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RE: [RSS-DEV] Re: Merge threads - who, what, why

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  • Jon Hanna
    Unfortunately illness kept me away from my machine for a few days, and is currently reducing my desire to correspond quite drastically. It is also likely to
    Message 1 of 36 , Sep 25, 2002
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      Unfortunately illness kept me away from my machine for a few days, and is
      currently reducing my desire to correspond quite drastically. It is also
      likely to make my normally rambling style even worse.

      However Shelley's main question about the "business" of RSS is important and
      I'd like to have my 2c.

      It seems to me that there are three ways to define the purpose of a
      technology. One I will label "designed", one "adaptive", and the other
      "reductive".

      The designed way is to have a purpose decided by necessity or inspiration
      from which you design the technology. The technology then apparently springs
      from the forehead of the individual or group who create it fully-formed,
      since it is generally only after much work that the public is made aware of
      it.

      The adaptive way is to define a purpose by examining the uses to which it's
      predecessors are used.

      The reductive is similar to the adaptive, but more forcibly redefines the
      purpose by producing a technology that can no longer be used for some of the
      tasks it's predecessors were put to.

      The parthenogenesis of the designed way tends to produce "purer"
      technologies with limited application, the adaptive way tends to produce
      messy technologies with a wide range of applications, many of which it does
      not match very well. As annoying as the inelegance may often be the latter
      type tend to be the most useful. The reductive method tends to result in
      something between those two.

      Many technologies start with a designed version 1.0 (or 0.x when the
      author(s) choose to acknowledge that they don't consider it finished) and
      are then used for purposes outside of their initial use-case which feed into
      an adaptive definition of the purposes of later versions. To elide
      historical detail for the sake of brevity the Internet's designed goal is to
      be a military and academic communication network that can survive total
      destruction of many of it's nodes and the Web's designed goal is to provide
      a simple way to write up scientific papers which would include references to
      other such papers, hypertext being used to make those references more
      useful. The Internet and the Web both have current uses quite different to
      those, and many of their parts are used in manners further removed from
      their origins (e.g. the use of HTML in many Windows technologies doesn't
      even make use of the Web's distributed nature).

      I maintain that RSS is such a technology. It's designed purpose is the
      syndication of "news" items from individual websites to a portal website, to
      be more specific to the MyNetscape portal website. It was *not* designed to
      be of any particular use to bloggers, aggregators, or metadata providers,
      but it *does* serve them and others.

      Which makes answering Shelley's question a bit tricky. Casting the net wide
      there are real-world use cases now which include some cases quite close to
      the original intent, but also some that are quite disparate (e.g. using
      RSS - either in accordance with the spec, or else as a mere provider of
      vocabulary - to provide a table-of-contents to a collection of RDF documents
      describing a site or other system). As such the best answer I can think of
      for the purpose of RSS is:

      "To provide information about web resources that change often enough to make
      such information worth giving".

      Which is a thoroughly unsatisfactory answer really, but not a useless one,
      for it still has implications in our decisions if we intend RSS+ to remain
      useful to all or most of its current users.

      In particular it means that dropping features, including features that are
      by-products of design rather than deliberately built into the format, should
      only be done with extreme caution. With such a wide range of use-cases any
      feature could prove vital to someone. This includes RDF, inherent (as
      opposed to spec-defined) ordering, the ability to work as a "pure" XML
      format, and in fact everything that someone (including myself) has suggested
      dropping.

      The reductive method could be applied here. We could define the use-case of
      RSS as, for example, "syndication of blog items", which is pretty much the
      use case of RSS0.92+/RSS2.0 and design appropriately, dropping features such
      a case doesn't need.

      Dropping such a feature is likely to lead to a split as developers no longer
      served look elsewhere, indeed that is part of the reason for the
      RDFSS/RichSS split. Such a split may indeed be a good thing, but there are
      obviously disadvantages in the loss of momentum and critical mass that it
      would entail.

      In all I would avoid a reductive definition of RSS+'s purpose. If needed
      such reduction can be provided by APIs in only providing access to some of a
      feed's information without necessitating the same reduction in the format
      itself.

