Memetracking and Web Feed Reading

I read this post a couple of days ago when I was trying to cope with all the things that happened in the Blogsphere while I was traveling. This is a really well written and insightful post wrote by Robert Scoble about Memetracker vs. Web Feed Readers.


I miss my RSS reading. Reading RSS makes me smarter, not snarkier. Why? Cause I choose who I’m going to read. Pick smart people to read and you’ll get smarter.

Hint, the smartest people in my RSS are usually the least snarky. Why? Cause they could give a f**k about all the traffic.


I totally agree with Robert on this one, and it is probably a reason why I do not give much importance to memetrackers and that I only subscribe to their RSS feeds: I give them the same importance as any other bloggers.

However, memetrackers and blog search engines have the same problem: when you try to discover new blogs and new articles that may be of interest to you, you always get the same people and the same blog posts.

Unpopular bloggers have really good ideas. However, nobody finds them because they are not popular and they are not popular because they don’t give care at all about being popular.

The problem is that all these services generally use some sort of ranking system; the type of system popularized by Google. However ranking systems are not built to show you the best results, they show you the most popular results with the premise that they are the best; but they rarely are not. So, now – how can I find these bright people? How can I read their awesome ideas?

That’s what I want: I want something that helps me manage the information in such a way that it will aggregate information that may be of interest or use to me, and not necessarily the information that for whatever reason is of interest to the rest of the planet.

Yeah right … I am dreaming in technicolour … and I know that many people have been working on that problem for ages; however, I’m impatient and I can’t wait to see a real breakthrough as it unfolds in front of the general public.

During that time, I want to connect with and talk to people that have the same or similar interests as I do, rather than spending hours weekly trying to find these people using the current services available on the Web.

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I want that my deputy has a blog

I just received a flyer from the Conservative Party of Canada candidate in my region. I checked it and I saw that he had a web site with his full name as domain name. Then I told me: I hope he have a blog! Then I checked: no blog; deception.

People are talking about that the Internet can help democracy. The Canadian government does some public consultations over the Internet. People are even thinking about voting over the Internet (in fact I already voted over the Internet at the University Laval).

Now, I would like that my deputy have a blog. Companies use blogs to market their products. Companies use blogs to have a contact with their clients. Writers have blogs to get in touch with their readers. I have a blog to find new ideas, to get feedbacks from Talk Digger users. Why my deputy doesn’t have a blog?

If it is good for companies with their clients, why it could not be good for the government and their citizens?

It would be so interesting to know who my deputy is, what he is working on, his ideas and visions. So I could comments his ideas; I could show him my vision of things; I could discuss a specific article with other citizens in my region.

Great, but why the Conservative Party of Canada does setup a blog network for all his deputies, ministers and representatives? That way I could know what these people have in mind, but even more important, I could get a voice and tell them what I am thinking.

Perfect! So, what about the Liberal Party of Canada? The New Democratic Party of Canada or even the Bloc Québécois?

It is great to have offices everywhere to meet people. But what happen if citizens do not have the time to go there and get information they need? What if they do not have 40 hours to check who his Federal, Provincial or Municipal candidates are, what are their visions, etc? Please, do not blame people by saying something like: it is your duty to take your time to gather this information, to meet that people, etc. Yup it is, but they also have to work to feed and educate their children. Please, help them a little bit by making information available more easily. A good way could be by using blogs and blogs networks.

I want that my deputy have a blog!

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Semantic Web, Web, Blogging

Why Microsoft seems to reinvent the wheel with RSS?

I cannot understand why Microsoft seems to try to reinvent the wheel with RSS 2.0. Okay, I am a little bit late with that one, but I just discovered that they talked about an “extension” to RSS 2.0 called “Simple List Extensions Specification” at Gnomedex 2005.

Well, what this SLES is all about? “The Simple List Extensions are designed as extensions to existing feed formats to make exposing ordered lists of items easier and more accessible to users”.

Then I was lost…

Why does Microsoft publish such a specification for RSS 2.0? RSS 1.0, supported by XML Namespaces and RDF, already use such an ordered list called a “rdf:seq” to do exactly the same thing. This capability is provided directly by RDF.

I already wrote about the difference between RSS 1.0 and RSS 2.0 and I really do not understand why Microsoft develops modules for RSS 2.0 instead of implementing everything using RSS 1.0 and RDF.

I already read somewhere that Microsoft doesn’t have in their plan to develop any RDF parser in their .NET framework. It is probably one of the reasons why they do not use RDF 1.0: because they do not have any tool to implement it and do not have plans to develop one.

Why? Someone could help me with that one?

Right now I think that my greatest whish is to have the Jena framework developed in C#. I think that I can’t rely on Microsoft for that one.

Finally it seems that I am not the only person that have questions related with this move in relation with RSS 1.0.

Semantic Web, Web, Blogging

RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0: make it simple not simpler

Update to the discussion about RSS 1.0 vs. RSS 2.0

Why using RDF instead of XML? [25 May 2006]

“Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler”. – Albert Einstein.

I love that quote of Albert Einstein. Few words that tell so much to designers. Make things simple to the user, make it such that he does not even know that he his using what you designed (okay, it is an utopia); but beware: do not make it simpler, do not compromise on the capabilities of what you are designing to make it simple (this is all the art of design).

This said, I am currently rewriting the Talk Digger RSS feeds generator for the next release planned in a week or two. While working on it, I found that I done the error: I make it simpler while whishing to make it simple.

