Okay, so the story so far would be that at half nine last night I released the ESF, which I’ve been promising to do (although not online) for a while. Then Peter used it, Mark linked to it (pointing out a major flaw in the idea, the fact that MT doesn’t support epoch timestamps. I really should have checked that. Um, anyone out there got any ideas for how I could kludge that? I’m playing with my own MT install (I do have one at home. Know thy enemy and all that), but it’s currently exceeding my knowledge) and at that point it sort of snowballed. I’ve been sitting at work watching it spiral out of control. Can I be scared now?
Questions have been asked. Fingers have been poked. “What happens if you want to put a newline in a title?” they ask. “You don’t” I answer “Titles are titles, stop trying to use it as RSS. It’s for passing along headlines, /not/ stories”. “What happens if my link has a tab in it, eh? What then?” “then your link has greater problems than ESF, friend”. “It doesn’t do anything RSS doesn’t do better?” “It does everything it needs to. And it’s staying stable. Promise.”
Then there were more valid questions. Like “What mime type is it?” “text/plain”. “Why doesn’t it…?” “Because it doesn’t need to”, and also, the all pervasive “why?”
Because I’m trying to develop on standards that are shifting beneath my feet, because I’m fed up of the whining that appears to dog the entire processes, because I don’t belive that adding features alone makes anything better, because I think the new RSS is taking the format somewhere it doesn’t need to go…
But mainly because people have been using the basis for this standard – plain and simple ascii – for decades, http is built upon it, as is email, news, and the configurations for almost every unix system ever. The only way it could be more standard is if I used “<field>: <data>”, but colons are special in URLs.
And because the idea of more than half of any given downloaded file being metadata appeals to me not at all in a world where bandwidth is paid by the megabyte. XML is useful, but I think that for small files – and this type of syndication should not /be/ large files – it’s over engineering.