Scripting News for 12/21/2006

The BBC, in a deal with Azureus, will share high-def programming using BitTorrent.  

The Queen of England has a podcast feed. Here’s her 80th birthday speech. Via the Telegraph

We’re making progress on next week’s meetup in NYC. We still need to pick a date, I can’t do the 27th, when I’m going to a Knicks game with Steve Rubel. But I can do the 28th. We need a place to have it. Ideally, a conference room (or classroom) that can seat about 25-30 people, we can meet at 5:30 or 6PM, talk for a couple of hours, and then go to dinner. Anyone have a room they can volunteer? And Greg Cannon points out that it’s so far an all-male affair. It would be great to get some women there. We’re not looking for dates, Greg points out, but how about a little variety? That would be nice! :-) 

What makes things work 

First, thanks for a great discussion yesterday. The best part was there was only a little ad hominem bashing, much less than we used to have whenever we have a sprited discussion of technology. I remember when I couldn’t say anything without getting surrounded by a bunch of really nasty personal stuff. Didn’t happen yesterday. Almost from the beginning I started learning, and that’s always appreciated. So thanks! Good work.

I might have felt a bit differently right off the top, about JSON if I hadn’t read this bit of anti-XML propoganda on site that appears to be a JSON advocacy site. If I didn’t know to question such things, given the domain name, json.org, it appears to be the advocacy site. Even if it isn’t JSON-central, clearly there is some reinvention going on here.

Back in the mid-90s, my first reaction to XML was to retch in horror at the inevitable politics that such a beast would certainly evoke. Back then I was very happy to be working on the web, I thought of it as the platform with no platform vendor, and I saw XML as a way of inviting all the would-be and former platform vendors back in to rule our lives, and prevent us from having any fun or making any money. Eventually I was won over, for one main reason — interop is important. If I make software that has an open and easy to understand protocol for communicating with other instances of itself, then other people can write plug-compatible software, and users can choose between products based on features, performance and price, not compatibility. I had already seen the world melt down several times as the technology industry fought to form lock-in through various schemes to delude people into thinking they were open to being replaced, when they were anything but.

Fast-forward to 2006, after a lot of time was put in by a lot of people to get a teeny little bit of interop here and there, and predictably, it’s being erased, of course, by the tech industry. I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. This just happens to be the week I took a look. I don’t know why. Maybe I was bored. Maybe it was meant to be.

Les Orchard, who I admire, and have worked with several times, says I shredded his product. I didn’t mean to. However I did mean to shred the idea that everything can be redone at any time. Sure there are always lots of arguments in favor of starting over, but the one argument against it, imho, is the strongest, interop is sacred, and anything that throws out interop is highly suspect. One way to do things, no matter how flawed, is better than two, no matter how much better the new way is. The Perl community has a different motto, god bless em, but in the space where all languages interop, the less-is-more and worse-is-better approach is what makes things work.

So JSON isn’t evil. It’s just the internal object serialization format for JavaScript. No problem. But using it as a basis for interop, when there were already good ways to achieve interop is evil, imho. I don’t think that’s what del.icio.us did, but I do see some people advocating that, and I think they’re wrong. Am I going to do anything more about it? No fucking way. There’s a nasty war in Iraq, a national election next year, I just bought a house, I may want to write a book, and I’m fighting other battles that demand more of my attention. But I’m glad we could have this discussion, and please continue, I enjoy learning new stuff.

A tale of corporate atrocity 

I had lunch with Marc Canter yesterday, and he told me about a conversation he had with Tim O’Reilly and Cory Doctorow, where they told him they knew I had nothing to do with RSS. I asked how they said they knew. They had apparently asked some people at Netscape and they said they didn’t work with me. As if that was how RSS came to be the powerhouse it is today. It isn’t. Eventually Tim came around, and gave me credit for making RSS happen. Thanks.

