Today’s Technology News

A couple of articles caught my eye tonight after getting home from work; one is about RSS (those crazy XML feeds) and the other is about correcting mistakes in corporate websites to make them more accessible to the public.

In effort to push the foreskin post “below the fold” for more sensitive viewers (*ahem* Foof), I’ve decided to include all my bullshit commentary here on the front page, where a “continue reading” link is probably warranted. Heh… I used “foreskin” and “fold” in the same sentence.

First article: “RSS growing pains” over at Infoworld, found via Slashdot. Basically, the guy says that the hourly onslaught of RSS clients requesting his site’s feed resembles a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack: a ton of requests coming into the same server from a ton of different places, all at the same time.

Back in the day, before malicious attacks like DDoS, popular websites suffered the same fate: the server not being able to handle the amount of honest and valid requests for data. As web technology advanced on both the client (browser caching) and server (load balancing, mirroring) sides, highly popular websites/servers grew to accommodate the public’s demand for their data. Nowadays, however, that “not able to handle” concept is the underlying raison d’etre for DDoS attacks, without the “honest and valid” part. That websites and RSS use the same protocol (HTTP) doesn’t help; administrators can’t immediately discern the difference between the two. Then again, it’s not that hard to tell what’s going on by checking a couple of log files.

Anyway… RSS isn’t really all that “new” a technology, but it’s only recently become popular. Problems with nascent technology are 1) to be expected, and 2) what drives it to usability. If there isn’t a problem, there’s no impetus to further develop the technology. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I think he’s on the right track, but maybe doesn’t realize that his bitching and moaning about RSS is exactly what the developers need to hear if they’re going to be prodded into refining their products toward “primetime” usability.

Second article: “Changing the Face of Web Surfing” over at Wired, via their RSS feed. :) Basically, some of the really popular websites out there suffer from shitty code, and other people are taking it upon themselves to republish the shit-code-site’s content in a manner more accessible to the public. And, sometimes, those “other people” get in trouble by doing so.

Are those re-coders performing a “public service” of sorts, or violating the law? Probably both.

That’s why I pulled those RSS feeds offa’ MMH; xref my previous “Re-Re-Distribution is a No-No” post. To follow up on that post: Of the three organizations whose permission I pursued, only one replied. The Register‘s Marketing Director, Philip Mitchell–while preferring I advertise their own feeds–actually gave me permission to publish my own screen-scraped RSS feed of their site.

Then, El Reg changed their format and completely-fucking-broke the ONE customized feed I had permission to publish. It’ll take me less time to simply subscribe to their feeds than it will for me to fix mine, so fuck it. The other two feeds (for Fark and New Scientist) still exist–and still work beautifully–but I won’t tell you where. ;)


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