The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

“It's the links, stupid!”


It's what hypertext is all about. The links. In fact, the first two letters of HTML stand for “hypertext.”


It's what blogs are about. It's how they got started—a list of links updated daily, with maybe a little bit of commentary. Links are the lifeblood of blogs.


Which are damned hard to find in an RSS feed of any given blog.

My own RSS feed at first just included a title and a link to the entry itself, and that's about the only link you'll find in an RSS feed. A conversation with Aaron Schwartz convinced me that some people preferred only those blogs that provided the entire entry in the feed so they could aggregate the feeds and read tons of sites. But there was very little information on what exactly the <description> tag could contain. Most feeds had plain text, some entity encoded HTML. I decided it was easier to dump the entry into a <![CDATA[ ... ]]> block—RSS being an XML based format, that was, as far as I could tell, legal, if maybe a bit funky.

And I never felt that good about personally.

But what exactly, is the point of a blog without links? At least by including the HTML the links could be extracted by the aggregator. At least, that was my thought, until a little demonstration proved just how bad an RSS feed could be unless you striped any markup from the <description>.

Which makes including an entry full of links moot.

But there is work being done on forming a new syndication format, one that isn't quite as ambiguous, convoluted or underspec'ed as the current crop of RSS specs, for which I'm giving my support.

And maybe, just maybe, we can put hypertext back into a syndication feed.

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[It's the most wonderful time of the year!]

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Obligatory Feeds

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You have my permission to link freely to any entry here. Go ahead, I won't bite. I promise.

The dates are the permanent links to that day's entries (or entry, if there is only one entry). The titles are the permanent links to that entry only. The format for the links are simple: Start with the base link for this site:, then add the date you are interested in, say 2000/08/01, so that would make the final URL:

You can also specify the entire month by leaving off the day portion. You can even select an arbitrary portion of time.

You may also note subtle shading of the links and that's intentional: the “closer” the link is (relative to the page) the “brighter” it appears. It's an experiment in using color shading to denote the distance a link is from here. If you don't notice it, don't worry; it's not all that important.

It is assumed that every brand name, slogan, corporate name, symbol, design element, et cetera mentioned in these pages is a protected and/or trademarked entity, the sole property of its owner(s), and acknowledgement of this status is implied.

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