The process whereby RSS came to be so powerful was one of building out both ends of the technology, supply and demand, and putting some currency on the network, and hoping it boots up. In the case of RSS as a transport for blog posts and news articles, it did, and the two pieces were Radio UserLand’s blogging tool, Radio UserLand’s aggregator, and a few early blogs, including Scripting News (the currency). It also worked in a similar manner, eventually, for podcasting.

Today I received a link to a patent granted to Microsoft, where they claim to have invented all this stuff. Presumably they’re eventually going to charge us to use it. This should be denounced by everyone who has contributed anything to the success of RSS.

17 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tim Towtdi on December 21, 2006 at 7:50 am

    Yeah… it was a great discussion.

    Very informative and thought provoking. I love it when programmers are incredibly articulate, persuasive and informative. It lifts us up and moves technology forward in positive ways.

    Reply

  2. It is even better when the information is correct and the arguments are well informed. I saw very little of that yesterday. What I recall the most was this:

    Who did this travesty? Let’s find a tree and string them up. Now.

    I discovered JSON. To put this in context, Dave demanded that I be lynched like a nigger because JSON has surpassed one of his modest accomplishments. He has no authority for deciding what is evil. He certainly has no credibility.

    Now, I suppose that deep down, he didn’t really mean it. He just likes to post crazy things without thinking them through. People who know Dave know not to expect anything reasonable or important or civil from him. That’s just Dave.

    Progress comes from finding better ways to do things. Don’t be afraid of innovation. Don’t be afraid of ideas that are not your own.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Bryan Schappel on December 21, 2006 at 8:34 am

    I’ve been reading your blog for years. One of your original goals was to make a public record of the development of RSS and SOAP. Your blog provides the ultimate proof that Microsoft had nothing to do with RSS. You provide the documentation that the patent is invalid on its face.

    It’s horrible that this patent was granted. It boggles the mind that something like this can happen. How did the patent office research the validity of the claims? Clearly a few web searches turn up evidence contrary to the claims in the patent.

    I can’t imagine how you feel. The depth of this betrayal is unimaginable.

    Reply

  4. “I discovered JSON. To put this in context, Dave demanded that I be lynched like a nigger because JSON has surpassed one of his modest accomplishments”

    That is about the most idiotic use of a phrase I have seen in my entire life. Offensive, histrionic, bigoted, and pretty much representative of whoever wrote this having a vocabulary of 100 words, most learned while wearing a sheet.

    Reply

  5. It was a good discussion.

    I shouldn’t have used a loaded word like “cruft”, but I think that pales in comparison with Dave calling for a lynching.

    Reply

  6. Re: the meetup.
    Hey Dave, why didn’t you say you were going to the Knicks game. If we’re looking for a place where we can talk without being disturbed too much by crowds or noise, the Garden is the perfect place these days (the Knicks are so bad I don’t think people are even bothering to “boo”). ;-)

    Reply

  7. Dave:

    The 12-21-06 date is the application publication date, and does not mean that the patent has been granted. If you check the date of filing, you’ll realize that the original patent app was submitted 6-21-05. Thus, the 12-21-06 date means that the 18 month window of non-disclosure has passed and the PTO merely put the application up on the web. Fear not, the world isn’t ending, and MSFT isn’t going to start charging everyone for anything and everything RSS.

    Reply

  8. Dave,

    As I’m sure your Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish and assorted other
    (l/r)oyalist readers will no doubt tell you, Her Majesty is not just
    the Queen of England… She is the Queen of the entire United Kingdom
    of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of the British Commonwealth
    – in other words, (pretty much) the entire British Empire (as was).

    …Not that any of us voted for her, you understand.

    Reply

  9. I thought the same thing, but then decided against mentioning it since she actually is Queen of England. That she’s also Queen of Australia and Scotland and Canada doesn’t make that any less true, nor does saying it necessarily imply that Dave wrongly conflated England with the UK. Though I have my suspicions… :)

    You’ll not catch me calling Mrs Windsor “Her Majesty” any time soon, though.

