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Permanent link to archive for Tuesday, August 09, 2005. Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Movie: A train moves outside BozemanPermanent link to this item in the archive.

Pictures: A thunderstorm builds outside BozemanPermanent link to this item in the archive.

Pod2Mob: "If you have a SprintPCS phone our software will stream a Podcast to it!" Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Greetings from Bozeman, MontanaPermanent link to this item in the archive.

Ed Cone quotes Tim Berners-Lee on blogs and wikis. Permanent link to this item in the archive.

NPR: Discovery Makes Safe Return to EarthPermanent link to this item in the archive.

Reminder: OPML Roadshow in Berkeley, August 20, 7PMPermanent link to this item in the archive.

Pictures: Badlands in North Dakota; Yellowstone River in MontanaPermanent link to this item in the archive.

Google News and RSS Permanent link to this item in the archive.

First the news that everyone's pointing to today.

Now why I'm not giddy with delight over Google News's support of RSS.

It's the same reason I'm not giddy with delight that Microsoft decided to call their support of RSS "web feeds."

Big software companies, or BigCo's for short, just can't leave well enough alone. They always try to fuck with technology they didn't invent, for a lot of complicated reasons I've spent an entire career trying to understand. It's not powerful, or interesting -- it's childish and self-defeating, but it's evident in both BigCo strategies for RSS.

Like it or not Microsoft, the technology is called RSS. If you try to change that, for whatever reason, you will get routed around.

Like it or not Google, the format is RSS 2.0. Look at how your position is eroding. Go all the way, and just give it up, and accept the gift, the way it was presented, without trying to edit, revise, fold, spindle or mutilate.

That said, it's good to see both Microsoft and Google at least accepting RSS in part, if not wholeheartedly, as (for example) Yahoo has.

The value of Google News in XML Permanent link to this item in the archive.

There's more to say about Google News and feeds.

I'm not sure it's very useful. Why? Well, try subscribing to one of their feeds in an aggregator for a clue. Each item doesn't map onto one story, it maps on to hundreds or thousands. Yet, in their feed they pick one that most exemplifies the class of story.

I immediately unsubbed, realizing "That's just Google News," a service that I don't use much because I had an aggregator before it existed and never saw a need to subscribe to their way of doing things.

So perhaps a different kind of client is called for, and maybe a new format, or maybe there's not really that much value in syndicating something that already is a digested form of syndication? I don't know, I'll leave that to others, because their support of RSS didn't make me into a user of their service.

Talking with Steve Permanent link to this item in the archive.

I was talking with Steve Gillmor last night, and he said he was waiting to figure out what we're doing with OPML. I tried to explain.

Consider this map, showing the route from Billings to Bozeman. That's quite a leap of progress. Last year at this time I could have gotten my computer to show me that kind of route, but I had a choice, either do it offline, and get something with great visual fidelity (meaning it's easy for a human being to grasp instantly, because it's presented so visually); or do it online, and get up-to-the-minute-accurate results but not so visual. So things are getting better. I want them to get better faster.

Now consider this page page on Yahoo Travel with stuff about Billings, where I am right now, as I write this. It's got places to stay (not relevant for me, I already have a place to stay, and I like it), attractions for kids (again, not relevant to me, I'm an adult, traveling without children), everything but the information I want -- where is the great scenery, are there neat places to hike by the Yellowstone River (which runs adjacent to the town), what do neighboring communities have to offer, where can I get a healthy meal with local food that's fresh. Do I know anyone who's here right now, if so, who?

Go back to the map. Why isn't it highlighting the same things I'd like the Yahoo Travel page to highlight?

The answer -- it's only 2005. Give it some time.

But I'm in a hurry. So how can we get there sooner?

First, how could my computer know that I'm interested in neat scenic places to hike, especially hikes that last 1 to 2 hours, aren't too strenuous, and have great scenery and aren't overrun with tourists? Easy -- what do you think I've been searching for and how do you think I've been doing the searching. It knows because that's what I've been asking it for, in my fumbling way.

So it knows what I['m looking for -- does it have it? I think it does. People like me who were in Billings last month and last year and the year before, or who might be here right now, maybe even in the same hotel. Maybe I've been here before and did these searches and found a perfect place and now would like to find another. By now you must be thinking there's nothing profound about this, we all want that, and know it. That's right there's nothing profound, everyone wants this, just watch Star Trek or an Apple video from the late 80s or early 90s. "Computer, tell me where I should go today and what to do, right now, and make it so." This is our dream. This is why we're inventing computer networks, to give us nothing less than heaven on earth.

So, how? I think the answer is to put the tools for constructing data formats into the hands of users. We've been going about it all wrong, coming up with straight-jackets for users, and expecting them to conform to some set of rules that make no sense about how the characters should be encoded, when it's ideas and relationships to other ideas that we want to make it easy for them to express. In other words, we don't know how to capture this data that we want so much, so create a tool for expressing data that at least some people can use, and let them use it, and let them make it public, and then see what kind of crawlers people write, and then learn, and iterate, and try again and again until we're closer to having the information we want at our fingertips, to quote another visionary from another time.

I've been saying this over and over, forever --> create tools for the people with the ideas and then get out of their way. That's what OPML is about.


Last update: Tuesday, August 09, 2005 at 11:13 PM Eastern.

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