly, I was listening to a show called Humanity Matters. Pretty good show. I'm gonna try a test show. Not sure when. But as soon as I can.
Mathew Ingram has a great article at the Globe and Mail on the impact of YouTube, Facebook, blogs and RSS on the Ontario political election.
an election just wouldnât be the same without blogs, podcasts, YouTube clips and RSS feeds. The Ontario election is no different, although certain players have jumped on the âWeb 2.0â bandwagon with more gusto than others.