05 April 2005

OPML Telephone Game: OPML file transfer between Newsgator Online, Pluck, and Rojo

Have you ever played the telephone game? Where you whisper something into someone's ear, and then watch the story change?

It can be very hilarious to retrace the story after it is all said and done: To find out how the versions changed.
A truffle feed turns into a partially eaten waffle feed.
I did the same thing with an OPML file. Let's just say that it was very amusing. Unable to accomplish the task, but quite entertaining. I'm sure you'll find this rather delightful.


The first round


When you play telephone, you need to have a starting point. In this case, I started with the Newsgator Online OPML file. It downloaded just fine.

To make a long story short, it might be good if the various services got together like they did with the FeedMesh and PingOmatic and figure out whether there's a real problem, or something far less benign.

What I can suggest is that I think Pluck and Newsgator Online might want to kindly compare notes on the OPML stuff.

The first step of the telephone game is to export an OPML file from Newsgator to Pluck. Again, I've got the Newsgator file saved and also have the OPML link ready, open, and available for access.

When I load up the Newsgator OPML file to Pluck, I get this:


The message
Are you sure that is a valid OPML file?
Sarcasm: Actually, I'm not sure, but that's what the services are saying: That it's an OPML file, but now they're not sure or don't know.

In the telephone game, this is usually the same as a "confused look" or a "I'm not sure what you are saying."

But unlike the telephone game, the receiving party doesn't necessarily take their best guess. Rather, it just refuses to play.

In this version of the telephone game, I can restate the phrase by providing another option like the link.


This is what I did


  • Pluck: Followed these instructions exactly.

  • Newsgator forum tips.

  • Rojo import and export.


    Newsgator Rojo OPML File Integration


    Apparently there's a poor connection between the services. The same thing happened with the Newsgator Online OPML file export to Rojo: Got an error message.

    Rojo and Newsgator seem to like each other better. Perhaps Rojo has better listening skills than Pluck--Unlike Pluck, Rojo accepted a portion of the OPML file from Newsgator.

    So this tells me that the problem isn't necessarily with Newsgator. However, I have uploaded the entire NewsgatorOnline OPML file to Rojo in the past, without any problems.

    Today, I have a new error message:


    Partial Transfer


    Imported 121 channels into folder General _____ and 60 more with 103 failed.
    Sarcasm: Wow, I'm so happy that some of them got through.


    That seems kind of strange: That many failures. That's about 40%. That's kind of like saying, "I really like your waffles," and the next person is line saying "I haven't seen your truffles." Sarcasm: Does this explain why direct hits to a site are different than the number of actual feed-readings?

    Make it more complicated

    Let's try transferring the Newsgator OPML file transferred [partially] to Rojo and see if we can download if from Rojo to Pluck

    Clearly, one alternative is to reverse the flow, or make sure that both receiving parties are right there when I send the message.

    In this case, I can export the Rojo File, I get this message without any confirmation that I've saved it:


    The Rojo warning message


    You have clicked on an Outline Processor Markup Language (OPML) channel or feed which is currently being displayed in your browser. Total of 301 RSS/Feeds exported within 67 folders. This channel or feed is meant to be used within a client side aggregator or within another web service.

    Select File Save As to save this local file to disk.

    Visit Rojo at any time to export this channel list.

    Sarcasm: Thanks! I might do that.


    This message isn't all that helpful as it doesn't tell me what got saved, where, whether there's a problem with it. It would be nice if I had a confirming message with the file name where it is located.

    And it would be nice if there was a way for the download-reader-saver-spot to accept and verify the download actually means something. No sense getting excited about saving an OPML file that isn't readable.

    If I go to my index, I've got another problem. It looks like the person next to me simply spoke, and had their words directly laid over the prior transmission.

    I don't know if they heard me, and I don't know if the old version is still there, gone, or mixed. Rather, the only thing that is listed is the original Newsgator Online OPML file.

    The truth is in how the next person in the telephone game responds. Do they say something different, is there an indication they heard it better this time; and did the multiple download and cross-flow of OPML files make a difference?

    Apparently not. If we look at the file [that we don't know whether is a copy, overwritten, duplicate, replacement, yaddah-yaddah...]

    Sure enough, get the same message:


    The error message


    Are you sure that is a valid OPML file?

    Sarcasm: I'm sure, but you're not.


    The services do a good job at matching the error messages; too bad they cannot achieve this level of duplication in transferring the OMPL.

    Things are not right

    I'm not satisfied with the performance. Let's take a look at the OPML Spec and review what could possibly justify permitting these results: 50% transfer, problem files, lack of notification, and essentially an inability to easily move the files from one platform to another.


    OPML Standard Review


    Oh, the standard only refers to storing outlines; doesn't actually relate to transferring files, like a protocol.

