Attention.opml or Attention.rss?

Alex Barnett has an interesting post suggesting that OPML is a great format for attention data. OPML is already supported by every RSS aggregator, so it seems a natural format for storing feed-specific attention information.

Alex Barnett has an interesting post suggesting that OPML is a great format for attention data. OPML is already supported by every RSS aggregator, so it seems a natural format for storing feed-specific attention information.

Of course, whenever the topic of an attention format is raised, the focus shifts to attention.xml, which was designed expressly for this purpose. So it's interesting that Steve Gillmor - co-creator of attention.xml and President of AttentionTrust.org - is also (and has always been) in favor of saving attention data in OPML. Steve and I discussed this at length earlier today, and we agreed that using OPML for attention data makes perfect sense, especially for RSS aggregators.

As Alex mentions, FeedDemon 1.6 already stores attention data in OPML, so this isn't merely a theoretical argument - it's being used today. However, right now FeedDemon uses a set of namespaced fd: attributes for this information, which leads to two problems:

  1. These attributes are proprietary to FeedDemon, and may not be applicable to other services which wish to make use of this data
  2. Namespace support in OPML is uncertain

The first problem can be tackled with an open discussion about an attention namespace, but OPML is going through a transition at the moment, so it remains to be seen whether namespaces will be officially supported. If not, there is a simple solution: store the same namespaced attention attributes in RSS instead. Every aggregator obviously supports RSS 2.0 already, and RSS 2.0 supports namespaces, so RSS 2.0 should work (albeit not nearly as well as OPML).

Really, the bottom line here is that we've moved past the stage where we have to wonder whether attention is important (it is), so the next step is agreeing upon a format. Given that both OPML and RSS are already supported by every aggregator, why not just choose one and get on with it?

Signed by Nick Bradbury and Steve Gillmor

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