      This isn't conducive to simplicity, but it doesn't preclude it either, and
      everyone benefits from simplicity (that said I'd be prepared to sacrifice
      simplicity from an RDF perspective to gain simplicity from an XML
      perspective - as in using Collection).
    • Jon Hanna
      Unfortunately illness kept me away from my machine for a few days, and is currently reducing my desire to correspond quite drastically. It is also likely to
      Message 36 of 36 , Sep 25, 2002
      View Source
      • 0 Attachment
        Unfortunately illness kept me away from my machine for a few days, and is
        currently reducing my desire to correspond quite drastically. It is also
        likely to make my normally rambling style even worse.

        However Shelley's main question about the "business" of RSS is important and
        I'd like to have my 2c.

        It seems to me that there are three ways to define the purpose of a
        technology. One I will label "designed", one "adaptive", and the other
        "reductive".

        The designed way is to have a purpose decided by necessity or inspiration
        from which you design the technology. The technology then apparently springs
        from the forehead of the individual or group who create it fully-formed,
        since it is generally only after much work that the public is made aware of
        it.

        The adaptive way is to define a purpose by examining the uses to which it's
        predecessors are used.

        The reductive is similar to the adaptive, but more forcibly redefines the
        purpose by producing a technology that can no longer be used for some of the
        tasks it's predecessors were put to.

        The parthenogenesis of the designed way tends to produce "purer"
        technologies with limited application, the adaptive way tends to produce
        messy technologies with a wide range of applications, many of which it does
        not match very well. As annoying as the inelegance may often be the latter
        type tend to be the most useful. The reductive method tends to result in
        something between those two.

        Many technologies start with a designed version 1.0 (or 0.x when the
        author(s) choose to acknowledge that they don't consider it finished) and
        are then used for purposes outside of their initial use-case which feed into
        an adaptive definition of the purposes of later versions. To elide
        historical detail for the sake of brevity the Internet's designed goal is to
        be a military and academic communication network that can survive total
        destruction of many of it's nodes and the Web's designed goal is to provide
        a simple way to write up scientific papers which would include references to
        other such papers, hypertext being used to make those references more
        useful. The Internet and the Web both have current uses quite different to
        those, and many of their parts are used in manners further removed from
        their origins (e.g. the use of HTML in many Windows technologies doesn't
        even make use of the Web's distributed nature).

        I maintain that RSS is such a technology. It's designed purpose is the
        syndication of "news" items from individual websites to a portal website, to
        be more specific to the MyNetscape portal website. It was *not* designed to
        be of any particular use to bloggers, aggregators, or metadata providers,
        but it *does* serve them and others.

        Which makes answering Shelley's question a bit tricky. Casting the net wide
        there are real-world use cases now which include some cases quite close to
        the original intent, but also some that are quite disparate (e.g. using
        RSS - either in accordance with the spec, or else as a mere provider of
        vocabulary - to provide a table-of-contents to a collection of RDF documents
        describing a site or other system). As such the best answer I can think of
        for the purpose of RSS is:

        "To provide information about web resources that change often enough to make
        such information worth giving".

        Which is a thoroughly unsatisfactory answer really, but not a useless one,
        for it still has implications in our decisions if we intend RSS+ to remain
        useful to all or most of its current users.

        In particular it means that dropping features, including features that are
        by-products of design rather than deliberately built into the format, should
        only be done with extreme caution. With such a wide range of use-cases any
        feature could prove vital to someone. This includes RDF, inherent (as
        opposed to spec-defined) ordering, the ability to work as a "pure" XML
        format, and in fact everything that someone (including myself) has suggested
        dropping.

        The reductive method could be applied here. We could define the use-case of
        RSS as, for example, "syndication of blog items", which is pretty much the
        use case of RSS0.92+/RSS2.0 and design appropriately, dropping features such
        a case doesn't need.

        Dropping such a feature is likely to lead to a split as developers no longer
        served look elsewhere, indeed that is part of the reason for the
        RDFSS/RichSS split. Such a split may indeed be a good thing, but there are
        obviously disadvantages in the loss of momentum and critical mass that it
        would entail.

        In all I would avoid a reductive definition of RSS+'s purpose. If needed
        such reduction can be provided by APIs in only providing access to some of a
        feed's information without necessitating the same reduction in the format
        itself.

        This isn't conducive to simplicity, but it doesn't preclude it either, and
        everyone benefits from simplicity (that said I'd be prepared to sacrifice
        simplicity from an RDF perspective to gain simplicity from an XML
        perspective - as in using Collection).
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