Buddy Stalker

Kevin Lawver demoed a cool Buddy Stalker mashup yesterday at Mashup Camp 3 that combines AOL's feeds infrastructure, AIM , and Open Authentication to let you stalk your buddies online.  All of it tied together with Rails in about 8 hours (and the last 2 hours were probably just tweaking the CSS).

Personally, I want one more level of abstraction on top of this.  Something like a personal buddy zeitgeist tag cloud, updated dynamically, showing what my buddies are up to.


application/atom+json? and more on our converter

Sam Ruby's recent post (Application/Atom+JSON) has sparked some interesting comments.  Is there value in a standard way to represent Atom data in JSON data structures?  I think so.  I do think that we need to have a way for transparent pass-through of generic elements (which means some scheme for dealing with Atom extensions, which means dealing with at least some subset of XML namespaces).

In other news, we're  working on fixing the issues that Sam noted in AOL's Atom-to-JSON converter.  The good news is that most of these issues have to do with the underlying ROME library we're using, and so the fixes that Joseph van Valen is making will be contributed back to the community. 

It turns out that the same issues are present even if you specify Atom as the output format; while Atom-to-Atom isn't a very useful converter, it's awfully useful as a test case.  For example, the Feed Validator tells us that something is munging hreflang.  It's also dropping rel="self" and other links for some reason... all of these things look like simple bugs, easily fixed.  The converter actually does seem to pass through elements it doesn't understand for entries, but not for feeds, which looks like a simple oversight.


Yes, Steve, I do want my phone to be an open platform

I was captivated by the iPhone announcement.  It's a great looking design; I suspect that Apple, being Apple, has probably nailed the actual interaction too, including keyboard.  I was ready to buy one immediately (darn that pesky FCC!).  But then:

"You don't want your phone to be an open platform," says Steve Jobs. 

What?  Yes, I do.  I want to carrry just one personal device that serves me the way I want.  I do not want to be locked in to a "garden of pure ideology" (warning: ironic link) defined by any one company.  I want a free market.

And: "Cingular doesn't want to see their West Coast network go down because some application messed up."

That's simply laughable.  If Cingular's network is so fragile that a single poorly coded application can destroy it, they have much bigger problems than needing to lock down the iPhone.  You deal with those issues at the protocol and network levels, not at the clients.

I won't even try to predict whether this is a fatal flaw for the iPhone -- it has a lot of other things going for it, and of course it is a decision which can easily be changed.  But it will determine whether the iPhone is a game-changer or just a cool looking phone.

Doc Searls' take: "Well, it's good either way. Because a closed iPhone is a market opening for Nokia, Motorola and the rest of them."



Generic Atom-to-JSON Conversion

Yesterday, our feeds infrastructure team released a bunch of new code.  There's actually a lot that this service can do; one of the cooler things it now does is to convert arbitrary Atom or RSS feeds into cross-domain-retrievable JSON data structures:

curl -v 'http://headlines.favorites.aol.com/hlserver/api/GetFeed.do?

which returns, in part, the data structure below.  The big win is the ability for any web page to retrieve feed data from any feed source without needing to set up a custom proxy.  Obviously, there's still a proxy involved here, and it's one we're running; it does both feed format normalization and caching and is highly scalable.  I hope we can turn this into a supported, documented API on dev.aol.com soon.

The output looks like this:

"feed" :  
  "xmlns:sy" : "http://purl.org/rss/1.0/modules/syndication/",
  "entry": [
    "title":"Why AOL Should Go OpenID",


There are a few oddities in the output -- atom:author gets mapped to dc:creator, for example -- which I'll find out about tomorrow.