A few days ago I got a Facebook message from David Recordon about Six Apart's release of the ActionStreams plugin. The meat of the announcement is excerpted below

Today, we're shipping the next step in our vision of openness -- the Action Streams plugin -- an amazing new plugin for Movable Type 4.1 that lets you aggregate, control, and share your actions around the web. Now of course, there are some social networking services that have similar features, but if you're using one of today's hosted services to share your actions it's quite possible that you're giving up either control over your privacy, management of your identity or profile, or support for open standards. With the Action Streams plugin you keep control over the record of your actions on the web. And of course, you also have full control over showing and hiding each of your actions, which is the kind of privacy control that we demonstrated when we were the only partners to launch a strictly opt-in version of Facebook Beacon. Right now, no one has shipped a robust and decentralized complement to services like Facebook's News Feed, FriendFeed, or Plaxo Pulse. The Action Streams plugin, by default, also publishes your stream using Atom and the Microformat hAtom so that your actions aren't trapped in any one service. Open and decentralized implementations of these technologies are important to their evolution and adoption, based on our experiences being involved in creating TrackBack, Atom, OpenID, and OAuth. And we hope others join us as partners in making this a reality.

This is a clever idea although I wouldn't compare it to the Facebook News Feed (what my social network is doing) it is instead a self hosted version of the Facebook Mini-Feed (what I've been doing). Although people have been doing this for a while by aggregating their various feeds and republishing to their blog (life streams?), I think this is the first time that a full fledged framework for doing this has been shipped as an out of the box solution. 

Mark Paschal has a blog post entitled Building Action Streams which gives an overview of how the framework works. You define templates which contains patterns that should be matched in a feed (RSS/Atom) or in an HTML document and how to convert these matched elements into a blog post. Below is the template for extracting and republishing del.icio.us links extracted from the site's RSS feeds.

delicious:
    links:
        name: Links
        description: Your public links
        html_form: '[_1] saved the link <a href="[_2]">[_3]</a>'
        html_params:
            - url
            - title
        url: 'http://del.icio.us/rss/{{ident}}'
        identifier: url
        xpath:
            foreach: //item
            get:
                created_on: dc:date/child::text()
                title: title/child::text()
                url: link/child::text()

It reminds me a little of XSLT. I almost wondered why they just didn't use that until I saw that it also supports pattern matching HTML docs using Web::Scraper [and that XSLT is overly verbose and difficult to grok at first glance].

Although this is a pretty cool tool I don't find it interesting as a publishing tool. On the other hand, it's potential as a new kind of aggregator is very interesting. I'd love to see someone slap more UI on it and make it a decentralized version of the Facebook News feed. Specifically, if I could feed it a blogroll, have it use the Google Social Graph API to figure out the additional services that the people in my subscriptions have and then build a feed reader + news feed experience on top of it. That would be cool. 

Come to think of it, this would be something interesting to experiment with in future versions of RSS Bandit.

Now Playing: Birdman - Pop Bottles (remix) (feat. Jim Jones & Fabolous)


 

Sunday, February 3, 2008 7:24:26 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I'm with you on this. I love the idea of providing my own presence and allowing it to be subscribed to (with whatever permissions and granularity that become important). But this model doesn't scale without aggregators. It strikes me that all of the pieces are there, if we can simply organize them.

(And I still think I could put my Windows Home Server into service as a node on the social grid where I control how I appear and participate in different cyber-communities. But a hosted web site or blog site should work just as well for those of us who work with such things.)
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