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news and thoughts on and around the development of the iCite net
by Jay Fienberg

Blogging style, software and historical RSS

posted: Dec 9, 2004 6:24:52 PM

I've started reading Dave Winer again, since we both coincidentally moved to Seattle around the same time. Dave has an interesting post called, I can put titles on posts on Scripting News, which reflects on what I like to call the "RSS Combo Meal".

So, the RSS Combo Meal is the combination of the weblog information structure, software designed to facilitate authoring in that structure, RSS (i.e., a file format that matches that structure), and software designed to facilitate reading in that structure (aka, the RSS feed reader).

Sometimes, when people talk about RSS, they are not so much talking about the XML file format called RSS, but about the RSS Combo Meal. I actually have written a few essays that get into some of the nuances of this, but I'm saving these for when I release the iCite net sub-project I'm currently working on (because the essays were written to explain some of the background of that sub-project).

But, the main thing I wanted to point out, in reference to Dave's post, is that, I think, ultimately, the RSS Combo Meal will be remembered as more historically important than the RSS file format. And, I certainly would credit Dave Winer with creating the RSS Combo Meal and establishing its importance.

I think this is worth noting, because I think a lot of "web 2.5" developments will need to emulate the pattern of the RSS Combo Meal to achieve widespread popularity: these developments will need to provide integrate-able mechanisms and information structures for authoring, publishing, distributing, and viewing.

So, in some ways, I think, historically, Manilla is way more important than the RSS file format (because Manilla provided the integrate-able mechanisms and information structures). Looking back, talking about the various RSS file formats will be like talking about the file formats of WordPerfect 4.2 vs. WordPerfect 5.0, but WordPerfect itself is what really set a standard that so many developments built upon.

Also, the other thing that is useful about Dave's post is that he links to this live Manilla RSS aggregator, which allows us to see what Dave has indicated is not the wrong way to use RSS (via Danny Ayers).

I take this (the right way to use RSS) as a point-of-view about the RSS Combo Meal. In other words, others who use RSS the "wrong way" are in a use pattern outside of the RSS Combo Meal (or, in a pattern that doesn't take advantage of what makes the RSS Combo Meal such a good value).

There is a lot of debate out there about what I'd characterize as: is it better to use a RSS Combo Meal package, or better to use only some of its components as is, maybe change a few others, and put them together in your own combination? When you put together your own, it doesn't fit together as well as the RSS Combo Meal, but is what you're missing made up for by other factors?

I have my own ideas about this, which will appear in the aforementioned essays (I hope, posted within a month or so). But, in general, I think the answer is: it all depends.

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Comment by: Chris Dent ·
posted: Dec 10, 2004 3:01:33 AM

I told myself to contact you after getting to Seattle, and here it is three months later already. Busy. Anyway, hi, we're in the same town now, we should gather for some brainshare sometime. There's quite a suite of interesting folk about, maybe we can orchestrate a gathering?

Comment by: Jay Fienberg ·
posted: Dec 10, 2004 12:26:34 PM

Hi Chris. Likewise!

Also, I'm trying to go to the Seattle Weblogger Meetup events. The next one is on 12/15, so maybe I'll see you there?

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