Hey Dave — you have to let go of RSS

Full disclosure: I know diddly-squat about RSS. I know what it does, and I know a little about how it works, and I use it – but I’m not a programmer, so for example I don’t know why sometimes my feeds have weird characters in them where the quotes should be, or where the apostrophes are, or whatever. I do know that RSS is important, because it gives people a way of subscribing to blogs and news sources they like, or even of subscribing to individual pieces of a smart news site such as the one I work for. This allows people to desconstruct the media and reconstruct it in new ways, which is “a good thing” TM.

I also know that the inimitable Dave Winer, who by all accounts is a brilliant programmer and is also a long-time blogger, developed RSS and is working on various outgrowths from that, including OPML, which allows the creation of “reading lists,” which also looks like a good thing. But at the risk of pissing Dave off so soon after my most recent run-in with him, it’s also clear that he is too close to RSS, and too personally invested in it, to the point where he appears to be hindering progress in making it better. And that’s “a bad thing.” TM

Even digging a little bit into the whole affair gives me the willies, but as far as I can tell, Dave is doing his best to screw around with the RSS Advisory Board, which is run by Rogers Cadenhead – a guy who (as Steve Kirks points out) has supported Dave when he was slammed by critics and worked with him at Weblogs.com. And yet, Dave suggests in a recent post that the board no longer exists.

The comments on Roger’s post, as well as discussions of the topic from Adam Green at Darwinian Web and Marshall Kirkpatrick make it obvious that Dave is trying to control RSS, and that this isn’t the first time he has tried to exert his will and stymie change. I can understand why he feels personally attached to the spec, but that is no reason to stall change. If the board proposes things that aren’t good, presumably others will resist and criticize, and changes will be made – that’s how things work in a democracy, which last time I looked is how these things were supposed to operate. I’m sure Dave will correct me if I’m wrong.

Update:

Paul Montgomery over at Tinfinger says that the board and I are all wrong, and that Dave is right. Why? For some pretty odd reasons, as far as I can tell. For example, Paul says that RSS needs to be fixed, but says it’s better to keep it the way it is because that keeps it “strong;” he also says that it’s vague, and that is also a strength – but the strangest one is when he says that one of the great features of RSS is “its poor quality.” That’s quite the argument you’ve got there, Paul. For me, I’d rather have something that changes and evolves and gets better, and to hell with Dave and his ego.

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