This is why I love blogging, it's the conversation
It all started with a post on Paolo Valdemarin's weblog where he listed the features that would be in his ideal feed reader. I posted a comment pointing out Awasu already had a lot of what he was looking for and the rest would be coming pretty soon. For completeness, here's what I said (edited slightly):
1. I want a "River of news" approach.
Yup, we've got that already.
2. I want to be able to divide my reading list in groups.
Awasu lets you organize your channels into folders but with a twist: channels can appear in more than one folder. This turns out to be quite a powerful innovation. More info here.
3. I want web access.
We are looking into providing a synchronization feature for one or more third-party online readers. This should be available fairly soon.
4. Mobile access.
You can get this working right now. Awasu has the ability to periodically scan selected channels and combine them all to a single report. You can then publish this report somewhere, usually via FTP to a web server, but it could just as easily be pushed out to a mobile phone.
5. Reading lists.
This will also be available very soon.
6. POST button next to each news item.
Then, Danny Ayers chimes in with his own take on it all.
I’m becoming increasingly convinced that extending (human-readable) content-oriented approach is the quickest path to a more generalised data-oriented (i.e. Semantic) web.
This is what we've been saying since the very beginning!
RSS [is] not going to be all that important in itself. ... [It is] simply going to be the first step along the way to something much bigger. ... All of a sudden, [people] are seeing the potential that XML-based computer-to-computer communication offers and are starting to
demandpolitely ask for it. And so the use of XML-based communications is going to explode. Dare Obasanjo had it right when he said that "Using XML syndication is an evolution in the way people interact with content on the web."
But the most important bit is this:
One key aspect of Awasu’s technology is its plugin architecture that lets you do whatever you want with the information that is coming in.
I've seen a lot of tech people getting excited about RSS for its own sake – computer-to-computer communication, using XML! w00t! – but without really thinking about how to make it useful to the general user. So we now have a myriad of applications that blindly pull down gigabytes of feed content, podcasts, whatever, but don't know what to do with it and so just
dump present it all to the user for them to figure out. Awasu has always been about letting you do something useful with the information, from channel plugins that let you retrieve the information you're interested in from any data source, to channel hooks that let you analyze the data as it comes in and respond to it, to channel reports that let you extract information from Awasu's archive, edit and republish it.
As an example, I think Danny has things the wrong way around when he responds to Paolo's point 4.
Mobile access (4) - yep, definitely. My current Wind connection rates are a bit too expensive to use for regular browsing, but such provision could be very useful for things like notification (”server’s still up”).
I certainly don't want to be continually notified that the "server's still up", I want to know when it's gone down! This is exactly the kind of thing Awasu is designed for – it can monitor incoming data from the server and be instructed to notify someone if it sees something wrong.
The zinger is Danny's extra feature request:
7) increased used of explicit metadata - there’s a lot of info available from tags, cross-linking, social relationships (e.g. through XFN/FOAF profiles) that still isn’t be exploited
This ties in perfectly with Awasu's design principle of letting you manage your information the way you want to. This functionality has already been designed into Awasu's feed engine and is active and running today. Right now, it only handles standard RSS/Atom metadata like <author> or <atom:created> but it's just a matter of adding a UI to let the user define and manage their own custom metadata. The potential of this is really exciting, being able to extract custom (i.e. non-RSS/Atom) XML tags out of a feed and mapping them to your taxonomy of metadata and then being able to use it in search requests, embed it into reports, etc., now that's something worth w00t'ing about!
Danny closes his post with this:
Syndication is a useful application of the web, but at this point in time a whole lot of systems are being developed without taking advantage of the Web of Data and the Web as Platform. Blog content is not the only fruit.
I'm having a bit of an email conversation right now with one of our users about the future of Awasu and one of the things I said to him was this:
Just as the web started out as a bunch of static pages but is now changing into the more interactive "Web 2.0", RSS will expand from being just a publishing mechanism to a more mature and powerful means of transporting information around. It's just a stepping stone towards a more ubiquitous computer-to-computer communication using XML.