Really? Simple Syndication?

Andrew Grumet points out that W3Schools now has an RSS tutorial. I’m betting he didn’t actually look at it, though. Probably many of the technical errors are actually just the result of being a Norwegian in an English-speaking world, compounded with too much copy-paste (the description of the <item>‘s <title> is This should be a very short description of your site and your RSS feed), but once you get past that, and the repeated insults (that I assume weren’t clear as insults in a second-language), and start thinking about what’s missing, and what’s inadequately explained (no mention of the problems of escaped HTML, the complete description of pubDate is Defines the last publication date for the channel with no mention of the correct format, or all the possible incorrect formats), the “Really Simple” starts feeling a bit hollow.

I think I could probably describe the core of Netscape RSS 0.91 in a W3Schools-level and -length tutorial, but 2.0? Just as an exercise, open an email message, address it to their errors email, and then try describing (remembering that you are addressing someone for whom English is a second language) the true nature of <link>:

The <link> child element of an <item> is the link to your article. Or, maybe it’s not: it could be the link to someone else’s article that you are talking about, and the <description> may be the whole of your article (or not), and the link to your article may or may not be in a <guid> element, which either doesn’t have an isPermaLink attribute, or does have one with the value true.

Then, if you make it through that, try a concise explanation of the situation around escaped HTML (including double-escaped HTML character entity references) in <title> elements.

Me? I’ve got a simply enormous email saved as a draft, covering typos and grammar and technical errors and creeping politics, from just the first four pages. I’ll probably keep it around, feeling bad about not finishing it, and worse about finishing it, until a burst of tidying makes me toss it out. Putting the best you can do out on the intarweb, hoping that others will help you improve it instead of just making fun of you, has always been a harsh and lonely business, and I really need to be writing a clear and concise (ulp) explanation of all the myriad ways to stuff content into a <title> or <link> to various things in Atom, instead.


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