Calendars and OPML

Cool! I just got something I think is pretty cool working here. Based on a blogging system I started a long time ago – which I then just used to store links (pre [we use them and their simple urls on the Bluggcast – as simple urls are easier to say on a podcast than the whole kaboodle] – I have been looking at building a calendar to browse the links (or blog/podcast posts if I switch a database table – as they both work the same way). Archive lists are OK on blogs, but I rather like calendars.

I mulled over the idea of whether if was worth learning to build a calendar and eventually decided it was. And boy, was it. At least three other applications for it just appeared out of thin air. Not only that, but as I had first created it in HTML, with higlighted days of activity and the like, I was then able to reeeeally easily evolve that script again to provide the data sets back and forth to a Flash interface, using OPML! Hurrah for OPML! The whole client takes OPML. It eats OPML for breakfast.
THEREFORE, ladies and gentlemen, an(other) API contender has emerged too. Double-hurrah! OPML based too. As Herr Viner vould say: bingk!

Time based feed grazing anyone? πŸ˜‰

Ones, Heroes and Zeros

Dave’s been pointing a guy called Phil Jones recently. He has some interesting ideas and clearly thinks alot about stuff. He’s a professor. Probably paid to. Cool! Today Dave posted a response to some of the points Phil has been raising.

One snippet here caught my eye:

I think DMOZ and Yahoo’s directories are the wrong model, that this all needs to be opened up. There’s no single home page on the web, so why should there be a single home page for the global directory. Let a billion flowers bloom. May the best root win. May there be as many roots as there are points of view.

Now, I like that. Alot. It’s actually more or less the very model I am trying to work towards in thinking about and building a ‘platform’ on which to run a system like, for example. Or ‘treedia’ – or feedgang – or feedhive – whateverlist (hmmm). Also, I’m trying to build it based upon ‘standard(ized)’ formats which already exist.

I have built many systems in the past based on made-up bespoke xml formats which I created to do what I needed an app to do – this for example, uses ‘OPML’ and ‘RSS’ (and time events), but none of it actually IS OPML or RSS. But they would have done the trick in retrospect. As would a load of other formats : SMIL, etc.

SMIL gets me thinking about the multimedia systems on the web I have always envisioned (I wrote and sold a SMIL based multi-user publishing system call Smibase a few years back – that’s how I ended up at the Beeb). MPEG4 does this too, or will more once we see more tools to ‘orchestrate’ content. Quicktime also has huge untapped power as a multimedia application wrapper – did you know you can embed Flash inside Quicktime and have the QT ‘talk’ back and forth to the Flash ‘track’? You can. It’s pretty cool. BUT the tools out there to manipulate such formats are few and far between. LiveStagePro was one I used a few years ago to come up with a solution to put up-to-date news on massive screens in UK railway stations. I ended up going back to Director10 (which I hadn’t used since version 4!!) and built it in Lingo, with a WYSIWYG Flash based back end.

The point I’m trying to make is that there’s all these great formats out ALREADY. But people will keep reinventing the wheel and trying to come up with new formats, when I think what we should be doing is building TOOLS to test/evolve/bolster/work the formats we already have. I’m usually pleasantly surprised when I do that. But I admit to ‘making stuff up’ if I can’t find things or am pushed to find a solution (which I know can be fixed later on by someone who rally knows that part of the system – if need be)

And about ‘winning’: Dave and I once had a chat where the subject of ‘heroes’ came up. I think Dave would like to be ‘a hero’ of sorts. And to many he is. My take on it is that you don’t need to be the winner to be the hero or the ‘legend’.

It’s about hearts. Not prizes. They last longer (we pray).

FeedBlitz OPML

This caught my eye (on a branch on treedia. heh). Something called FeedBlitz has added OPML support. Now, I’m sure this has plenty of uses for those odd people who decide to fill up their email inboxes with link emails and subscriptions, but to me, these kinds of services are (to me) what this whole thing is all about. It’s about keeping STUFF OUT of your inbox!!

Aggregators, grazers, whatever you want to call them, help you do that. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that there are some good reasons for subbing to a mailing list these days – but it’s very ‘0.5 – 1.0’ activity if you ask me) OPML can play a great part in helping the organization and taxnomy that we all find so comforting. πŸ˜‰


Great post over here from Chris Pirillo about OPML. I think there’s going to be a whole lot of new info emerging to explain OPML to the masses. I’m putting together some info over here too, as it happens.
Another VERY COOL thing is that the OPML output from Chris’ metasearch site works in the OPML and RSS system I have cooking here. Veeeery nice πŸ˜‰

I think maybe I’ll drop Chris a line and ask if I could incorporate a search into ‘treedia’ πŸ˜‰ That would be cool. I can’t imagine he’d mind.
BTW: I think I must have some kind of cyber-mind-meld going on with Chris at the moment, as the other day I was thinking about adding favicons to the output pages of treedia/ searches, after realising that the browsers supported them in html (when did that happen? was I asleep?). Then, lo and behold, Chris posts to his blog about the very same thing. Weird. Cool!