    Indeed, the goal of the Outline is to exchange information, but it doesn't specifically mention competing aggregators, just a general "outliners and internet services". Is the OPML standard one of those "we all know it works," so we don't need to bother check it kind of things?

    But get this: The goal of OPML is to have a simple mechanism that is easily browsed and edited. Strike on that one. Strike two on that one as well. It looks like the format is still evolving as the goal is clearly achieved.

    Also, what is interesting is that despite the OPML standard, the performance falls well below the expected level -- that a "reasonably technical person" to understand the format and a quick read of a webpage.

    Well, we don't have that. We have a ridiculous amount of work required to review the standard, and still not successfully read either a single webpage or the entire OPML file. The problem is the execution. The instructions are clear.

    What is interesting is that the OPML format is open meaning that developers are free to use it to be compatible with other services. Yet, it remains unclear what mechanism ensures that the standard is actually functioning across many platforms. The standard also emphasizes that OPML is a format not a protocol.

    I guess I have to ask: Is there a need to have a more robust protocol to export and transfer the OPML files; or should users know that the existing platforms are not integrating, and that we need to transfer between platforms an OPML file only after burning it?

    If my OPML is private, then how do I make sure that I can open it from Newsgator, save it, and still retain open-access-across platforms, but still retain privacy?

    I am once again amazed how so many services and platforms publicly state that they support OPML import and export, but when we go to some simple instructions it doesn't work.

    This is more than simply a file-format-problem with Newsgator. It's a cross-platform integration issue. I'm starting to lean toward some sort of web-based protocol that permits users to quickly transfer files without downloading them.

    It would be nice to simply open up an OPML file in one platform, click transfer, and then have all those contents-feeds-files simply show up in the other place. Then close up the URL in the originating place.

    I don't want to have to download anything. I simply want the receiving platform to recognize the file-list-outline, copy it, and load it up to the receiving platform.

    I can save a link, I can save a single file, and I can transfer a portion of the OPML files. I'd like to have 100% transfer, and something that retains the file-structures across all platforms.

    Dave Winer, are you my only hope?


    LEGAL NOTICE


    Creative Commons License

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

    You may not copy any of this work to promote a commercial product on any site or medium in the universe.

    If you see this work posted on a commercial site, it violates the creative commons license; and the author does not endorse the commercial product.

    Free to use for non-commercial uses. Link to this original blogspot and cite as .
  • Have you ever played the telephone game? Where you whisper something into someone's ear, and then watch the story change?

    It can be very hilarious to retrace the story after it is all said and done: To find out how the versions changed.
    A truffle feed turns into a partially eaten waffle feed.
    I did the same thing with an OPML file. Let's just say that it was very amusing. Unable to accomplish the task, but quite entertaining. I'm sure you'll find this rather delightful.


    The first round


    When you play telephone, you need to have a starting point. In this case, I started with the Newsgator Online OPML file. It downloaded just fine.

    To make a long story short, it might be good if the various services got together like they did with the FeedMesh and PingOmatic and figure out whether there's a real problem, or something far less benign.

    What I can suggest is that I think Pluck and Newsgator Online might want to kindly compare notes on the OPML stuff.

    The first step of the telephone game is to export an OPML file from Newsgator to Pluck. Again, I've got the Newsgator file saved and also have the OPML link ready, open, and available for access.

    When I load up the Newsgator OPML file to Pluck, I get this:


    The message
    Are you sure that is a valid OPML file?
    Sarcasm: Actually, I'm not sure, but that's what the services are saying: That it's an OPML file, but now they're not sure or don't know.

    In the telephone game, this is usually the same as a "confused look" or a "I'm not sure what you are saying."

    But unlike the telephone game, the receiving party doesn't necessarily take their best guess. Rather, it just refuses to play.

    In this version of the telephone game, I can restate the phrase by providing another option like the link.


    This is what I did


  • Pluck: Followed these instructions exactly.

  • Newsgator forum tips.

  • Rojo import and export.


    Newsgator Rojo OPML File Integration


    Apparently there's a poor connection between the services. The same thing happened with the Newsgator Online OPML file export to Rojo: Got an error message.

    Rojo and Newsgator seem to like each other better. Perhaps Rojo has better listening skills than Pluck--Unlike Pluck, Rojo accepted a portion of the OPML file from Newsgator.

    So this tells me that the problem isn't necessarily with Newsgator. However, I have uploaded the entire NewsgatorOnline OPML file to Rojo in the past, without any problems.

    Today, I have a new error message:


    Partial Transfer


    Imported 121 channels into folder General _____ and 60 more with 103 failed.
    Sarcasm: Wow, I'm so happy that some of them got through.


