Change coming in RSS feed

At some point, soon, the Scripting News feed will have items without titles. The body of these items are in their descriptions, as explained in the RSS 2.0 spec.

An item may represent a “story” — much like a story in a newspaper or magazine; if so its description is a synopsis of the story, and the link points to the full story. An item may also be complete in itself, if so, the description contains the text (entity-encoded HTML is allowed; see examples), and the link and title may be omitted. All elements of an item are optional, however at least one of title or description must be present.

How we got here

Scripting News started in this format, and Frontier News before it.

Manila, the first CMS to produce RSS feeds, supported title-less items in feeds.

In 2006, Google Reader had gained dominance, and didn’t support title-less posts. As a result Scripting News didn’t look great in their reader, so there was pressure on me to change. At the same time Twitter came along, and fully adopted the idea of posts without titles, so I split my blogging into two pieces, one on Twitter and my linkblog, and the other, just the essays that appeared on Scripting News before. Scripting News, the first blog to have a feed, conformed to Google Reader’s omission (a kind way of putting it) or bug (more fair). Scripting News became Google’s idea of what a blog is. Ugh.

I felt this was okay as long as Twitter held promise for being a revolutionary Internet-scale notification service with a powerful API. But they’ve backed off that. Their service hasn’t improved in a long time. I didn’t realize how much I missed doing the intermediate-length posts until I started using Facebook regularly. But stuff I post there has no lasting value. So I need a better place for that kind of writing, so why not use my own blog? Of course that’s the right answer.

Undoing the mistake

I’m undoing the mistake I made in 2006. And that means you may either find that your RSS reader supports my feed, or it doesn’t. I’m not going to let them hold me back. If you can’t read my feed in their tools, then you can switch to one that works properly, read the site in a web browser, or don’t read it at all.

I’m sorry it has to be this way, but reader developers have been deciding arbitrarily not to support an important part of the RSS standard. I want to use the feature, I was using it long before any of them existed, and it’s easy for them to support. Just a little bit of thinking and a little bit of coding.

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About Dave Winer

Dave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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