RSS, SSE and CC

Preface: I’m asking a question, not making a claim in this post. Please read this accordingly.

This new SSE extension that Microsoft recently pushed out is very odd in one respect that I don’t understand. Some have voiced satisfaction that this RSS/OPML extension has been released under a Creative Commons license.

My reading of the license is that while the specification has been released under the license, your ability to implement the specification and write software based on it is not clarified by the use of CC. The license says that you can:

… copy, distribute, display, and perform the work

Is that my license to implement SSE?

Regarding the license, Microsoft says:

As to software implementations, Microsoft is not aware of any patent claims it owns or controls that would be necessarily infringed by a software implementation that conforms to the specification’s extensions.

It’s this part that matters, not the fact that it’s CC licensed. In fact, I don’t see any big benefit from licensing this using CC… do I want to be able to make derivative licenses? While I don’t think that it is harmful for people to do this, it strikes me that the emphasis has been placed on something that doesn’t really matter. The part that matters is the bit where Microsoft says what you can do with implementations based on the license, which is that they will offer a:

… royalty-free patent license on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms…

Hmm. Reasonable. Non-discriminatory. Hmm. Vague.

RSS 2.0 is in the same boat based on this interpretation:

RSS 2.0 is offered by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School under the terms of the Attribution/Share Alike Creative Commons license.

I just don’t know what that means in terms of my ability to implement RSS 2.0. It seems clear that I could create Phil’s Simple Summary format and base it on RSS 2.0, however.

For comparison, RSS 1.0 specifies this in the “Rights” part of the spec:

This copyright applies to the RDF Site Summary 1.0 Specification and accompanying documentation and does not extend to the RSS format itself.

That is clear: the license applies to the documentation, not anybody’s right to implement it.

Please set me straight:

When I write a spec for a format or API and release the documentation under a CC license, does it have any implications for someone’s ability to implement that format or API?

Update

: Contrast this non-clarity with the OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications intellectual property information. That explicitly spells out the fact that you can make royalty-free implementations of the specification and that Sun and OASIS won’t enforce any of their applicable patents that may affect implementations.

Watching Rodney Mullen on Google Video

Rodney Mullen

I skateboarded pretty seriously for about 7 years when I was in high school and college and had a lot of fun doing it. One of the most insanely creative and mind-blowing skaters on the scene back then was a guy named Rodney Mullen. I think he had a 13-year streak of 1st place finishes in every contest that he entered.

I have to assume that most of you aren’t familiar with this guy, but watching him skate is like watching Michael Jordan. He’s just so impressive. Last night, I started typing his name into Google’s video search and sat in amazement watching him.

Check it out.

StyleFeeder – Step 1: Start!

I’ve been working on a project for the past several months and I flipped the switch to make it live over the weekend.

http://www.stylefeeder.com/ is intended to be a useful free service for people who shop online for stylish stuff. If you’ve ever tried to buy clothes that are in any way original, you know how hard this is. If you want furnishings in your own home that don’t remind of you of the Pottery Barn table incident on Friends, then StyleFeeder will be right up your alley. Buying clothes from Gap, J. Crew and Banana Republic is easy, but not terribly satisfying. Big designers need to sell the same thing to lots of people – but do we all have the same design tastes? I can’t imagine why we should. There are a lot of small shops online that get drowned in the deluge of marketing and noise on the web and it is my hope that StyleFeeder will help open the doors to their storefronts.

The Web is supposed to equalize the David and Goliaths out there, but things seem to be homogenized more than anything else. Think of it this way: given infinite knowledge and infinite access to a range of choice in products that you are going to buy anyway, do you think that we’d all wear shoes by the same manufacturer and put the same coffee table in front of the sofa?

And the best way to find things that you like these days is through other humans that have overlapping preferences. Sure, computers and clever algorithms can help (and we’re going to build that into StyleFeeder in a very advanced and usable way, I assure you), but what you really need is to share the cool stuff that you find online with your friends. And you need to let a thousand other people watch and search through your networks. Navigation this way makes much more sense to me than pushing advertisements at people.

The reason why you may not have heard about StyleFeeder before now doesn’t mean that it’s been any kind of a secret… I’ve just been focusing on getting it functional. I heard once that Steve Jobs banned product pre-announcements at Apple (I don’t even know if this is true, actually!). And in that same spirit, I prefer to speak with actions rather than words. Words are cheap. Actions – well, code in this case – is not. About a month ago, I noticed that StyleHive, some company in San Francisco (Um… hello guys!), seemed to be doing something that sounds like it might be in the same space, based on the description on their homepage. But instead of an actual website, they seem to have a few paragraphs of badly written text and a mail form so they can tell you when they have their site built. There’s a famous quote in hacker circles: “We believe in rough consensus and running code.” And I believe in that, too. Mail forms don’t count as “running code,” in my opinion.

StyleFeeder is definitely not finished. I still look at it and wince at certain things, but I have these things written down and we’ll fix, tweak, twist, hack and push things into shape to make this effort better and better.

Invite all your friends and enjoy it! And please let me know what you think. Send me email, post comments on the blog or pick up the phone and call me if you have to!

The Michealangelo Code [sic]

You see, this is why I love Ubersite. I know of no other site on the web where I can read stuff like this:

The drive through central Paris was uneventful, taking him past the Arc De Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysees, Chamonix ski resort and the Nice coastline. This was fairly redundant, as the Big European Cultural Icon was in fact next door to his hotel, but it’d make a great montage when the movie came out.

The rest is just as funny.

About FEMA

I saw this on the Daily Show and got a good laugh out of it, so I wanted to make sure that this little gem of a graphic was preserved for future reference before FEMA wakes up and removes it from their website.

Notice how FEMA’s six stage process for dealing with disaster actually leads to… disaster!

The graphic is still on the FEMA site right now.

What Not To Wear: Brooks Brothers Trousers With Little Pictures of Whales

I recently walked past a Brooks Brothers store and started laughing at the site of these pants. What kind of a guy buys clothes like this? These are fine on a 2 year old boy dressed up for a Sunday dinner, but for grown men? No.

“I don’t care about the rest of the world… I like little whales printed on my trousers!”

Brooks Brothers’ designers must be living in some strange families if they think their garments are appealing. The colors, cuts and visible distaste for modernity in these clothes is… well, it’s shocking. However, it does help to explain the market for cars like the Buick Le Sabre. The comment element between these Brooks Brothers… um, clothes… (but I’m using the term loosely) and the Buick is some kind of twisted banality that we haven’t seen since the 1950s and possibly also in the mid-1980s.

“Gee, these patchwork trousers will look great with my black dress shoes.”

Design like this is not healthy. It’s not clever, smart or cute. It’s exactly immature and represents an aversion to change that screams “NO!” in the face of human progress. Ah, but what about the nostalgic emotions that these garments evoke, you ask? To which I respond: Seriously? Making ugly clothes and dressing them up in nostalgic marketing doesn’t change the fact that they’re butt-ugly. Besides, when did you ever see anybody in history wearing clothes as ill-conceived as these? That’s right, never.

“Look at all the lovely pastels on that shirt!”

Brooks Brothers: go back to sleep. Stick with the tan khakis and blue blazers and just please for the love of all that is beautiful in this world, stop making anything else.