    Reply

  10. No royal family has ever obtained its status without walking all over the rest of us. To refer to a representative of such a family as “the Queen of England” is simply being much kinder than they are capable of. Still, RSS is proving to be a great leveller! ;)

    Reply

  11. Posted by David I on December 21, 2006 at 5:37 pm

    I read the news today oh boy, about Microsoft’s patent(s) application for “on finding and consuming Web subscriptions in a Web browser” and “content syndication platform”. Another amazing set of items from them. We’ll see what happens in the defense of the patent applications.
    Dave – I know you and many others have done a great service to our industry with feed formats, tools, and integration. Thank you for the continued dedication!!
    David I, Codegear

    Reply

  12. JSON or not to JSON, the question is now ?

    Answer: irrelevant. JSON is yet another text based , platform neutral, format. XML is the same thing but with a KEY difference. It is a STANDARD. and already in such a widespread use that nothing will replace it … ever?

    BTW: only a completely different data carier concept .. like for example binary data cariers … has a meaning when talking about performance.

    Take a step back and see the whole picture ;)

    Mary xmass everyone !

    Reply

  13. Posted by Nobody on December 22, 2006 at 4:29 pm

    You might all want to take a quick course on the way patent claims work…. If you read the patent it’s pretty clear Microsoft isn’t patenting RSS or Feed Readers in general, they seem to be patenting systems of agregating RSS feeds within an OS to other applications…

    Reply

  14. Posted by Mitchel Tyrell on December 22, 2006 at 9:50 pm

    I think that wired picked up your most current microsoft rant.
    http://blog.wired.com/monkeybites/2006/12/microsoft_tries.html
    They have a pretty good line which explains why this was necessary.

    “Nick Bradbury author of popular RSS application FeedDemon, writes on his blog:

    But before the geekosphere goes into “patent attack mode,” let’s take a breather and think about why this patent was filed. For example, quite often companies file patents just to protect themselves from lawsuits. There are plenty of sleazebags who file patent applications on obvious ideas, and then wait for someone like Microsoft to infringe those patents… Yes, it sucks that the patent process has devolved to such a state, but this is the reality of the environment that today’s businesses have to operate in.”

    Btw, what is the difference between rss and cdf?

    Reply

  15. Posted by Ryan on December 24, 2006 at 12:33 am

    Hi Dave…

    I recall first using RSS back in 2003 and im sure it was around sometime before then.

    Did you not try to patent the technology you created?

    http://internetpatents.blogspot.com/

    Im in the midst of patent research via lawyers(average joe using savings) and possible filing for a patent for my web service that will b public fairly soon. Thanks for reading my brief blog and commenting on my post!

    Cheers, Ryan

    Reply

  16. Posted by Mikeal on January 6, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    I think I get the “last post” prize.

    Anyway, I’m a little confused. Are you comparing JSON to XML, or JSON-RPC to XML-RPC.

    Your assertion that using JSON as a basis for interop is “evil” I find a little over the top. JSON provides simple human readable markup for a hand full of common native types. The markup happens to be javascript, but javascript aside those native types are common across everything language.

    I don’t know of an XML schema that easy serializes those native types. Serialization and de-serialization of JSON in any supported language will always be one line of code, and what is returned will be native types in what ever language you’re using — that’s it’s beauty.

    I’ll agree that the only advantage JSON-RPC has over XML-RPC is that it’s easily parsable in javascript. But the question of whether to use JSON or XML is larger than just RPC.

    If I’m working in code, and I have a set of native data types in any language I need to send over the network to another piece of code, what XML schema is easier to use than JSON?

    -Mikeal

    Reply

  17. Posted by drew on January 30, 2007 at 9:41 am

    Having read the article that you linked to, the only anti-XML propaganda I see there is the (admittedly unnecessary, but IMO not so far off) jab about programmers’ first reaction to XML.

    While I agree that interop is important, as long as the interfaces used are open (and preferably have open implementations) I don’t see that it matters whether there is 1 format, 2 formats, or 10 formats.

    Anyway, I’d rather have two formats to worry about, at least one of which is easy to use, than to be forced to use the “one true format” which is unwieldy and awkward.

    Reply

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