Let me explain the situation. Some months ago, I choose to create the feeds in RSS 2.0 instead of RSS 1.0. But what is the problem then? RSS 2.0 should be much more evolved then RSS 1.0, isn’t? No, it is not. RSS 2.0 is about 2 years younger than RSS 1.0, but much simpler. Why do I say that the file format is much simpler? Because RSS 1.0 feeds are serialized in RDF and RSS 2.0 feeds are serialized in XML.

Where is the problem then? XML serialized files are much easier to read than RDF serialized ones; in fact, RDF files are only cluttered XML files, isn’t it? No, definitely not. It is sure that RDF/XML serialized files (because there exist other serialization format like N3 that will also serialize RDF files) are less intuitive to read for humans, but they are much more powerful to answer to some needs.

Personally I see RSS 2.0 as a lesser version of RSS 1.0. Why? Because applications that support RSS 2.0 are much simpler (a thing that we do not want) considering that it only have to handle XML files instead of full RDF ones.

Fred, you are telling us that RSS 1.0 is much powerful than RSS 2.0? Yes, all the power of RSS 1.0 resides in the fact that it supports modules. This capability is given by RDF and his ability to import external RDF schemas to extend his vocabulary. What is a module? A module gives the possibility to the content publisher to extend his file format’s vocabulary by importing external RDF schemas.

Okay, but what is the advantage of using these modules? I will explain it with an example using Talk Digger. I am currently thinking about creating a RDF schema that would model some semantic relations that Talk Digger will compute with the search engines’ returned results. Personally I want to make that information publicly available to anyone who would like to have access to it and do something with it. This said, I am also thinking to broadcast the information directly in the RSS feed: I want to create only one source of information that would broadcast everything. RSS 1.0 gives me that possibility (in fact, a RSS 1.0 web feed is a normal RDF/XML file using the RSS 1.0 schema). It is beautiful, I can make all the information I want available to any one, in a unique source. If a software that read the feed do not understand a part of the information I broadcast (in reality, he do not know the RDF schema I am using) he simply skip it and continue to read the source of information (the web feed) and do what he have to do with the information he understand. I can’t do that with RSS 2.0 because it is serialized in XML and not RDF. I could even add OWL elements in my feeds to model some relations between the knowledge represented in the web feeds. That way an application could be able to infer knowledge from it! An example of a popular module is the Dublin Core metadata initiative.

You are probably thinking: yeah Fred, but readers only have to support both formats, and publishers also only have to support both formats as well and everybody will be happy. Bad design thinking: do not forget that the goal is to make application. How do you think that I will explain the difference between RSS 1.0 and RSS 2.0 to my mother? How do you think that I will explain her which one to choose if she have the possibility to subscribe to more than one feed? Will she choose RSS 0.91, RSS 0.92, RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0, ATOM 0.9, or ATOM 1.0 (because some websites propose them all)? Sorry, but I do not want to.

One of the current problems

On of the problem are the way applications handle all these file formats and serializations. I will explain it with a problem I faced today while testing the new RSS feed of Talk Digger with Bloglines.

A thing I wanted was to use the Dublin Core element “Description” instead of the normal “<description></description>” tag of the RSS 1.0 specification. I first thought that it would scale much more because the Dublin Core RDF schema is widely use by many, many applications over the Internet. First I tested it using RSS Bandit. It worked like a charm. All the Dublin Code elements I added to my RSS feed were handled by it. Wow! Then a tested it with Bloglines: nothing. Bloglines just doesn’t handle that Dublin Core tag: deception.

Then I included this namespace into my RDF file: “xmlns:ct=”””. Then I re-tested it: nothing. Wow, it should works, isn’t? Then I tested something else, I changed the alias “ct” for the namespace “content”: it worked. What a deception I had: Bloglines is not caring about the namespace local alias, in fact it seems that it parse the RSS 1.0 feeds (in fact a RDF file) with fixed strings. The system should know that “ct” is related to the namespace instead of “content” because they are just aliases that I use to define the namespace in my local file. It is a perfect example of bad implementation of specifications in softwares.

The problem here is that Bloglines is the most popular web feed reader out there. So I have to change the way I build my feeds to handle that fact, but I shouldn’t be supposed to (it is really frustrating). Will I have to change the way I build my feeds each time I discover that an application is not parsing and using them properly? I hope no, I shouldn’t be supposed to because I follow the specification to build them.

I hope they will check that problem with their parser and hire somebody to develop a robust system that will parse and handle the RDF specification, and not only parsing RSS 1.0 feeds as simple text files with some format… (Could I change that skill requirement “Familiarity with RSS and blogs” for “Strong understanding of RDF, RSS and blogs”, cited in that job proposition, to answer that responsibility “maintain and improve RSS crawling and parsing processes”.

I hope to be able to show you how RSS 1.0 could be extended, using a future version of Talk Digger, soon.

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Blogs and bloggers are influencing Canadian traditional Medias

Since some months, I ear mainstream media in Quebec and Canada talking about blogs (especially since the Gomery Commission). It was the first sign of the influence of blogs on Canadian traditional Medias; how they could possibly change the way Canadians get information, how Canadian laws are applied (always think about the Gomery Commission and American blogs), etc.

Today I just take a look at a new political program on RDI (the national news broadcast channel in French (CBC in English)) called “Les coulisses du pouvoir” (Power’s backstage). Then I saw a screen appearing with the topic of the next chronicle: “Les Bloggueurs” (The Bloggers). Then Bruno Guglielminetti started to talk about what Canadians and Quebecois bloggers had to say related to the last week’s main political events.

Now, how can we say that Bloggers do not have an influence on main stream Media when the national news channel of Canada retrieve and analyze information that came from local bloggers?

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