css and rss

| 5 Comments | 5 TrackBacks

Joi Ito is playing around with sending CSS along with his RSS feed, and an intersting discussion is already brewing in his comments. Most of the comment focus on specific problems that the embedded CSS is causing in some newsreaders. But others are starting to touch on what I think is a very interesting philosophical issue--should content syndication be just about content, or should authors also be able to specify presentation guidelines?

My gut response to this is discomfort with the idea of trying to use CSS with syndicaated content--that it seems somehow contrary to the entire idea of syndicating simple content. But I know from long experience not to trust that kind of initial negativity too much, since it's often connected with changes that turn out to be quite positive.

So I started wondering...isn't this the kind of thing that the folks in the Atom project might be thinking about? In the many discussions surrounding the development of this new syndication format, wouldn't they have been likely to have touched on issues related to sending (optional) stylistic/presentation information along with content?

Yup. The first hit from a Google search on "Atom syndication CSS" was Jason Shellen's Atom Info Proposal, which "adds two optional tags to the Atom syndication format, adding a way to address an info tag with CSS. One tag invokes a CSS file and another tag to contain the info data." The second hit was a Sam Ruby post entitled "Atom + CSS." And the third hit was even more interesting, as it was a message from Phil Wolff to the atom-syntax mailing list entitled "Syndicating CSS?".

In that last item, Phil Wolff suggests some specific strategies for including style informtion with syndicated feeds, and also describes feedback on those suggestions that he received from Jesse James Garrett.

I'm sure I've only scratched the surface of this discussion, but it seemed worth mentioning those items and tracking back to Joi's entry, since one of the problems in the blogosphere is that discussions like these seem too often to take place in parallel rather than being intertwingled.

(And btw, Joi, when are you going to put up an Atom feed? ;)

5 TrackBacks

http://mamamusings.net/archives/2003/12/29/css_and_rss.php... Read More

At work, one of the things I'm working on is a better way for information to flow to people. Since... Read More

Silly of me to think we were about to be reduced to 'and here's another ...' Instead, 'and now for something completely different'. Overnight, there have been postings about enabling RSS feeds to carry some of the design, as well Read More

Overnight, there have been postings about enabling RSS feeds to carry some of the design, as well as the content, of its originator. See Joi Ito and then: floating atoll, mamamusings and (form his archives) anil. Read More

Time to take a break from photos and philosophy, and feed the machine. I have a file that maintains a list of 404 accesses, and the URL where the missing resource access originated. The file most accessed is the old Alter Ego weblog's rss.xml feed. Sin... Read More


I'd been asking some questions about this stuff almost a year ago and found out that there's some resistance to it. From what I've seen of the Atom community so far, people are much more amenable to the idea.

To be clear, Jason's work on styling Atom feeds is designed to give people a friendly document when (incorrectly) viewing a syndication feed in a web browser. Joi's efforts to style the content within a syndication client are not directly analogous.

Blindly accepting style information from content producers is as bad an idea as blindly accepting scripts. Never trust your upstream platypus.


By far the best example of this is by Dave Shea (creator of the amazing CSS Zen Garden) on his weblog, Mezzoblue.

He uses XSL and CSS to style his RSS 2.0 feed Yes, it is a valid RSS 2.0 feed; view the source if you don't believe it.

I think this solution is more elegant than Jason Shellen's (although I applaud Jason's efforts).

See the post on Mezzoblue titled Plugging the RSS Usability Hole.

An addendum. After reading Anil's comment above, it's apparent that that what Dave Shea and Jason Shellen are doing (styling the RSS feed itself) is different from what Joi Ito is trying to do (passing styles through the RSS feed to the aggregator).

I wonder: is it possible to achieve both goals (Dave/Jason's and Joi's) with the same CSS?

To add to Mark's rather useful demonstration, I'd like to point out Mark's rather useful cure for the problem:





Recent Photos

This is a Flickr badge showing public photos and videos from mamamusings. Make your own badge here.

Upcoming Travel

Creative Commons License
This blog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on December 29, 2003 11:28 PM.

cool geographic aggregator by former student was the previous entry in this blog.

travel plans for the new year is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.