Application Aggregation

Russell Beattie writes:

The idea can be summed up in a phrase: “What’s Notes is New Again.” Right now blog tools allow you to create a “post” which is usually comprised of just a few fields: title, content, date, and maybe categories or tags. I’ve seen some other fields like media links as Enclosures (essential for podcasting), geotags for location, and there’s been a sputtering effort to add in the iCal namespace for calendaring, but all these seem to be in separate worlds. In other words, you’d have a feed that’s generally one thing or another, and not really combined into one thing. What I’m thinking about is a way of looking at “posts” or in RSS nomenclature: “items” as containers for arbitrary data in labeled fields, in a way that can be easily extended and re-used. Sort of like a “note” in Lotus Notes.

Imagine in your aggregator you could receive not only “Posts” but forms as well. And calendaring info, and images, etc. And this stuff wasn’t just HTML formatted inside the Description tag, but actually processable by the aggregator itself. I guess then the Aggregator becomes a Universal Data Reading Client instead. On the other side of the equasion, I currently have a weblog which has only one way to create new items, a button called “New Post” which has just two fields, Title and Content. Now what would happen if I added more ways to create items: “New Calendar Item” and “New Review” and “New Classified”, etc. Each one of these extra types of posts would all have Title and Content, but they’d also have fields filled with additional arbitrary information which was included in the RSS also. If your aggregator didn’t understand these fields, they could just display them.

So how do the aggregators “know” how to process the fields? Well, they don’t automagically – the developer of the aggregator will decide to support some sorts of fields and just display the others. I can imagine some systems building a plug-in architecture which could read the various Fieldsets, but in general we’d all probably just do our best. Sort of how aggregators work right now.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.