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Feeds vs Attention, or Data vs Behaviour?

"While one benefit of a del.icio.us feed is more granularity the problem is that he'd be spoonfeeding us instead of teaching us what to pay attention to. On the other hand, by sharing an OPML based Reading List Piaras would be providing an 'attention lense' which could be applied to many services going forward." - EirePreneur

Being a software person, I may well be missing the key thing that makes OPML a more valuable format to a user that say, an RSS/Atom feed, XBEL, or XOXO. For me, they're just formats, they don't very much on their own. What counts are the behaviour and features the software can weave around them, and how easy it is to mix and move the data between applications. That's aside from some issues around the formats, that only software types could (and probably should) care about - for example Robert Scoble ain't all that interested. But if you're an app developer or more to to the point, someone who wants to recombine apps, how you get your data and how it's formed can matter - good data formats enable good software.

update: James Corbett sent though a comment that's worth lifting up:

"OPML is a collection of RSS feeds and as such is an aggregate, overall indication of attention as opposed to a single thread of that attention. People have numerous behavioural characteristics which make up their overall personality and likewise a dynamic OPML collection of feeds (Reading List) is a much better descriptor of personality than any single feed (describing only one characteristic/interest).

And because OPML is already 'out there', supported in one form or another by every aggregator, it is ideally placed as an initial standard for Attention data IMHO.

As a non-programmer I can't argue the technical merits of one format versus another but if there are alternatives that as well placed as OPML, and not just 'in the lab' then I'd like to see them. I've tried to follow the argument about XOXO but my question is always this - are there OPMLmanager.com, OPMLsearch and OPML editor equivalents out there which are as easy for an 'end user' to use to build something like the the Open Irish Directory (OpenEir.org)?"


December 20, 2005 01:00 PM

Comments

James Corbett
(December 20, 2005 01:55 PM #)

Well I'm not much of a software person Bill (did the degree but never much programming) but I don't feel that OPML is better or worse than RSS as such, just that each has its appropriate uses.

OPML is a collection of RSS feeds and as such is an aggregate, overall indication of attention as opposed to a single thread of that attention. People have numerous behavioural characteristics which make up their overall personality and likewise a dynamic OPML collection of feeds (Reading List) is a much better descriptor of personality than any single feed (describing only one characteristic/interest).

And because OPML is already 'out there', supported in one form or another by every aggregator, it is ideally placed as an initial standard for Attention data IMHO.

As a non-programmer I can't argue the technical merits of one format versus another but if there are alternatives that as well placed as OPML, and not just 'in the lab' then I'd like to see them. I've tried to follow the argument about XOXO but my question is always this - are there OPMLmanager.com, OPMLsearch and OPML editor equivalents out there which are as easy for an 'end user' to use to build something like the the Open Irish Directory (OpenEir.org)?

Bill Seitz
(December 20, 2005 04:11 PM #)

I agree that a del.icio.us feed is not the right approach here.

A reading list just sounds like a way to subscribe to someone's blogroll (or subscription list, which might be slightly different), so that updates get seen immediately.

Well, a Reading List may be some subset of one's BlogRoll. Which leads me down to thinking that a hierarchy is the wrong structure here. Doesn't it make sense to think in terms of *tagging* entries in one's reading list, and then publishing the public subset of that data set, and people having increasingly-smart aggregators to (a) take various cuts of that data from various people, (b) provide some sort off prioritization "new things to review because a bunch of people have recommended them", and (c) a way to keep personal timestamped entries about those items "I just looked at this blog on Dec1 and don't really want to subscribe"?

http://webseitz.fluxent.com/wiki/SocialNetworkContext

Danny
(December 21, 2005 07:59 PM #)

Bah, humbug. This OPML stuff looks new, useful and interesting, because it offers a particular bit of application functionality. But it's just Gopher repackaged in XML over HTTP. I'm really hoping there's someone out there with the time to cover the same space using standard formats (like HTML) and more easily interoperable techniques.

James, when I visit OpenEir.org via the OPML browser, what I see in my desktop browser is rendered HTML. The lists of links on the page are done in HTML. Virtually any content management system will allow you to build lists of links. I don't offhand know of any that are specifically designed for hierarchies, but this kind of functionality is a small subset of what the existing web and web tools can do, with the extra complication of the OPML format.

So I would say: because HTML is already 'out there', supported in one form or another by every aggregator, it is ideally placed as an initial standard for Attention data IMHO. What's more it has a usable base spec (HTML itself) as well as a spec specifically for Attention data. OPML has feedlists. HTML has blogrolls.

Les Orchard's recently done some stuff playing with HTML trees - good fun.

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