I had a very entertaining conversation over Microsoft cafeteria grub with Robert Scoble today. We were talking about what the leading edge of blog technology will look like when most folks have figured out the significant reasons that blogging is so popular today. He spends time explaining blogging to people at Microsoft and eventually people will get it — the same is true of most people in most companies, not just Microsoft. So, what’s next?
Robert is very articulate — one has to be inside Microsoft, the institutional equivalent of a Darwinian pool — about how the ability to discover what content is new is one of the key features of blogging. It doesn’t exist in other Web page layouts or within corporate applications where many people may be performing the same queries and need to know about similar interests/concerns visually; this is the heart of all the talk about the semantic Web. It’s simple in blogging to find what is new and, through trackback, what’s capturing attention, either the new content is at the top of the page or it is in the most recent RSS feed. That’s probably the most important benefit of what blogs have done, making it easy to author, share and debate information; it will obviously migrate into other applications, which is where the leading edge will be when everyone “gets” blogging as it is today.
In a page layout, which is how most people and organizations demonstrate what information is most important, there are structural, design and semantic elements we understand: “Important information ss placed at the top of the page, yet a story may stay “important” longer after its initial publication, a characteristic lost in blogging, which replaces the last “top story” with another based on chronological posting; the size and word choice in headlines convey a great deal of information, which is lost in an RSS feed.
So, we were speculating about the need for an RSS 3.0 that adds those features, including page placement metadata, so that the simplicity of blogging can be combined with the cues we’re used to in page layout. Imagine a page layout where a new or changed story blinked or glowed momentarily after a page loaded to indicate that it is new, yet the page still looked like a newspaper, report or other standard page.
RSS 3.0 would need to include an interpreter that processed changes, like a wiki page does diffs; a page would, essentially, need to read its own RSS feed. The result would be a dramatically richer Web, not better blogging or a better browser in and of itself. Since desktop publishing has gone through this kind of evolution, not to mention the management of versioning in code, so that groups can share information in context, this seems like a natural direction to go. The simplicity and discoverability of blogs should migrate into harder to use applications.
It could also include trackback analysis to display what is being linked to most. Positive and negative sentiment could be recorded, too.
So, recognizing that it is opening a can of worms (and kind of enjoying the idea), we decided it might be a good idea to call for RSS 3.0 — acknowledging that much of it being discussed elsewhere, but the idea here is to break out of blogging as blogging and extend the simplicity to all forms of knowledge sharing…. That is not to say that blogging solves all problems, only that these features can be helpful. The rest is up to people doing smart stuff with the information, which is where the real challenge begins.