Blog posts tagged "rant"

Atom 1.0: Why Oh Why?

August 16th, 2005

Spent a little time with the Atom 1.0 spec last night on the plane, and I’m coming to the conclusion that it was invented for the sole purpose of making my life difficult. (or perhaps less ego-centrically, making writing feed parsers more challenging)

I don’t really have the expertise of having actually upgraded a parser to add support for this entirely new, utterly backwards incompatible to a degree that makes the so called 7 incompatible versions of RSS look like a fond memory, but a handful of issues that are going to make my life unpleasant jumped out at me. (Maybe I’ll update this list over time)

Arbitrary Renaming

Is “published” really that much better then “issued”? Sure its a small change, but there are literally dozens of seemingly arbitrary word smithing, that makes maintain both a Atom 0.3 and Atom 1.0 parsers in parallel annoyingly cluttered.

updated (nee modified) now under defined

In Atom 0.3 the “modified” element was strongly defined, in that it was required to updated with each edit. This is no longer true. And while we’ve all spent the last 5 years developing expertise trying to guess whether an element has been updated with weird hashing/diffing techniques, it would have been nice to start forgetting about such stuff.

I Miss version

Sure a namespace is “proper” way to do things, but I miss the pragmatism of the version attribute. (what little pragmatism survived to find its way into Atom 0.3 seems to have been beaten out of Atom 1.0)


Dublin Core is a noble piece of work. At its heart it is trying to formally define some basic building blocks which can be universal truths in a digital age. Its like running code version of Semantic Web. So why is the use of dc:subject deprecated in favor of an overly complicated “category” element which, while being similar to the RSS 2.0 category element, has a different for the sake of being different feel to it.

The Atom “category” element

<category term='MSFT' />
<category term='MSFT' scheme='' />

vs. RSS 2.0

<category domain="">MSFT</category>

Never thought I’d call an RSS 2.0 design decision[ clean and well thought out, but its all relative.

Content by Reference

One of Atom’s innovations is introducing a standard “link” element, allowing it to leverage and become a first class citizen of this Web thing which seems so popular. (I’ve written about this before, and mourned Kevin Burton’s mod_link)

So why does the Atom “content” element now allowing for “content by reference”, with the “src” attribute? Honestly, this seems like a clear case of confusing duplication. TIMTOWTDI is one the key factors people point to when claiming that Perl is an ugly, under designed, confusing mess.

For example, are there now two, valid but disparate ways of encoding podcasts in Atom?

And should a toolkit parsing Atom 1.0 automagically deference the URL defined in “src” attribute? I mean, if I’m parsing a feed I expect to able to display the contents of the content element. And if so, are we back to those wonderful bygone days (cough “rss2:enclosure” ) of baking dangerous required behaviour into our processing model? (speaking of process model, shouldn’t the Atom 1.0 processing model address this?)

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A Few Thoughts on Saddam’s Capture

