RSS Autodiscovery

Can current practice on auto discovery be improved?

Why do I care? Well, the current practice is a misuse of the rel attribute and is not taking advantage of the methods defined in the HTML 4 specs (and thus in XHTML 1 etc).

Example of the current practice
<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="RSS" href="http://www.aurl.example/rss.xml">

Why is it a misuse of the rel attribute? See

Designates substitute versions for the document in which the link occurs. When used together with the lang attribute, it implies a translated version of the document. When used together with the media attribute, it implies a version designed for a different medium (or media).

Merely having rel=”alternate” is insufficient, it is an alternate what? Determining this by (unregistered) mime types is (IMO) a mistake, limits the use of alternate for truly alternate meta data choices and is undefined by the HTML specs.

To extend the keywords available to use in the rel attribute requires the document author to specify a profile to specify these new keywords. See and

In general, specifying meta data involves two steps:

  1. Declaring a property and a value for that property. This may be done in two ways:
    1. From within a document, via the META element.
    2. From outside a document, by linking to meta data via the LINK element (see the section on link types).
  2. Referring to a profile where the property and its legal values are defined. To designate a profile, use the profile attribute of the HEAD element.

These points specify how to reference Meta data, and the like, from within a HTML document. The current practice does not reflect HTML’s recommendations on this and should be modified to be in conformance. My proposal is the following.

The head element of the page should contain a profile element
e.g. <head profile="">

The link element pointing to the RSS feed should have a rel attribute, the attribute value is defined by the profile, the profile can be a single URL identifying the profile used it’s format is not specified by HTML (it could just point to an English language specification, for example the RSS 1.0 spec, which states the valid values.)

For example
<link rel="RSS" type="application/xml" title="RSS weblog" href="http://www.aurl.example/rss_weblog_channel.xml" >
<link rel="alternate RSS" type="application/xml" title="RSS articles" href="http://www.aurl.example/rss_articles_channel.xml" >

Now that the alternate value is not artificially overloaded it is possible to use it to correctly specify an alternate choice between two specified link types, rather than an indeterminate alternate choice.

Recommended RSS reading

After beginning to implement some RSS feeds on my site it feels like I’ve stumbled into a fragmented scene of competing versions. The scene is much different to working with W3 standards which are generally only published after periods of consultation etc, the development of RSS seems to be going on between competing groups of people with development decisions published on weblogs and implemented almost immediately by the relevant group, Although this is an effective method of driving traffic to certain sites I’m not convinced as to it’s merit for drafting standards which can be implemented uniformly. Without a centralised repository for the specification (or at least one that keeps up with these changes) it is difficult for someone to jump on board immediately and make full use of the exciting possibilities of RSS.

Having said that it’s not all bad news, if you are happy to keep it simple writing RSS that is interoperable between various news aggregators seems to be quite possible. An interesting article I’ve recently come across is the RSS Tutorial for Content Publishers and Webmasters, this does a good job of explaining the differences between the two main versions of RSS, 0.9x and 1.0. Another weblog, Dive into Mark, is where I read an interesting article on RSS 2.0.

Well with all this talk of RSS feeds etc I though it might be a good idea to link to the site that demonstrates some of the potential RSS offers, allows readers to submit queries that return a RSS feed of content that matches the keywords submitted. A nicely designed site with interesting material to boot!

Syndicate this site?

As a result of some of my musings about the semantic web and (brought about by my definition lists article) I thought I’d experiment with writing an RSS feed. As it is my first effort at producing such a thing I’ve decided to have create a channel for my articles first as these are not updated frequently. This will give me a little time to investigate methods for automatically generating the feeds etc which will make life easier for when I want to syndicate the blog “channel” of my website. The URL for my RSS feed is and no, I’m not going to add that ugly orange XML box that you see everywhere linking to it.

Feedback on my Definition List article

I’ve had some fairly interesting feedback on the article I wrote [in the usenet group comp.infosystems.www.authoring.html], the interesting stuff is mainly from concepts that have branched off from some of the content management points raised in the article, google groups has an archive of the discussion.

This site will have been in it’s present location for around a year this coming November, to “celebrate” I’m thinking of revamping the look of the site. The wheels are turning already.

Definition Lists article added

It’s been a while since my last article on abbreviations and acronyms, so I thought I’d write another. My current article is about definition lists and some of the more interesting ways they can be used. The benefits of writing HTML in a meaningful way are barely being touched upon in my opinion, with the advent of advanced content management systems semantically rich information can be manipulated and used in a plethora of new ways.

Google Glossary. In relation to definition lists and tools making use of them, the google glossary has been available for some time now in the google labs, it is one of those projects that I hope becomes a mainstream google tool. Here’s my vote any way, not that google is a democracy though :).

Current Reading: The Content Management Bible.

Madrid Trip Preview Pictures

Due to an increasing work load I have not been able to devote the time to put up the photographs of my recent trip to Madrid on the site. However work is in progress on a new CSS gallery template to present the photographs. In the meantime I will put up a couple of pictures, they are available from the thumbnails at the end of this post.

Uno Thumbnail link to an image of a famous aqueduct. Dos Thumbnail link to an image of a castle. Tres Thumbnail link to a photograph of madrids main square. Cuatro Thumbanil link to a photograph of a statue

Current Reading: Spanish For Dummies.

Public CSS-Discuss Archive Opened

The CSS-Discuss archive has finally been opened to the non-subscribed public. CSS-Discuss is a mailing list for discussing practical CSS implementations, the new version improves on the older version by offering improved search facilities. Opening the list is seen as a step towards reducing the number of duplicate questions that are asked. This archive is a valuabel resource for anyone interested in CSS and I strongly recommend it.

If you’re interested you can look at the search results for my name, a meagre tally I know but I do have to work for a living.

Web Site Stats

Heres a quick table giving you an idea of what browsers people visited my site with so far this month.

Table showing the % split of user agents visiting my site, so far during July.
USER AGENT Percentage Split of Total Hits
Mozilla (Netscape etc) 12.92%
Internet Explorer 80.36%
Opera 3.26%
Bot/Other 3.21%

Microsoft Internet Explorer has a strong showing, however my personal favourite, Mozilla, isn’t doing to bad either.


Well I’m begining to get my feet wet using PHP and MySQL for database driven sites. Usually I stick with ASP and MSSQL or Access, but a client wants to run an application from a linux box. Learning PHP isn’t turning out to be too difficult, I’ve used a few programming languages before, (C/C++, Java, Visual Basic etc) so learning a new one isn’t too difficult. File uploading seems a lot easier!

Still strong with the CSS Despite doing a lot of server side scripting, I really enjoy writing style sheets. One of the facets of stylesheets I’ve been trying to get to grips with is using @page rules with the projection stylesheet. This is only implemented on Opera at the moment (although Mozilla seem to be heading in this direction).