I forgot to write about the Scripting dinner in Amsterdam. Jort has a roundup. For my part I was somewhat drained from the afternoon’s brainstorming, but a neat group showed up and I managed to have some great conversations before pooping out around 10pm. Thanks, everyone!

Instapundit: “For some reason, the hatemailers seldom send money.” Glenn, you just need to guide them a bit. How about setting up two competing donation pools? “Contribute here if you love Instapundit and here if you don’t.” Then at regular intervals you could threaten a “slowdown” if the yays didn’t exceed the nays by, oh I don’t know, let’s say $50,000. Heh heh 🙂

Syndication and competing formats

Adam Curry starts up a discussion about syndication formats from a user’s point of view. See google’s destiny is history, competing standards and users unite! I hope the message will get through.
I know, we’ve heard a lot about this, and it might seem draining and pointless. But the consequences for users are real. For each new syndication format that becomes popular, we lose an opportunity to get new features. Adding prototype-level support for new formats may be cheap, but experienced software developers recognize, first, that there will be at least an order of magnitude more investment for production quality support over time and, second, that they could have spent that time developing something new and exciting instead.
Why isn’t there better support for syndicating mp3 playlists? Why don’t we have better support for sharing category trees across blog systems? Why was MT-Blacklist, perhaps the best de-spamming tool around, built by a third party on donated time and not the vendor?
Sometimes I’m surprised that weblogs have survived as long as they have given the level of monkeying around. Witness Six Apart’s constant changes to the Movable Type default syndication format. Each time they change the default, weblog software developers must scramble to add support for that format whether they like it or not, because Movable Type is free (as in beer) and controls a significant chunk of the market. It doesn’t matter that MT supports the other formats, because most users can’t be bothered to learn about software sustainability and won’t be interested in fiddling with the defaults. I don’t get Six Apart. They’ve built a product that a lot of people like but seem to be doing everything in their power to kill the market in which that product thrives.
Google did a similar, but more evil, thing by using their free Blogspot users to proliferate the Atom format. Blogspot users don’t have the ability to add support for other formats, even though Blogspot already offers such support to their Pro users. Through Blogspot, Google is basically saying, “We could provide RSS support to our free users, it’s really just a switch-flip, and all newsreaders support it, but instead we’re going to provide this new format exclusively because, well, we just like it better.” To which I say, “It’s even worse than it appears”.
I Love RSS! If you like using weblog software and newsreaders, and want this market to survive, I encourage you to get informed, read the arguments, and support RSS. When someone claims that Atom is a better format, try to get them to explain what user-visible features Atom makes possible that are not currently possible. For each new feature (if any exist), consider both the benefit and cost of getting that feature. As a rule of thumb, each new feature will add a new form field or two to your weblog entry page. How many form fields do you want to have to fill out each time you write a weblog post? When someone claims that Atom is a more open format, try to get them to explain how a copyright owned by the AtomEnabled Alliance is more open than creative commons share-alike license from Harvard. When someone claims that Atom has a more democratic process, try to get them to describe the process by which decisions are made. Does every feature idea get a public vote, or are most of the decisions made by a select few. If every feature gets a public vote, is that really the best way to design software? If decisions are made by a select few, who are those people, how were they chosen, and who pays their salaries? Knowing the identities of the employer companies and their intentions is critical, because the companies, not the spec-writers, will own the intellectual property that comes out of the spec effort. When someone claims that the Atom has more to do with personalities than technology, take a close look at what each person has accomplished. Ignore the number of times the person made you feel good or smart, this is irrelevant. Pay attention instead to the amount of new and useful technology, particularly techology created by other people, that came into being as a direct result of that person’s efforts.