Tuesday, July 26, 2005

RSS Feed Annotation Streams

Pace on the BBC Backstage mailing list (archived here) is franctic as ever, with new prototypes popping up every couple of days.

A key driver of the activity (at the moment at least) is the provision by the BBC of RSS feeds that have been opened up for remixing use by the community. But even though the BBC have been generous with what they are making available, we always want more...

As a result, one strand that's being developed in the Backstage community at the moment - and that I think has potentially broad appeal - is the idea of RSS Annotation Stream: Data Mining: Feed Annotation Streams.

The gist of the idea is that users may want to annotate RSS stories with additional info - at the moment, geotagging syndicated BBC news stories is particularly hot, given the wide variety of mapping applications being devleoped for BBC news feeds using the Google maps API.

Here's what Matt Hurst has mooted as a stating point for the RSS Annotation spec:

<annotationStream feedURL="original-feed-url" annotationURI="URI-for-annotation-service" feedRead="date" annotationStreamWrite="date">
  <annotation guid="item-guid">
    <!--annotation information here-->

As I read it, the annotationStream idea allows a user to provide a set of annotations that can be applied to a particular original feed. But what if I want to define a feed that is a combination of several distinct annotationStreams defined at quite a high level?

I wonder if there is any merit in going a step further and having an annotationMix (or annotationPatch?) (that may or may not be an annotationStream?) that:

1) contains one or more <useAnnotationStream annotationURI="URI-for-annotation-service" /> tags, and

2) defines which bits of those various annotations from each feed should be used in the final annotationMix?

This extension needn't go as far as defining an XSLT to remix the final feed, but would be useful as a config file for a mixer of several feeds, perhaps, or setting up an XSLT to generate the final annotated/mixed feed?

It will be interesting to see what other communities might pick up on RSS annotations, because I have a feeling this idea might run and run....

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