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Content Syndication with RSS Ben Hammersley
Published by O'Reilly and Associates
208 pages
£ 20.95
Published: 4th April 2003
reviewed by Lindsay Marshall
   in the December 2003 issue (pdf), (html)

I've been generating RSS feeds from a couple of my websites for a quite some time now, and, if I am perfectly honest, I never really understood what was going on. I poked around the web a bit, looked at some examples and cobbled up the PHP to generate something that looked like what I had seen. And nobody complained or said it didn't work, so I left it alone. (Admittedly, the lack of compliant could be entirely due to a readership of zero for the RSS feeds, but I like to think a few people look at them and that they would have moaned about any problems - they usually do if something is wrong). Then I got this book. Great, I thought, now I'll be able to understand what it's all about instead of going round in circles on Dave Winer's website becoming more confused or else reading diatribes about DW being wrong in everything including his use of < and >.

And so, I read this book. And now I am even more confused and I think I know less than I did when I started. If you stand a long way back from RSS (try Alpha Centauri) it looks like a nice straightforward idea, well at least straightforward as anything slightly complex in XML can be. But get in close and find out about versions 0.91, 0.92, 1.0 amd 2.0, which don't follow in sequence and which aren't that closely related to each other and which downright conflict with each other, then it gets nasty.

Ben Hammersley struggles manfully to make it all clear but it didn't work for me - I could feel all the politics and history hidden behind those innocuous tags and in the end I just couldn't be bothered with it. I wanted to get hold of the people behind the ``standards'' and knock their heads together and make them stand in the corner till they promised to play nicely and not do it again.

None of this is the fault of Mr. H who has a very nice looking website which is well worth a visit. In fact if you have to work with this pig's breakfast then I recommend this book to you (it may even be the only game in town!) as it's all there.

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