Randy Holloway writes

This session was set up as an open conversation, with only one concrete agenda item.  That being RSS versus Atom.

Interesting, a bunch of developers get together to discuss weblogging technologies and they discuss the most irrelevant piece of the puzzle. For those not keeping track, there are two primary weblog syndication formats in popular usage; the RDF-based RSS 1.0 and Dave Winer's RSS 0.91/RSS 2.0. Developers tend to prefer Dave Winer's specs to the RSS 1.0 branch but due to various interpersonal issues with Dave Winer (unsurprising since he can be quite trying) a bunch of people decided to create a third syndication format (Atom) which duplicates the functionality of the other two primarily to get around the fact that Dave Winer controlled the spec for the most popular feed syndication format. This third format adds little to the table besides fragmenting the feed syndication world which already has to deal with RSS 1.0 vs. RSS 0.91/RSS 2.0 issues. In fact, this redundancy is currently being debated on the atom-syntax list.

There are three major technologies (i.e. XML formats) in the blogging world; feed syndication (RSS), blog editing (Blogger API & MetaWeblog API) and feed list information (OPML). Dave Winer's specs are dominant in all three areas given that he is the author of both the MetaWeblog API and OPML spec. Of the three of the them, RSS is probably the best of the specs and meets the needs of most users except for the Semantic Web folks who want an RDF-based format (i.e. RSS 1.0). On the other hand, there are significant deficiencies in both the MetaWeblog API and OPML. I have blogged about What is wrong with the MetaWeblog API as well as mentioned some of the problems with OPML as a format for storing information about subscribed feeds.

Given that RSS is the best of the weblog related technologies while the blog editing and feed list formats are actually the technologies with problems one might wonder why there is so much energy invested in fixing what isn't that broken instead of trying to tackle actual problems that affect developers and users of blogging tools? One of the answers to this question comes from a comment that Randy Holloway says someone made during the Weblogging BOF

"We don't solve problems, we just talk about them." 

Most of the people engaged in the discussions don't actually write any code or at least not any weblogging related code, so they are unaware of the real problems but instead focus on simple yet irrelevant issues that are easy to grok. This is definitely a case of bike shedding. [Hmmm, I love the term "bike shedding" so much I dug up  the original source of the phrase]

Speaking of Atom, I'm curious as to how all the XML Web Services folks at the Weblogging BOF felt about the fact that the current drafts of the ATOM API uses just HTTP and XML instead of the XML Web Services buzzword soup (SOAP, WSDL, etc) meaning they won't be using Indigo to code against it just plain old System.Xml and System.Net. If ""XML-RPC is a fantastic solution... from a while ago"  I wonder what they think of using just HTTP with no fancy object<->XML mappings, positively prehistoric :)