Letter from Brad Feld
- I'm away from my e-mail this weekend, but according to a comment
posted by Brad Feld on Scripting News, he recently sent me this e-mail:
Text of the e-mail:
Rogers - we've never met so I'm being presumptuous in writing you.
Hopefully you'll take my comments as constructive, which is the manner
in which I'm offering them. I've copied Dave Winer on this as he's the
person that has raised the issue that I'd like to address. The
construct of RSS (and feeds / syndication in general) is important to
me as I've made a number of investments in companies working on things
in this area, including Technorati, NewsGator, and FeedBurner. I view
RSS and other syndication technology as fundamental protocols -
similar to the relationship between SMTP and email. Time will tell
whether this is right or wrong, but I've had a lot of success helping
create a number of email-related companies (while staying relatively
distant from the evolution of SMTP) and am now working on creating a
number of syndication-related companies.
I found out about the RSS Advisory Board relatively recently (via a
search feed on one of the companies I'm involved in that linked to one
of the posts.) I took at look at things, realized that Dave Sifry,
Greg Reinacker, and Eric Lunt were on it, read through some of the
stuff on the site, and figured "hmmm - that sounds useful." I then
went on to the next thing.
Last week, I was alerted to some of the conflict that was developing
around the board. I started watching the posts on the public list and
saw the discussion begin to devolve. I checked in with the companies I
work with to find out the history (I'm peacefully naive about a lot of
the history and evolution of the RSS) of the RSS Advisory Board as
they knew it. The general response was "it sounded like a good thing -
when asked to join I agreed in order to help out in any way with the
Dave Winer (who I also do not know very well) contacted me directly
and filled me in on his perspective on the history, as well as the
current dynamics. I then spent some time looking into the history to
try to be better informed. Granted, I really only looked at what was
public available, but thanks to Google, Yahoo, and a lot of the
persistent storage on the web, I was able to quickly find more than I
cared to look at.
The other day, I saw Dave's post -
In it he suggested something straightforward that - if taken at face
value - seems to address the core of the issue. Specifically, Dave
stated "Change the name and charter of the group you've started.
Decide whether you're working on a profile or a new format. You can't
do what you're doing and call it RSS " I sent Dave a note and asked
him if a name change "away from RSS" solved the issue that he had and
he confirmed that it would.
So - I'd like to suggest that you change the name of the RSS Advisory
Board to something that eliminates the controversy. Why not call it
something like the "Syndication Protocol Working Group." At the same
time, work with Dave to clarify the charter so it's consistent with
what has historically been done. By doing something like this, you can
presumably eliminate the politics, move past whatever history (good
and bad) exists, and spend 100% of your time on constructive activity.
I apologize in advance for being prescriptive without having
previously spent time with you or gotten to know you in any way. My
colleagues have lots of respect for you and what you are trying to
generally accomplish. However, no one - presumably you included - has
time or energy to spend on non-productive activity, especially when
there is so much great stuff going on around this technology.
I'm available to talk anytime (although I've already spent much more
time on this specific issue than I care to.)
- Here's my response, which I also e-mailed to Brad Feld:
From my perspective, the purpose of the RSS Advisory Board is always
open to reconsideration. This is a three-year-old organization that
has been operating in public for one month. We've just begun hearing
from RSS developers, publishers and executives in significant number.
I think the best way forward for the board is to keep doing exactly
what the organization did under Dave Winer's leadership -- support
developers, publish supplementary documentation, and clarify the RSS
specification without changing the format.
Other members may decide to support his current position, which if I
understand it correctly, calls for the existing RSS specification
never to be edited again.
Changing the focus of the board from RSS to syndication might ease
some contentious debate in the RSS community, but it wouldn't address
long-standing questions for developers implementing the current
There are significant aspects of RSS that lack clarity in the
specification. How many podcasts can an item contain? What RSS
elements can carry HTML? How does an RSS aggregator turn relative URLs
into full URLs?
The proposed specification currently under draft at the RSS board's
site is an effort to resolve questions like these, not change the
format or create a new format that would raise the implementation cost
of syndication for everyone.
If the spec reaches a vote at some future date and is rejected by the
board -- or the board votes at any time to cease work on it -- I'd
remove the spec from publication and pursue a "best practices"
document or another method to address the situation.
- I don't think changing our name (as Brad suggests) will change
anything, but we do have to change something to get the RSS community
back on our side. I think that change is obvious.
All that we have to do is stop talking about changing the RSS
specification. At first, I thought clarifying the spec was a good
idea, but then it became obvious that Dave was right, opening that can
of worms only invites other more destructive changes.
Rather, let's work on writing supplementary documentation, which
thanks to Ross and Rogers, is in high gear. Second let's create a
place where users can ask questions and get answers, rather than
debate the same issues for the 100th time.
My 1 1/2 cents,
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "rcade" <rcade@...> wrote:
> Here's my response, which I also e-mailed to Brad Feld: