You loaded it, you might as well read it

July 19, 2002

Revised blogthread proposal

When I last spoke about blogthreads, I was already working to revise the specification I had written, not because the concepts were changing but because I wasn’t sure I was explaining it adequately. Well, the latest version is out and—surprise!—I’m already starting to think that it could be organized better.

At this point, the document contains two major parts:

  1. An RDF vocabulary for describing discussion threads in weblogs, message boards, news groups, and e-mail
  2. A simple coding convention for web pages which allows software to break an archive page into its component posts, even in cases such as the front page of a weblog, where the posts are mirrored from their permanent locations

Another document extends the RDF vocabulary with weblog-specific information, such as what’s in the “blogroll” (the prominent list of other weblogs seen on many weblogs). Another intended companion document would extend the vocabulary to describe topic-based discussion forums, such as message boards.

Given the considerable overlap between the three described vocabularies, and given that the RDF stuff and the coding convention exist on different levels of operation and can be used independently of each other, I’m beginning to think that it makes more sense to have all the RDF stuff in one file and the coding convention in another.

Anyway, if you’ve gotten this far, check out the new version. I spent a lot more time trying to give some background on why anyone would care, and I added some keen diagrams. #

The dark side

Shelly Powers has announced her departure from weblogging, which I probably wouldn’t have noticed if she weren’t working on a blogthreading system of her own (one a bit less clean than my own, IMHO, but with the advantage of actual software in development).

In any case, she has a lot to say about the dark side of weblogs. This bit in particular struck me:

And once the words are out and the writing is finished, no matter how terrific the post is, it’s slowly pushed down a page and hidden among other postings and blogrolls and blogstickers and other graphics until it eventually falls off the bottom of the page, never to surface again unless some strange person puts a bizarre request into Google that leads to one of our archives.

It’s probably a minor point from her perspective, but it does describe one frustration of my own regarding the weblog format. Categories and theoretical thread overviews can help bring older, important stuff forward, but sometimes things will simply be lost in the archives. A weblog can produce so much material that it’s difficult to tell where anything is.

Certainly, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my fiction is moving so slowly while my site gets updated so frequently. But would I give it up? I’m not sure. I write ZedneWeb with a strange cognitive dissonance: I write with the hope that lots of people will read, but at the same time I feel like I can say almost anything because hardly anyone reads it. (Hi, Sharon.) I deliberately avoid looking through the server logs so that I can keep those two contradictory illusions in my head. #

More bloggery stuff

Two more items. First, Mark Pilgrim has been running an excellent series on improving weblog usability. Lots of good advice on making your weblog (or any site) as usable as possible to the blind, the poorly-sighted, the bandwidth-challenged, and others. It’s unfortunately presented in reverse chronological order, so skip to the end of the page for a list of the first few posts.

I am in the process of applying some of his advice to my calendars.

Unrelated, but still tangentially connected to weblogs, is NetNewsWire Lite, a Mac OS X headline reader, which reads RSS feeds and presents them in a simple three-paned window. It’s not perfect yet, but it can slurp up the experimental ZedneWeb headlines feed and present it nicely. (See this screenshot.) This is potentially useful if you don’t feel like visiting ZedneWeb every day in case there’s something new. (via Jeffrey Zeldman and Wes Felter) #

Remember XNS?

Just in time to prevent people from giving up entirely, XNSORG has released the technical specifications for their Extensible Name Service, which has become a complex set of digital identity services that I won’t claim to understand entirely. I’ve been watching XNS since it started, but aside from registering my name (under the “free for life” promotion, without which I wouldn’t have bothered) I haven’t really been able to do anything with it.

Still, I always had a liking for XNS, mostly because their original documents made a lot of smart moves when dealing with names and identities. They recognized, for example, that a person may change their name without becoming a different person, so they split the user-level names from the software-level identities. This would allow me to change from “=Dave Menendez” to, say, “=Zednenem” without breaking anyone’s address books. The original specifications also provided independence from your hosting service, so that I could change the organization hosting my identity information without breaking people’s address books—but that doesn’t seem to work in the new specifications, so far as I can tell.

For more background, see “XNS Gets Free” at Digital ID World. The technical specs are out royalty-free, but I’m guessing the question to ask is: Will anyone care? #

Quick Macworld 2002 reactions

Despite living in the New York metropolitan area, I’ve never made it to a Macworld Expo. But I can still talk about the things I’ve heard.

I’m skipping over a lot of stuff (iTunes 3, for example), but it’s late and I’m sleepy. #