    That seems kind of strange: That many failures. That's about 40%. That's kind of like saying, "I really like your waffles," and the next person is line saying "I haven't seen your truffles." Sarcasm: Does this explain why direct hits to a site are different than the number of actual feed-readings?

    Make it more complicated

    Let's try transferring the Newsgator OPML file transferred [partially] to Rojo and see if we can download if from Rojo to Pluck

    Clearly, one alternative is to reverse the flow, or make sure that both receiving parties are right there when I send the message.

    In this case, I can export the Rojo File, I get this message without any confirmation that I've saved it:


    The Rojo warning message


    You have clicked on an Outline Processor Markup Language (OPML) channel or feed which is currently being displayed in your browser. Total of 301 RSS/Feeds exported within 67 folders. This channel or feed is meant to be used within a client side aggregator or within another web service.

    Select File Save As to save this local file to disk.

    Visit Rojo at any time to export this channel list.

    Sarcasm: Thanks! I might do that.


    This message isn't all that helpful as it doesn't tell me what got saved, where, whether there's a problem with it. It would be nice if I had a confirming message with the file name where it is located.

    And it would be nice if there was a way for the download-reader-saver-spot to accept and verify the download actually means something. No sense getting excited about saving an OPML file that isn't readable.

    If I go to my index, I've got another problem. It looks like the person next to me simply spoke, and had their words directly laid over the prior transmission.

    I don't know if they heard me, and I don't know if the old version is still there, gone, or mixed. Rather, the only thing that is listed is the original Newsgator Online OPML file.

    The truth is in how the next person in the telephone game responds. Do they say something different, is there an indication they heard it better this time; and did the multiple download and cross-flow of OPML files make a difference?

    Apparently not. If we look at the file [that we don't know whether is a copy, overwritten, duplicate, replacement, yaddah-yaddah...]

    Sure enough, get the same message:


    The error message


    Are you sure that is a valid OPML file?

    Sarcasm: I'm sure, but you're not.


    The services do a good job at matching the error messages; too bad they cannot achieve this level of duplication in transferring the OMPL.

    Things are not right

    I'm not satisfied with the performance. Let's take a look at the OPML Spec and review what could possibly justify permitting these results: 50% transfer, problem files, lack of notification, and essentially an inability to easily move the files from one platform to another.


    OPML Standard Review


    Oh, the standard only refers to storing outlines; doesn't actually relate to transferring files, like a protocol.

    Indeed, the goal of the Outline is to exchange information, but it doesn't specifically mention competing aggregators, just a general "outliners and internet services". Is the OPML standard one of those "we all know it works," so we don't need to bother check it kind of things?

    But get this: The goal of OPML is to have a simple mechanism that is easily browsed and edited. Strike on that one. Strike two on that one as well. It looks like the format is still evolving as the goal is clearly achieved.

    Also, what is interesting is that despite the OPML standard, the performance falls well below the expected level -- that a "reasonably technical person" to understand the format and a quick read of a webpage.

    Well, we don't have that. We have a ridiculous amount of work required to review the standard, and still not successfully read either a single webpage or the entire OPML file. The problem is the execution. The instructions are clear.

    What is interesting is that the OPML format is open meaning that developers are free to use it to be compatible with other services. Yet, it remains unclear what mechanism ensures that the standard is actually functioning across many platforms. The standard also emphasizes that OPML is a format not a protocol.

    I guess I have to ask: Is there a need to have a more robust protocol to export and transfer the OPML files; or should users know that the existing platforms are not integrating, and that we need to transfer between platforms an OPML file only after burning it?

    If my OPML is private, then how do I make sure that I can open it from Newsgator, save it, and still retain open-access-across platforms, but still retain privacy?

    I am once again amazed how so many services and platforms publicly state that they support OPML import and export, but when we go to some simple instructions it doesn't work.

    This is more than simply a file-format-problem with Newsgator. It's a cross-platform integration issue. I'm starting to lean toward some sort of web-based protocol that permits users to quickly transfer files without downloading them.

    It would be nice to simply open up an OPML file in one platform, click transfer, and then have all those contents-feeds-files simply show up in the other place. Then close up the URL in the originating place.

    I don't want to have to download anything. I simply want the receiving platform to recognize the file-list-outline, copy it, and load it up to the receiving platform.

    I can save a link, I can save a single file, and I can transfer a portion of the OPML files. I'd like to have 100% transfer, and something that retains the file-structures across all platforms.

    Dave Winer, are you my only hope?


    LEGAL NOTICE


    Creative Commons License

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

    You may not copy any of this work to promote a commercial product on any site or medium in the universe.

    If you see this work posted on a commercial site, it violates the creative commons license; and the author does not endorse the commercial product.

    Free to use for non-commercial uses. Link to this original blogspot and cite as .
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