More on XHTML vs. RSS

Tantek has commented further on my earlier notes about XHTML vs. CSS, in which he takes me to task about assumptions like the lowest level header on a page being a blog posting title. True enough; it was an off-the-top-of-my-head example, rather than anything constructive. And, although I still don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that a link with a text node containing a single hash is a permalink, that’s certainly no way to catch all (or even most) weblogs’ permalinks — the hash is a convention that isn’t all that closely stuck to. Nonetheless, this doesn’t obscure my main point, and Tantek agrees; that optimising everything for machine readability at the expense of humanity is a bad plan. Having a machine-readable format (RSS) and a human-readable format (HTML) is one possible solution, but it comes at the expense of extra work (even given that most weblogging systems will “automatically” create the RSS for you), but it not being the best possible solution was the point of Anil’s original assertion. Tantek also notes that hyperlinks that are permalinks should possibly explicity specify a rel attribute of “bookmark”, which I didn’t know at all. That’s a reasonable use of pre-existing XHTML semantics, rather than overloading a class name. Both Rick over at techno weenie and Simon Willison thought of embedding elements from other namespaces into your XHTML (so you add \<rss:title> tags around your post titles), but, as Rick points out, ” that might get a bit messy”. He’s not wrong, and it’s horrifically confusing for the average punter, which means that we’re optimising for machines again. If the rel=”bookmark” thing takes off then you could reverse a post title back from that, I suppose, since every post has only one permalink and every post has one or no titles; in essence, you’d find a header level that matched a permalink and assume that that was the post title. It’s a possibility, anyway. This needs more thought, but with all those big brains out there working on it I’m sure someone will come up with something revolutionary eventually… ——-

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