Do all browsers support a .ico image in the html as an img tag? If so, this makes life very cool, because people (was it MS?) decided to make sure that to have an icon in the address bar of a browser, while on a webiste, the image MUST be called favicon.ico, and stored in the wbe root. Therefore it’s a cinch to find them πŸ™‚ Hurrah!

Grazer Blazer!

Mike Kowalchik’s Grazr is getting quite bit of attention. Good stuff too! I like it. I met Mike and Adam last time I was over in Boston – and ate my first snail!

One thing about the Grazr I like is the side to side navigation of it. When I first started trying to build an OPML powered navigation and content system, I used that paradigm. When I showed people like Dave, the reaction wasn’t all that great. I explained that it’s similar to the navigation and browsing mechanism of an iPod (I don’t own one, btw). Side to side – up and down, etc. People get it. MILLIONS of people get it. AND they seem OK managing hundreds or thousands of files through that teeny window, using that navigation principle.

I developed some cool demo mobile apps for news reading a couple of years ago which use that too, and for the same reason. It works.

But, something was bugging me. People already know how to use folders, finders and explorers, etc. So I’ve been testing out coding the same experience. It’s interesting and very rewarding when it works. But I think there’s still plenty of wiggle left in these concepts. Let’s evolve the paradigm. Remember the first time you saw Gmail? All that content flipping around the browser with no reloads? Wow! I would say that Gmail helped fuel the whole AJAX craze.
Now. I’m slightly worried that poeple are out filing patents for OPML and RSS systems, which is really going to be unhelpful, especially at this nascent stage for OPML. And I’d like to know if anyone knows about about any. I have heard that there are some being filed.

It would be best to know what these are as soon as possible, now wouldn’t it?

I’m going to see if I can dig out all my early work πŸ™‚

O (my god) PML!!

I do believe that Rogers Cadenhead has spilled the beans on Dave’s bizarre mood recently. Here’s Dave reply. Oh dear, oh dear. oh dear. I feel sorry for them both – for different reasons. It’s no fun when things get to the lawyers. I think Rogers should probably give Dave back the money and show us what this OPML Factory is all about. If it’s anything like what Frontier does with users’ OPML, then it could be quite interesting. It all depends on the interfaces, as much as the tools and ‘share levels’ available to users. [Note: indiepodder.orgΒ  has been running on Frontier and was down for quite a few days recently – I wonder if it has been rewritten yet? It probably is getting an overhaul via Podshow/Podcast Alley]

Another reason why all this is such an OMG moment, is that all this sounds remarkably similar to a big part of a system I have been developing, which I should be able to show you all very soon. I’m working as hard as I can and as hard as I have ever done, since leaving the BBC to follow my heart and passion to work with some great people (who I trust and respect) to build (coming sooooon!!!!!) πŸ™‚

Sounds like OPML is going to hit the headlines for more reasons than expected this year than I thought!

Another OPML podcast!

It’s great to hear another podcast with loads of chat around OPML over on Alex Barnett’s blog. Present on the podcast were Alex, Adam Green, Joshua Porter and John Tropea. Maybe I’ll be organised enough to join in on the next one. πŸ˜‰
Also, check out OPMLCamp. Which sounds like it should be really interesting. Hopefully I’ll be in the area around that date.

This past week has been incredibly busy, cranking out code like a you-know-what. OPML, RSS, feeds, trees, Flash, scripts, scripts, scripts!!

Hey, if the boot fits, strap it! πŸ˜‰

Also, I noticed that Alex did a great job at annotating the podcast in the description. Now, this is perfect data to get organised in OPML with a ‘time’ attribute. I’m thinking that an OPML outline node with a ‘time’ attribute could point to an RSS formatted file/list containing the details, links and timestamps. Possibly in OPML itself? Either create something new in OPML – or use RSS in a different way, but utilising all the available elements?

Any ideas anyone?

Basically we need to think about simple ways we can organise and link files containing time-based annotation of the content in an enclosure. Thats data is so important. Audio search engines like Podzinger and Podscope could then output that data and enrich the data which points to and describes a podcast.

Then we need the tools and interfaces for all this. Mmmm… yesss… πŸ˜‰

OPML 2.0 Draft Spec revealed

Dave Winer has revealed the draft of the OPML 2.0 specification. Woo!

I’ve had a quick read and most of it makes sense. But I have a comment to make on something that bugs me, as a developer of OPML-powered products. I’ll eat my dinner, then drink a coffee and post it on the Yahoo! Group which has been set up to manage the feedback to all this.

First impression though, is that I’m glad to see the ‘include’ type attribute.

I have a comment about the usage of the ‘link’ attribute, which may or may not be linking to an OPML file for inclusion or it may be a link to a website. Checking for .opml is a bit of a pain, when many people use php or whatever to generate their OPML. But I suppose it should be backward compatible with 1.0 for all those opml files out there which use ‘link’ to point to both web links and opml inclusion links. This new spec should get some good traction. I’ll support it. But I personally think ‘include’ should link to opml formatted files only and link should always be a link to a site. Maybe through extending OPML we can provide type flags for links to mp3 files, or video files or software updates, then build clients around this to consume that ‘opml enclosure’ of sorts.

More thoughts later…. meanwhile, have some icons

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