December 16th, 2003

Just to clarify, the time to deal with Saddam would have been before we propped up yet another petty dictator (something which our long track record of doing gave us ample evidence as to what the outcome might be), whom we recklessly supplied with illegal chemical and biological weapons (hey Rummy, we’re looking at you), and encouraged them to use. Barring that, in 1984 when it became clear that Saddam was going to use its U.S. supplied arsenal in ways both illegal and counter to the general prevailing morality it behooved the U.S. to have joined the rest of world in condemning and controlling its puppet turned murder rather then standing behind our boy, and condemning Iran’s “intransigent refusal to deviate from its avowed objective” of getting gassed to death. Given that the government was distracted in the mid-80s running guns and drugs, and propping up terrorist in Central and South America (the “moral equivalent of our founding fathers” according to Reagan), not to mention Afghanistan, then it might have been time to intervene in 1988, when, after concluding its war with Iran, Iraq escalated a decade old pattern of attacks and abuse against Iraq’s Kurdish minority, including 40 separate incidents of gas attacks leading up to Halabja massacre which shocked even those who predicted that a Kurdish crackdown would be Saddam’s next act (and it was predicted), an attack which can only be described as genocidal and killed almost as many people as the number who died in Bhopal in the first hours of a gas attack perpetuated by the criminal negligence of a man who is still protected by the U.S. Then, then might have been a good time to act, especially as the abuse continued unabated for another year destroying an estimated 4,000 villages. At that point I can see the military intervention of U.N. peacekeepers being warranted as the last resort of an outraged global community that had already brought its considerable economic and moral might to the situation. (a similar intervention would have been useful in our nearby ally Turkey for similar gross, and still ongoing, attacks) The U.S., which controlled a significant portion of Iraq’s income, as well as being the major supplier of a majority of Iraq’s food imports, could have been very effective with limited effort, without evening passing the proposed bill of sanction that died quietly in Congress as President Bush Sr. threatened to veto it. That, that might have been a good time to act. So when, without any attempt to peacefully solve Saddam’s border infraction in 1991, and without any coherent understanding of what we hoped to accomplish, and without any repudiation of the past policies which had brought us, unnecessarily, against the better advice or wiser minds, to this point in history, the U.S. fully mobilized an invasionary force against Iraq, that was not our brightest moment, and perhaps not the best time to intervene. But, we were there, we had invaded, we largely controlled the country. We can speculate that Saddam was confused, and probably hostile at this sudden reversal of policy, especially after, the potentially apocryphal phone call the day before the invasion which we can only assume was his attempt to get an “ok” for the re-annexing of a territory that Iraq had always considered its own (though Kuwait, and just about everyone else hotly disputed the point for very valid reasons) This was going to be a much harder negotiation. At that point its harder to see a simple and clear way out of the problem, we can only speculate what might have happened if we hadn’t raced off to cowboy a war in the desert. Perhaps it would have gone the same if we would have gone through the international channels, perhaps Saddam would have been just as intractable. We do know that the second mostly commonly cited of Saddam’s atrocities, the war against the Marsh Arabs wouldn’t have happened, if we hadn’t encourage the uprising and abruptly withdrawn. If, as the U.S. seems to want to do, we were going to insist on a military solution to the problem we had created, then in 1991, with wide spread if by no means universal support of the global community, a clear set of goals, and a popular uprising inside Iraq, if we were going to bring democracy at the end of a gun, that was the time to do it. Instead we waged a war of limited engagement, a bombing campaign against civilian infrastructure of the type forbade by the Geneva convention, which we then followed up with brutal sanctions which the man put in charge of running them described as “punishing the Iraqi people for a crime they did not commit.” Through out the 1990s the U.S. maintained these sanctions which led to the deaths of millions of Iraqis for lack of food, shelter, and clean water all while making no meaningful attempts to find a solution to the standoff we found ourselves in of an understandably peeved former ally who had no reason to believe his life would be spared if he gave up near total power of his admittedly crumbling empire. The U.N. sanction were brutal but relatively effective at shutting down Saddam’s war making ability (it shut down much of Iraq’s ability to do anything), and generating a needed sense of “being tough” for a Democratic president, a much needed boost for any Democrat trying to maintain popularity with a bloody thirsty populace. At this point the situation was pretty much, and predictably fucked beyond repair, but it could have been handled with humanity, as repeated calls for more intelligent sanctions which would have reduced the collective punishment aspect of the sanctions while still crippling Saddam’s formerly U.S. backed ability to wage war proposed. Such sanctions also would have cut down on the flow of cheap oil coming out of Iraq. (a useful stick to wield against other OPEC countries) So forgive me when I have a hard time working up a celebratory demeanor over the capture of a man that costs nearly $100 billion dollars, and as yet uncounted (by new, official Pentagon policies) lives, that could have been averted with a phone call by many of the men of are currently running this country, as they were 20 years ago when we got into this mess. Now we’re stuck with the situation of what to do with him, a decision made harder by the U.S. decade of repeated vetoes of the International Criminal Court, which exists now but a shadow of the original intent. And we are faced with cleaning up the mess we made of Iraq, both in our most recent invasion, and over the last two decades, a challenge we are rising to marvelously with our “Christmas has come early for Halliburton” approach to needs assessment, and bridge building, literal and metaphorical.

