It’s just data

Version Numbers

When I first saw Tim’s What Dave Said, my first reaction was to view this as classic Stockholm Syndrome.  This whole episode has been bizarre, starting with the same person who sold the same Brooklyn Bridge to a half a dozen people acusing Rogers of being entrepreneurial enough to treat it as a property to be flipped.  First stating that No one has the exclusive right to determine the path forward, then taking it upon himself to pick up and bang the gavel.  And now Tim’s post.

Then I slept on it.  And in the morning, it started to make some sense.  It reminded me of another time, years ago...

The current version of Apache Tomcat is 5.5.15.  Two prior versions are still supported  It wasn’t always that way.  Six years ago, there was a messy fight between those that were maintaining Tomcat version 3 and those working on a version 4.  This stressful situation lead James Duncan Davidson to pen Rules for Revolutionaries.  It talked about how attempting to force differing approaches onto a numeric and ordered scale increases social friction.  We saw a similar situation in the syndication space when RSS 0.94 was renamed 2.0.

The IETF AtomPub working group internalized that knowledge and respected the roadmap, leading to a tentative endorsement by Dave Winer (note: the effort was known as Echo at that time).  Also note that that endorsement merely acknowledged that another effort was underway, it was emphatically not an acknowledgment that the the effort was in any way be treated as a successor to RSS 2.0.

The situation is fractal.  The issues that arise in a 3.0 vs 4.0 discussion apply equally to a 2.0.1 vs 2.0.2 discussion.

Early drafts of the new spec referred to “its predecessor”.  This language was removed, but the version number was bumped.

Quite frankly, both are acts of social violence.

Rogers makes the case that all podcasters relying on multiple enclosures will be publishing RSS feeds that don’t work for what is potentially their largest audience, and Dave pleads for Rogers to “decide whether you’re working on a profile or a new format”.

To this, I say, What Dave Said, though I will voice my preference on the two options that Dave puts on the table.

Footnote:  I have a pet peeve concerning the use of the term ”RSS” without further qualification.  Depending on the content, it means non-RDF versions of RSS, or all syndication formats that call themselves RSS, or all popular syndication formats.  In many cases, such ambiguous statements end up implying things that simply aren’t true.