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by Jay Fienberg

Are RSS and Atom/N/Echo/Pie formats suffering too tightly coupled MVC?

posted: Aug 7, 2003 3:47:56 PM

RSS-type formats are fine, except many people want to do a lot more with them than what they were designed to be fine for. The discussion I mentioned in my previous post is an example where people want to embed elaborate metadata in RSS-type formats, and are struggling to find a clean way to do this.

One way I think this struggle can be characterized is as a struggle against the tight coupling in RSS (and, I believe, in Atom/N/Echo/Pie as its offspring) between what could be understood as three modules that might, ideally, be more loosely coupled.

(Note: in this post, I am using RSS to refer to the non-RDF RSS of version 0.9x and 2.0. I am using "RSS-type document" to account as well for Atom/N/Echo/Pie.)

MVC, model-view-controller, is a classic software design pattern. I first learned about it as the pattern for n-tier software architectures, as in database (model), user interface (view) and application (controller).

With RSS-type feeds, the information conveyed in an RSS-type document is what I would characterize as having both view functions (the information to be displayed) and model functions (structured metadata). These are tightly coupled in RSS-type documents by the constraints of the XML structure.

RSS-type documents also have what I would characterize as a controller function in both the way URIs are used for permalinks and/or links associated with each item, and also the way the whole RSS-type feed has a URI and/or RPC interface.

Technically, RSS-type documents would be just views if people were just viewing them ;-) But, when people query them, the RSS-type document functions like a database. And, when URIs within the RSS-type document are used to trigger or define actions, the RSS-type document functions like an application.

I think RSS-type documents and feeds are great in that they provide access to all three of these modules, whereas web pages generally do not—in particular, they do not provide access to the model module. And, because of this more pronounced lack of access to model functions, I think the concern to work out metadata in RSS-type formats in correspondingly more pronounced.

With the iCite net, I am imagining fully exposing the model and controller modules in the way the view module is exposed with web pages. So, instead of the web page providing only a view function, the web page also provides access to controller and model functions.

One particular coupling of an iCite's functions is an RSS-type feed. The RSS-type formats do expose the model and controller functions, but, with having as a particular goal the exposing those functions, I am also exploring more loosely coupled ways to do this.

Part of the thing with RSS-type feeds, from my perspective, is that they historically have been designed for one-way interactions: a publisher publishes a feed. I think MVC is a less relevant priority from that perspective.

But, I think there is a lot of interest in a different type of interface where feeds act as conduits of n-way interactions. From this perspective, the separation of MVC modules is probably a lot more relevant priority.

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also available as: rss · rss2 · rdf · atom

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trackback from: the iCite net development blog
posted: Aug 11, 2003 4:36:39 PM
title: Schema (namespace) aggregation readers

Similarly, I am interested in exploring applications where the browser can support data structure and operational changes with each new page.

trackback from: the iCite net development blog
posted: Aug 11, 2003 7:50:58 PM
title: Fractal Model-View-Controller as the web

I have been talking recently about the MVC, model-view-controller, pattern, and I wanted to summarize my observation about it and what I see as its significance as a pattern of the web and of microcontent.

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