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by Jay Fienberg

RSS = Readily Significant Schizophrenia

posted: Jun 26, 2003 3:23:44 PM

After reading Sam Ruby's post called There is no FAQ, about what the RSS link element was/is for, and subsequent comments, it is clearer to me now that Really Simple Syndication isn't the right way to do Rich Site Summary, or vice versa.

So, I think two different concerns are up against each other, and they shouldn't be blended, though they would ideally be complimentary: content use and metadata.

I am new to the verb / noun concept, but from what I understand about it, Really Simple Syndication (which I will just abbreviate RSS 2.0) is a verb oriented concept and Rich Site Summary (which I will just abbreviate RSS 1.0) is a noun oriented concept.

In other words, RSS 2.0 is designed for the action of syndication and RSS 1.0 is designed for the metadata of site summaries.

RSS 1.0 data are site summaries, and RSS 2.0 is a mechanism to syndicate a site. People use RSS 1.0 as if it were in the same vein as RSS 2.0 (i.e., for syndication), and it happens to work for that in some ways. And, people also use RSS 2.0 as if it were in the same vein as RSS 1.0 (i.e., for site summaries), and it happens to work for that in some ways too.

Sam's posts and the subsequent comments reference comments from Dave Winer on the link element, and I think these altogether are an effort to clarify the vagueness in the current RSS where the same link element can function as either "pure" metadata (i.e., a permalink as identifier) or for functional content uses (i.e., a link to a relevant article or the original post).

In particular, the vagueness between "pure" metadata and functional content use is like a schizophrenia. And, I think that the way to resolve these two sides, metadata/data and content use, is to first make sure they aren't blended, and then look to improve each using an appropriate methodology, say, data modeling and application modeling respectively.

Obviously, the data model affects the application model, and vice versa. So, this Echo Project effort isn't off track in looking at everything. But, I think a good next step might be to fully recognize and move forward with the understanding that site summaries and site syndication might overlap but aren't the same thing.

I have mentioned Ian Davis' UnifiedRSS a few times, and I appreciate now that Ian really had an insight into this distinction between RSS Metadata and RSS Content. Maybe Echo can be a singular format rather than the two that Ian suggests, but I think the distinction Ian is making is a necessary one.

So, I have a schizophrenic wish list for RSS. First, what I want from Really Simple Syndication:

  1. Resolve the use and function of markup in syndicated content
  2. Support relative links
  3. Provide a modular way to include additional, functionally useful, content elements (e.g., if I want to have more than one link in the vein of Radio Userland)

And, what I want from Rich Site Summary:

  1. Support URI to the presentation summarized (i.e., a permalink)
  2. Support URI to the summary itself (i.e., a permalink to the RSS)
  3. Provide a modular way to include additional metadata

Obviously, if these end up being two different formats along the lines Ian suggests, then I would want them to be able to provide references to each other.

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