Solipsism Gradient

Rainer Brockerhoff’s blog

Browsing Posts published in February, 2003

Re: Gogger or Bloogle?

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Evan Williams is back on the air, and points at a Blogger+Google FAQ. The FAQ doesn’t really say anything new – it just tries to reassure people that Blogger will go on, and that the folks at Google are nice.

However, Evan also promises “details to come” in the evening of Mar.12…

As you can see to your left, one more item has been crossed off the to-do list: the “blogroll”. In keeping with the purist’s tendency towards saying “weblog” (not “blog”!), and because “weblogroll” sounds weird, a suitably bland substitute name was put into the header. Thanks to Jeremy Zawodny for the gentle reminder icon_wink.gif.

These links are mostly straight from my NetNewsWire subscription list. If you’re interested, here is the .opml file. There are a few sites and weblogs which I read even though no RSS feed is available – they’ll be included later. Slowly.

Folha de São Paulo, one of Brazil’s top daily newspapers, today had several articles about weblogs (all in Portuguese):

All in all, it’s good to have weblogging noticed by mainstream news. The articles linked above are short and somewhat simplistic, practically ignoring non-hosted publishing methods. The Brazilian weblogging community is surprisingly large but somewhat insular, and the percentage of computer geeks seems to be lower than in the US; many webloggers are students or have advertising or publishing backgrounds. Most webloggers here can read English but few write it well enough to contribute effectively to the international community.

A disparity can be noted in some weblog indexes. There are no Brazilian webloggers in TechnoRati’s Top 100. On the other hand, although many of the BlogStreet’s Top 100 are found in the TechnoRati list, about 20 Brazilians are there too…

Weblogetiquette

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Burning Bird was interviewed about weblogging etiquette:

I told him that the reason we’re weblogging is because we want to be able to publish online without having to follow any rules. To be independent. Free thinkers and writers – as long as we write in reverse chronological order, provide perma-links, link to interesting stories or other weblogs, comment on same, attribute other sources, never delete postings, maintain archives, write only the truth, have a blogroll, and never write about cats or what we had for lunch, we can weblog anyway we want.

I’d add: provide RSS feeds and implement trackbacks… icon_smile.gif

Posted by Buzz Andersen:
Thanks Rainer–glad you liked the idea icon_smile.gif!

A Note about Davos

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Here’s an extremely disquieting and profoundly interesting note about the 2003 WEF at Davos.

Viridian Design‘s Bruce Sterling comments a leaked e-mail from Pulitzer prize-winning science journalist Laurie Garrett:

If the U.S. unilaterally goes to war, and it is anything short of a quick surgical strike (lasting less than 30 days), the economists were all predicting extreme economic gloom: falling dollar value, rising spot market oil prices, the Fed pushing interest rates down towards zero with resulting increase in national debt, severe trouble in all countries whose currency is guaranteed against the dollar (which is just about everybody except the EU), a near cessation of all development and humanitarian programs for poor countries. Very few economists or ministers of finance predicted the world getting out of that economic funk for minimally five-10 years, once the downward spiral ensues.

Thanks to ext|circ for the link!

Buzz Andersen, the author of PodWorks, weighs in on the shareware debate with a great suggestion:

I have personally thought about the problems with the “shareware” designation for awhile now, and I’ve come to one conclusion: that the term I prefer is independent software.

…Shareware may be dead, but who cares: indieware is alive and kicking!

I think it’s an excellent idea. So, “indieware” it is. This can also be considered an abbreviation of “individual software”, which is very fitting. Now, every former shareware author should write in to VersionTracker (info@versiontracker.com) and similar websites to have them change their labeling…

Joi Ito is asking if long RSS items are rude:

Are long RSS items rude? More and more people are reading inside of news readers and not bothering to go to the blogs themselves. (My logs show this.) Should we put full text of the blog entry in the RSS feed, even if it’s long? It will surely slow your refresh rate. Has anyone written a style guide for RSS feeds? It’s a moving target, but I would be interested to hear about how readers and writers are designing their RSS feeds.

Jason Kottke suggests offering two at least two feed options; one with full items, one with excerpts. Some weblogs already have this option, I recall.

Currently this weblog shows full items only. I’ve considered following Jason’s suggestion, and I may do so as soon as time (and my slowly growing PHP skills) allow. But personally, I prefer getting full items in the RSS feed, as I now do 95% of my reading inside NetNewsWire – and I’ll probably skip an item altogether if the excerpt is too short or not descriptive, or if there’s no proper title.

The problem with excerpts is with how they’re generated. If I recall correctly, there’s an option in Movable Type to write the full article and an excerpt. I doubt that many users take advantage of this, and apparently the usual practice is to have the RSS feed cut the item off after a certain number of bytes or words. While this may be positive, forcing people to say what they’re going to say before saying it, it often doesn’t work that way. I myself often lead off with a quote from somewhere else, which would cause a simplistic excerpting algorithm to cut off before my own comments start.

So how large is a full-item RSS feed? According to NNW’s statistics window, my average feed size is around 22K. Since I implemented ETag/if-modified-since support, my average NNW download size hovers around 5K. I frankly don’t think this is unreasonable bandwidth. On the other hand, some of the feeds I subscribe to don’t use ETags, and the feed size is quite larger. The heaviest feed I’m subscribing to currently is from Jon Udell’s weblog, which comes in at 60K average – and it’s downloaded every time.

One trick to doing lighter feeds is to avoid HTML-encoding in item texts by using the CDATA tag. Here’s how Jon’s current feed’s first item starts out:

<content:encoded>&lt;table align=&quot;right&quot; border=&quot;0&quot; cellpadding=&quot;6&quot; cellspacing=&quot;0&quot;&gt;
&lt;tr&gt;&lt;td&gt;
&lt;a href=&quot;http://www.windley.com/categories/networkingAndWifi/2003/02/04.html#a421&quot;&gt;&lt;img width=&quot;200&quot; src=&quot;http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/gems/windleyPringles.jpg&quot;&gt;&lt;/a&gt;
&lt;div align=&quot;center&quot; class=&quot;realsmall&quot;&gt;Phil Windley&lt;/div&gt;
&lt;/td&gt;&lt;/tr&gt;
&lt;/table&gt;
Hey, Phil Windley&apos;s...
</content:encoded>

and for comparison, here’s how an item from my own feed begins:

<content:encoded><![CDATA[<b>By Rainer Brockerhoff:</b><br /><br /><table width="90%" cellspacing="1" cellpadding="3" border="0" align="center"><tr> <td><b>Rainer Brockerhoff wrote:</b></td> </tr> <tr> <td>...just after being chided by my editor for not turning in a couple of articles that are somewhat overdue... </td> </tr></table><br />...
]]></content:encoded>

I’m comparing RSS 2.0 formats here. Actually, Jon’s feed is even heavier because he’s duplicating full item content inside both <description> and <content:encoded> tags. Even stranger, the<content:encoded> content isn’t encoded at all, since no CDATA section is included.

Now, of course I’m not picking on Jon specifically here. But one thing which helped me a lot while debugging my feed was to subscribe to myself, and using NNW’s “View RSS Source” and “Validate this Feed” contextual menu commands.

Finally, one pitfall with including HTML item content when using the <content:encoded><![CDATA[…]]></content:encoded> format is to use the item’s full formatting. I rewrote the feed generator to exclude all external tables, style sheet references, <span> and<div> tags, and am working on eliminating all superfluous whitespace.

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