The RSS soap opera (updated)

Dave just can’t let it go. The RSS thing, I mean. He started with a thinly-veiled attack on the RSS Advisory Board a few days ago, which he managed to rope John Palfrey and Harvard’s Berkman Center into as well (are they regretting ever getting involved? I would have to think they are, unless they are closet masochists). And now he is firing broadsides in typical Winer-esque fashion both on his blog and on the Yahoo Group dedicated to the RSS effort (or perhaps “sideshow” might be a better term).

Here’s a typical example of how Dave likes to deal with things. He often talks about how the RSS process should be open, and how ideas from the advisory board have to compete for acceptance, that they are “not mandates.” But then he writes things like this:

“I am banging the gavel and ending this experiment of Rogers’s [Roger Cadenhead, head of the advisory board]. Tomorrow I will talk individualy with all the corporate members of the “board” and ask them to resign.”

But even this isn’t enough for Dave, who likes to talk about how RSS has been given to the people through Harvard and the Creative Commons process, but still guards the spec as though he were a mother bear and it was his cub. Here’s how he continues his ultimatum:

“If anyone else decides to join up with [Rogers] on the terms of the old “advisory board” I will talk with each of them individually, until they see that it serves no purpose. This process will go on until Rogers gets the idea that it isn’t go to work. I may at some time send him a bill for all of my time that he is wasting.”

The sad thing is that Dave’s efforts will probably do a fair amount of damage to the advisory board, and his talking to various corporate backers of the idea might just sabotage a lot of what the group is attempting to do – which, let’s remember, is to improve the spec. Dave would rather have it frozen in amber for eternity, which is why Atom was developed – as a way of routing around Dave (as James Robertson puts it, the reason why Atom exists is demonstrated “every single time Dave speaks on the subject”).

And whenever supporters like Paul Montgomery of Tinfinger come out in support of Dave, they wind up having to twist themselves into rhetorical pretzels. Tim, for example, thinks the fact that RSS is broken and generally sucks is actually a positive thing. How did things get to this point?

Update:

I can’t resist. Another exhibit in the ongoing Dave Winer-versus-everyone-else story: Dave posted something today (Feb. 23) that is like an exercise in split personalities. He starts off very reasonably, telling Rogers Cadenhead to “be a sport and listen a little, give a little. You can make a contribution without being Lord Master God of RSS.” Then he tells Rogers that the “compromise” he suggests is for Rogers and the rest of the RSS Advisory Board to change their name and their mandate completely – to what Dave wants it to be, of course. Then he says

“I’m not going to argue with you about whether or not you’re in conflict, since I’m the author of the roadmap, I reserve that judgement for myself. Someone has to have the last word, and when it comes to the RSS 2.0 roadmap, that’s me, not you.” He also warns Rogers that “you can’t just blow by me in RSS, and ignore what I say, that just isn’t going to work.”

Priceless. If you want more on the saga, Shelley over at Burningbird has plenty.

Update 2:

Dave Sifry of Technorati.com has resigned from the RSS board today (Feb. 24) at the request of Dave Winer.

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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