RSS, OPML and the XML platform.
Copyright 2012 World Readable
It's funny. If you look, there's neat little XML Web services all over the Internet. And behind those Web services is data. Also known as virtual gold.
The last week or two, I've been playing extensibly with FOAF (Friend Of A Friend). This is an XML/RDF vocabulary intended to describe people and their friends. This is a great idea and something we really need to tie the Web together and make it work the way us uber-geeks invision the Web working. Imagine if social websites could share information? The similar friends. Import friends. Import profile data.
Unfortunately, FOAF has major problems and as such is not good enough for this job. The biggest part of the problem is ownership and intellectual violence. By this, I mean that this vocabulary is controlled by few people who are unable to put the time into the language that is necessary to make it succeed. Also, these people suffer from an intellectual superiority complex that makes working with them impossible. This is true of pretty much anybody involved with RDF or for that matter XML.
FOAF was apparently created in 2000 (11 yrs ago) and remains in the pre-version 1.0 state. How can it possibly take 11 yrs to create the initial version of this language? I've been complaining on this blog about the half-baked FOAF spec since 2004. In fact, no updates to the specification have been made in the last 16 months.
Eleven years now and only one version of the grammar exists; 0.1 according to the namespace. Yet this 0.1 version contains archaic elements. A large percentage of the published FOAF is using elements which are no longer valid.
The slow pace of this spec is allowing it to fall behind the times and get further away from the reality of today. Old news Internet chat sites like AIM and ICQ are tightly integrated into the vocabulary while modern day Web successes like twitter and Facebook are rarely ever implemented by publishers.
Today, I was wondering how to implement cell, work and home phone numbers. I was unable to discover a method that doesn't break the basics of RDF. In fact, I found threads discussing this problem that date back years and no acceptable solution was found.
Recommendation: Either the people who control FOAF release it to people who have the time to move it forward or they deprecate the XML and allow something else to step in and take it's place.
Today, I started fooling around with FOAF. I found a database of source and started building a database. I decided that I only wanted to download one FOAF file per secondary domain. I quickly built up an index of nearly 2000 files over 189 secondary domains.
Of the 189 FOAF files I tried to download, 87 were invalid or 46%. That's an awfully high error rate. 39 times the server returned 404 Not Found (twice 410 Gone). 11 times the remote server could not be resolved. There were a few well formed XML issues. 3 redirect issues. I'll keep y'all updated.
More: I setup my server to download new data every hour. At most one file per hourÂ per secondary domain. Don't wanna piss anybody off. I might increase that in time. I'm gonna make the data available online at some point.
Update: Most recent stats