Some thoughts on Syndication and Aggregation

Syndication feed formats (RSS/Atom) seems to have support for various kind of metadata (directly or through extensions/modules). However, not all publishers seems to be using it consistently. I also notice, presentation specific markup being mixed with metadata. Is it because feed-publishers assume client to be a web-browser?

For example:-

  • Description text is in complex-html (presentation specific).
  • Inserting advertisements in certain places

With Rich Internet Application platforms (Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Apollo, Microsoft WPE/WPF etc), content can be presented into different metaphor provided it’s easy to get the relevant data and related metadata from feeds. Above example poses a simple problem of extracting description (actual metadata), if it’s semantic-html it’s cool otherwise a problem for client to parse and extract data. Similarly, there could be more problems and inconsistencies in feed-publishing as of today.

Monetization and Advertisement through Syndication are not totally solved problems, most of the solutions available today only work in context of web-browser.

If feed reader(aggregator) is something else (f.ex: Adobe Flash/Apollo client or Microsoft WPF/WPE) than Web-Browser:-

  • How to take care of branding?
  • How to show advertisements?

I am sure, these can be solved using syndication formats it’s just we need to do it consistently. Also, while publishing feeds it’s good idea to think of all kind of clients that would be consuming it.

Note: I am fairly new Syndication/Aggregation, whatever I talk here is based on my experiences and understanding in last a few years. Problems, I faced while writing aggregators, clients or feed-publishing-engines.

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  • richard

    I think these are problems that need to be left alone for the most part. The increasing numbers of ordinary end users consuming rss has nothing to do with the technical wonders it affords developers. It’s more to do with the fact that newsfeeds allow them a manageable channel to get the info they need WITHOUT a bunch of crap being forced into view. If a feed source starts annoying you with ads or irrelevant content, you can just cut it off. And they will start to do so more frequently as feed ads increase.
    People are tired of skip intros, annoying flash ads, and spam. We all realize advertising has a place out here, but the net cant be ruled by the bottom feeders anymore.

  • @Richard: I agree with you, an end-user should not be affected with this. I also don’t like intrusive advertisement.
    I think, as a developer we need to take care of such things.. I tried to talk about problems which I saw in syndication-feeds, they restrict me to write a better feed-aggregator/reader.
    If we can solve some of these issues, we can write a better applications for end users at the same time feed-publishers don’t have to worry about branding/monetization through a standard (agreed way).
    I would love to hear more thoughts from you? How it can be good for end-user as well as feed-publishers?
    Thanks for your comment, I am thinking about it..