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RSS-Data: Perhaps Not the Best Idea Ever

October 3rd, 2003

Jeremey Allaire has proposed RSS-Data, an attempt to wedge XML-RPC serialization into RSS, an idea which is so phenomenally bad, and wrong headed, I’m momentarily speechless. (At least of anything I would say in public)

The joy, however, of being behind the curve is someone else has already said it for you.

Whats all that noise?

Les has put together examples of RSS with namespaces vs. RSS-Data; examples that I think speak for themselves (the RSS-Data example is so spaghetti, and loose it gives me the willies just looking at it [or maybe that is my OPML “we’ll just cram everything in all which way, like, in poorly defined attributes that we make up as we go along” flashback kicking in]).

Been Done, Been Done Better, Already Part of RSS

But if they aren’t speaking to you as clearly (and I’ll admit the voices in my head are particularly loud and clear tonight), you might see if Danny’s Um, we’ve had that for 3 years it’s called RDF, and it works much better, makes it any clearer.

Ah, Running Code

So technologically it sucks, but what about this supposed ease of use?
See parsing RSS-Data vs. parsing RSS namespaces, and compare these 2 samples for readability.

The Macromedia Way?

Allaire speaks about a new crop of aggregators that could be extended to solve domain specific problems, and new formats of RSS-Data. All I can say is, namespaces, RDF, and XML…Hello?

He also mentions how wonderful it would be to get all this stuff into Flash, and Java, and that Macromedia Central might be a great container for this stuff, to which I can only say, “What can you expect from the man who gave us ColdFusion!” (literally, this is the same spirit that I think ColdFusion embodies in all it’s hackish, kludgy, kind of uncomfortable with intermediate concepts in computer science, proprietary way)

And I challenge someone to explain to me why adding 3-4 layers of nested XML, to get a poorly specified date format is an improvement over just using W3CDTF?

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I Don’t Get It

June 14th, 2003

Why do people keep listening to this man? Sam wants to know why Dave said MT’s RSS support “was funky”. Its obvious why, because Dave sees Moveable Type as a competitor, how deep do we need to look?

A man who claimed to invent RSS but doesn’t even understand the basic technologies or standards involved. He querulously wants to know what version of RSS MT supports, because he can’t conceive of someone supporting multiple formats transparently. He makes wildly uninformed statements like “they produce RDF where RSS is called for”, um Dave, that is called X-M-L. He follows that up with snide comments implying it is somehow Ben & Mena’s fault for RSS development being stalled, when an even cursory scan of the history of RSS will show that MT is largely a latecomer to RSS development, and very neutral, and that real problem lies somewhere else. (today stopped implying it and came out and said it, proving either he has no scruples in his FUD campaign or his memory is really starting to go [nice picasso though])

People are “chickenshit” for not kowtowing to his lousy design sense, Microsoft’s embrace and extend is something we should aspire to in our standards, and his critics are beating up on an old man on one the 1yr anniversary of his heart attack becausle we all secretly want him dead. An old man who can take the time to insult a product that apparently he can’t even install, despite the fact that immense amounts of work were obviously but into making MT’s installation brain dead simple. (before they gave it away for free)

Dave is as welcome to his opinions as the next crazy old man you pass on the street, and if you reject the idea that his entire public persona is just the napalm equipped marketting campaign of a rentless, unscrupulous competitor then crazy is the only sense it makes. So why do people keep treating him like some 800lb gorilla? Well, I’ll admit he certainly has got something special, I can’t think of any stranger who frustrates me nearly as much on such a regular basis.

Aaron asks Dave to explain 2 statements made on his website, Dave responds with a vicious attack.

Tim Bray seems to me to bend over backwards to be fair and flattering, but Dave feels this is trashing his reputation. I guess you could make the arguement that someone saying you “want to do the right thing”, and comparing you to a genius is trashing your reputation, but are you sure you want to draw attention to that reputation?

Ben writes a technical, and neutrally worded statement on why Echo might be a good idea. Dave responds with a ridiculous and very personal retort.

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