October 3, 2004
@ 06:38 PM

As an author of a news reader that supports RSS and Atom, I often have to deal with feeds that are often technically valid RSS/Atom feeds but for one or more reasons cause unnecessary inconvenience to authors and users of news aggregators. This is the second in a series of posts highlighting such feeds as an example to others on how not to design syndication feeds for a website.

This week's gem is the Sun Bloggers RSS feed. This RSS feed is a combined feed for all the blogs hosted at http://blogs.sun.com. This means that at any given time the feed most likely contains posts by multiple authors.

To highlight the problem with the feed I present the following two item elements taken from the feed a few minutes ago.

    <title>Something fishy...</title>
    <description>A king was very fond of fish products. He went fishing in the only river of his kingdom. While fishing he accidently dropped his diamond ring presented by his wife - The Queen. A fish in the river mistook the sparkling ring for an insect and swallowed it. The fisherman caught the fish and sold it to a chef. The King on the other side was very sad and apologistic. Took the Queen to a restaurant for a dinner and ordered a fried fish. The chef presented the same which had the diamond ring inside. King was happy to find the ring back and rewarded the restaurant. The restaurant rewarded the chef and the Chef rewarded the fisherman. The fisherman then went back to the river, killed all the fishes in search of another diamond ring. I never understood the motto of the story but there is certainly something fishy about it!</description>
    <guid isPermaLink="true">http://blogs.sun.com/roller/page/ashish/20041002#something_fishy</guid>
    <pubDate>Sat, 2 Oct 2004 08:53:15 PDT</pubDate>
    <title>Another one bytes the dust...</title>
    <description>Well, more like another one got bitten. Accoring to &lt;a href="http://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/51749"&gt;this&lt;/a&gt; (german) article from &lt;a href="http://www.heise.de"&gt;Heise&lt;/a&gt; Mr. Gates got himself some Spyware on his personal/private systems, and has now decided to take things into his own hand (or at least into those of his many and skilled engineers). Bravo!&lt;p&gt; Spyware or other unwanted executables like e.g. &lt;a href="http://securityresponse.symantec.com/avcenter/expanded_threats/dialers/"&gt;dialers&lt;/a&gt; are puzzeling me for some time now, since I simply don't understand how those thinks can be kept legal at all. No one needs dialers. There are enough good ways for online payment. No one in their right mind can honestly belive, that anyone with a serious business would need any of that crap. It's a plain ripoff scheme.&lt;p&gt;</description>
    <guid isPermaLink="true">http://blogs.sun.com/roller/page/lars/20041002#another_one_bytes_the_dust</guid>
    <pubDate>Sat, 2 Oct 2004 07:32:18 PDT</pubDate>

The problem with the feed is that even though the RSS 2.0 specification has a provision for an author element and the Dublin Core RSS module has the dc:creator element which can be used in its stead the Sun Bloggers RSS feed eschews directly identifying the author of the post in the feed. 

The obvious benefits of identifying authors in collaborative feeds include enabling the reader to better determine whether the speaker is an authority on the topic at hand or begin to ascribe authority to the author if the reader was previously unaware of the author. Then there are aggregator specific benefits such as the fact that readers could then group or filter items in the feed based on the author thus improving their reading experience.  

A solution to this problem is for the webmaster of the Sun Bloggers site to begin to use author elements to identify the authors of the various posts in the Sun Bloggers feed.


Tuesday, October 5, 2004 2:26:41 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Thanks for the bug report, Dare - you are welcome to post directly to the bug tracking system rather than boring your readers as we're using a piece of open source software, although you'll find not only that someone has beaten you to it (see http://opensource.atlassian.com/projects/roller/browse/ROL-486 ) but that it's fixed on the release we'll be migrating to RSN.

Friday, October 8, 2004 12:57:46 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Seems to me that this post was beneficial, because it is read (presumably) by those who are interested in XML. One might assume that RSS/RDF/ATOM authors are a subset of Dare's audience. This blog, therefore, is a good place to instruct such how to create feeds that play well with feed readers. Posting to the bug tracking system will fix the feeds of one product, but might not instruct as many as this blog.
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