Hot topic within the geekoblogsphere this month is – in reverse order – the WOX project and WinerWatch.
I’m going to ignore WinerWatch (which is password protected now).
The WAX project – also known as “PIE” or “nECHO”, but I like “WOX” to stand for “Weblogs over XML” Eventually they’ll think of a better name and a permanent one, ‘till then I’ll call it WOX.
The project, whatever it’s name, is really simple at it’s heart. They are trying to define an XML format for weblogs. Problem is they are making a number of mistakes, and because I don’t trust Wikism they’ll never know I think that. (I was involved in Everything2, one of the first wiki-likes, and then went away for three months. In that time the mood of the site and general consensus was changed, and half my work was deleted. I’m now extremely wary of putting anything into that kind of public editing process) so you get this rant instead 🙂
When I wrote XML is the new black I meant it. All-things-to-all-people will be the death of XML. If you look at RSS2 you can see exactly why Dave Winer doesn’t like Funky Feeds (Which a careful calculation has seen means “Anything that uses name spaces”), but his reasoning is different to mine.
My point, and the reason I created ESF last year, is that when you are sending out a version of your site that’ll be collected once every hour or so by anyone who is even vaguely interested in what you say, you want to keep the amount of bandwidth that is being taken up by that feed to an absolute minimum. To a site like Aqcom where most of my visitors are normal browsers this isn’t much of an issue, but for people like Mark or Stuart where a large percentage of their readership browses with aggregators (Last time I saw Kryogenix’s stats (Which were updated in April on the page I found) his XML-feed count was twice his home-page hit-count. RSS Readers account for 1.58% of my readership (IE 49.74%, Moz 22.7%)) this is a bandwidth-breaker. It’s the reason Mark only puts excepts in his feeds. If you feed your entire site, including meta-data, I can’t help think you’re giving too much away.
Syndication means feeding your content out so other people can use it. The current model includes facilities for extending the feed infinitely using name spaces (meaning you can include foaf, ent dc or whatever data you want in your feed) which seems like a neat idea, until you have to support it. Do you know how many XML specifications there are for categories? DC has one, ENT _is_ one, WOX itself has a proposed “metadata” tag for this kind of thing, how is an aggregator meant to be able to tell what it is? The problem with names-spaced XML is that in order to display a page correctly, you have to understand each and every tin-pot format the creator has used, meaning it’s ideal in an enclosed environment where somebody somewhere defines what name spaces the document uses, but loose on the Internet it means that any given aggregator has to keep track of hundreds of specifications if it wants to get all the information it can out of the feed, not to mention the problems of people who pollute the given name of a – and I use this phrase in the loosest possible sense – standard. On top of all this metadata for the entry, you are now putting in metadata for the feed itself, meaning that for every element of data you include, you have to explain it, further bloating the feed.
This is why I think WOX is making the large mistakes. Also, I disagree with the decision that trackbacks and pingbacks are comments, and have to be treated as such, when I don’t.