It's all spinning wheels and self-doubt until the first pot of coffee.

When RSS Developers Attack

I agree with Derek Balling [who criticized Foo Camp], and when you come back to earth, I bet you will too Jeremy.

Did I read that you guys had meetings about RSS? At a private invitation-only event? Do you realize how WRONG that is?

One of the sessions on Sunday morning at FOO Camp was a brainstorming session on how a site could provide a list of feeds.

...A working name for this effort is "FDML". The stands for Feed (Discovery / Directory / Detailing) Markup Language, depending on who you ask. ;-)

Just so it is absolutely clear: all I have done is listed a set of requirements, many if not most of which are directly from Jeremy himself. The acronym was suggested by David Sifry.

People are welcome to question, refine, or add to the requirements, or present proposals on how these requirements can best be implemented. Perhaps even with OPML.

For anyone who wonders why people talk about politics and animosity in the tiny sphere of web syndication tech, here's a case in point.

You see, there was a private event over the weekend, called Foo Camp. To this, many smart people were invited, and many more weren't. Grousing about invitations, funding, and elitism aside, it sounded like a great time and a cool change from your average conference. I hope it turns into a regular event, and hope that someday I'm given the opportunity to go to something like it. I'm sure a lot of us out here would like to make it to something like that.

But, for what it was, you can only gather so many people before it becomes a circus (or a conference). Charging a price serves as a limiter, while making the event invitation-only works as well. The difference is whether you're bringing in people who can afford it versus people who are favored by the organizer. Either way, someone's going to be pissed about not going. The difference is whether you're pissed off at the organizer's economics or the organizer's personality. Oh well.

So anyway, around mid-September, Jeremy Zawodny had floated an idea involving publishing and discovery of lists of RSS feeds. He was one of those invited to Foo Camp, and in one of their huddles, he brought the idea up for a brainstorming session. From the sounds of it, they tossed around a few ideas, but didn't really come up with much other than that it was an idea worth discussing.

No sooner than the camp breaks up, though, and the angry buzz has already started. How dare a bunch of geeks talk about technology they're interested in while at a private gathering? How dare they not invite all of us? Conspiracy! Elitism! They didn't pick me for their kickball team! By the way, this isn't an attempt to put words in mouths. This is my off-the-cuff impression of what I read yesterday. It all seems repeatedly and unnecessarily childish to me, and it's certainly not limited to one person.

So, by today, there's already a wiki devoted to exploring this idea, along with a scattering of blog posts. This seems pretty speedy to me, considering campers returning to the work-a-day world after a geek retreat. This doesn't seem at all the work of a sinister cabal bent on wresting control and domination over a technology, as what I saw implied in the first comment I quoted above.

Dave Winer's already posted a first proposal toward implementing the idea. And, believe it or not, as Sam comments on above, this approach has not been ruled out. In fact, Jeremy had suggested using OPML in his original posting of the idea.

Why couldn't we just have seen the collaboration without the antagonism, in at least this case? Yeah, there was a small, private gathering at which discussions were had. Sounds like what happens at work, or with friends, or in classes. Granted, I suppose an argument could be made concerning the relative openness of these gatherings as compared to Foo Camp. But, this is mooted by the fact that the people involved were already moving toward sharing the discussion.

For all the grousing about flame wars and personality clashes on mailing lists and working groups, sometimes it's nice to work on an idea in a smaller group with a good dynamic. It helps to get something together before throwing the doors open to have the thing buffeted by opinions and criticism from all sides. It's one way to avoid "stop energy" while trying to build some momentum.

As Dave himself wrote, "I heard at a working group meeting that things like SOAP can only happen when no one is paying attention." So, it sounds like a bunch of geeks tried to get something rolling before the attentional heat lamps turned on it. Had they wanted to be a sinister cabal, we certainly wouldn't have heard about any of this until long, long after the event. It would have been kept behind closed corporate doors until the day of embrace-and-extend. Then, profit! As it is, I think they erred on the side of throwing open the discussion too early.

So anyway, the reason I write at such length about this is that I don't think that this should be let to pass without comment or consideration. This kind of thing is what's wrong. We need to take at least three deep breaths before reacting like this, whether or not we've taken 900 beep breaths in the past already. It's the nature of these things. As an interested but outside observer, the atmosphere created by such reactions makes me very sad. And it's not just one person doing this, either.

So, chill out. It's just data. In fact, the proposal at question here is just a friggen outline of feeds! It's just a list of lists! Most of the geeks out there just want to play, and are happy to have more geeks to play with. Can't we just get along and play the game together, rather than gaming each other?


Archived Comments

  • Danny O'Brien has an excellent write up of how the exclusionary methods of Camp Foo were pissing people off, and more importantly why they were necessary.
  • Actually, there was a reasonable amount of work done back when Jeremy first came up with the proposal, most of which I codified here and here. It was done without acrynomy, too. Maybe that's why people were not interested in starting from there and instead preferred to start all over again.