e + 1 = 0

September 20, 2002

It seems I’m not the alone in creating an HTML profile to allow applications to extract meaningful data from web pages. It turns out that the W3C uses such a profile to derive RSS from their front page. My web threading profile can also be used to derive RSS—that’s how I generate the feed here—but it goes further in the amount of information it extracts. #

Worth reading

Some articles I’ve been meaning to note here:



A recent article at Kuro5hin purporting to teach Esperanto in 10 minutes leads to a bunch of other interesting articles. (Well, interesting to me.)

I’m not convinced that Ido or Esperanto are necessarily good choices for an international language. While the enhanced regularity may make them easier to learn (certainly easier than the mess which is English), they still make far too many assumptions based on European languages. I played around with constructed languages back in high school (inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and Marc Okrand), and it wasn’t until I studied Japanese in college that I realized the extent to which languages can differ. Mucking around with vocabulary and word order and whether or not case is marked is comparatively small potatoes. #

New features of the Library

I’ve read a good deal of on-line fiction over the years. I have a number of authors’ web sites bookmarked, and I’ll occasionally drop by to see if there’s anything new. In addition to providing me with free entertainment, it’s also taught me what I can do to make life easier for my hypothetical readers.

For example, you’ll notice that all but the oldest stories in the Library are dated. These help people who visit infrequently judge whether a given story is new. (This is more useful when there are new stories, but that’s a separate matter.) More recently, I moved the recent updates list to the main library page from works in progress. This gives visitors to the library a visible place to find out what the latest additions to the Library are. (Again, this works better when there are recent updates.)

For similar reasons, I’ve revamped the projects page to make it easier to see where progress is being made. The update descriptions are now organized by time instead of by episode, and a simple list of in-progress stories is provided in a side bar. Again, the goal is to put the information the reader probably wants (“Has Dave done anything recently?”) close to the top of the page.

But wait, there’s more! I’ve mentioned RSS before, but if you’re still fuzzy on the concept, think of it as a “What’s new” list formatted in a way that’s easy for software to interpret. For the benefit of those hypothetical readers who use RSS aggregators (such as AmphetaDesk, Aggie, or NetNewsWire), I am now providing RSS feeds for Library additions and progress updates.

I was among those skeptical of RSS tools, but they really are perfect for things like this. They take care of checking the feed every so often, and they can highlight new items that you haven’t seen yet. It turns out that having a program visit the sites you want to watch is much faster than visiting them yourself, especially if the site doesn’t update frequently. There are also some web-based systems that I haven’t had time to research. (Lots of info is on-line, so I’ll just mention Utah’s RSS information page, which has a great deal of stuff.)

The point of all this is to make life easier for my readers. I know that if the authors I read had feeds, I would subscribe. As it is, I tend to visit the authors whose sites make it easy to find new material more frequently. People don’t mind waiting if it isn’t too much trouble. #