David Madore's WebLog: Should I pioneer the use of Web technologies?

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(Friday) · Assumption

Should I pioneer the use of Web technologies?

The next big thing that is coming to this 'blog, now that I have it divided in pieces, will be the introduction of an RSS feed, so übergeeks can add the channel to their news aggregator and be informed within minutes of every word of wisdom that pours forth from my mouth. Ain't technology impressive? Seriously, an RSS feed should be a simple task to set up, since I already have the XML parser and producer chains in place. I take the occasion, however, to underline the fact that RSS is an atrociously badly conceived format, obviously designed by people who didn't have a clue as to the use of XML (the most singularly stupid feature is probably the way that it refuses to allocate an XML namespace for itself, pretexting that that would break upward compatibility—probably the most massively ridiculous argument I ever read). But since RSS is a de facto standard, I guess I'll have to come to terms with the annoyance.

Other than that, several people by now have complained about the absence of talkback on this 'blog. The reason is part technical, part political: I can't allow myself to install the required cgi-bin on the ENS students server, and while I could dissociate comments from post by putting comments on a separate server (say, my own PC, which has a permanent IP address), there are practical problems there. You're always welcome to email me (david[plus]www[at sign]madore[dot]org) about anything I write, of course.

However, a crazy idea struck me: what if, instead of setting up a bunch of cgi-bin to enable specific talkback for this 'blog, I resorted to using generic Web annotations? For those who don't know what this is about, Web annotations are a generic (and yet experimental) framework for storing (personal or shared) annotations and comments on Web pages on a server without modifying the Web page itself. On the client side you have a browser or browser extension or plugin that will query the extension server for annotations on the Web page under consideration; annotation clients exist for Mozilla (Annozilla, the Mozilla annotation extension) and even for Internet Explorer (Snufkin), while the testbed client is the Amaya browser. On the server side, the annotation server is a specialized Web server that stores a lot of RDF metadata linking the annotation to the annotated page. Annotations can be used for common reviews, for shared bookmarks or for a quantity of other things. There's no reason why they shouldn't be used for 'blog talkback—barring the obvious reason that it's still experimental, little supported and clumsy, but that's just the sort of things that appeals to me. And the nice thing is it wouldn't be restricted to 'blog talkback: annotations are completely generic, so if I set up an annotation server, anyone who has access to it can use it to comment any Web page whatsoever, or to read my annotations on any Web page whatsoever.

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