Wednesday, July 26, 2006

OSCON: Day One part 3

The next talk I attended was Tim Bray's presentation of "Atom as Universal Web Glue." Tim started by criticizing the popular term "user-generated content" (it's fairly insulting to us "content-generating users") and discussed the limitations that hold this idea back. Then he presented the Atom publishing protocol as a solution.

1. Starts with an URL: GET the "service document" from a publisher's site and extract "collections."
2. Retrieve those collections and see what you may already have.
3. POST an Atom entry to a collection. Get back it's URI in the returned HTTP header.
4. POST a picture or binary to a collection. Get back a URI for that data, then another for the metadata.
5. PUT or DELETE an existing atom entry.

That's all of it. Very simple indeed.

APP differs from other protocols in a few important ways. Unlike RPC, there is no API abstraction, just message passing. Using HTTP allows you to layer whatever securing you want over it (unlike WS-*). Finally the client doesn't need any knowledge of the server's namespace. This differs from web-based filesystems like WebDAV.

APP is already being used by Google for the GDATA interface. Even MS says that their next version of Word will support blog publishing with Atom. There are other implementations coming.

There are many interesting things that can be done with this technology. Tim was then able to show us a demo using curl and vi! Not only did he post textual entries, he was also able to easily post binary content as well. I think was an excellent way to underscore Atom's simplicity. It's also inspiring to realize you could create an Atom publishing client in shell script, if you were so inclined.


kasei said...

I may just be a curmudgeon, but I think this whole "user generated content" backlash is just silly. I'm not for a minute insulted by the term because I am presumably using a service (hence "user"), and if I "write and speak and design and compose and sing and play and build and earn and pay" for the service (to quote Bray), then I am creating content which is a perfectly legitimate use of the word "content" as a superset of these things. (Except for earning and paying which don't typically generate content so much as they do money.)

Perhaps it would have been more persuasive to have heard the argument in person, but just from reading about it here and elsewhere, I'm not convinced.

Thursday, July 27, 2006  

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