qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

The great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from ...

Book Review: Developing Feeds with RSS and Atom, by Ben Hammersley
O'Reilly books are a varied bunch: I can't recommend too highly the titles on XSLT and Swing, for example, but I wouldn't touch Java in a Nutshell - it's really little more than a hard-copy of Sun's own documentation (and that "nutshell" gets bigger and bigger in every edition).

So, where does Developing Feeds with RSS and Atom fit in? Somewhere in the middle, I think. I bought it because RSS has been a hot topic for a while, and I was curious to understand exactly why. I have to admit, I am still not convinced it has a must-have quality to it. It's useful for syndication of content from one site to another, I can see that. I've never used a desktop RSS reader and maybe that's why I'm not particularly sold on it - if I want to see new content for a page, I'll go and look at it myself.

The book doesn't go out of its way to sell the technology, either, though the author was on one of the working groups that developed one of the RSS specifications. (There's an introductory section explaining the factionalisation of the RSS standards, leading to two separate streams for RSS 1.0 and RSS 2.0, plus Atom). For a book that's about a technology rather than a language, it has chosen Perl as the language for all of its examples, which is a shame. Though you can get the gist of what's being done, I think even Perl gurus would admit (or perhaps boast) that it isn't the most readable of languages. There are quite a few significant typos in the text, too: mostly of the "missing word" variety that wouldn't show up in a spell-checker but should leave the page ripe with green underlining from Word's grammar checker. Of course, techies are notoriously illiterate but these things should have been picked up by an editorial process, and there's one diagram completely missing from the text, which is unforgiveable. It's also apparent that some chapters have been reordered from a previous book on the same technologies - but the references haven't been reworded when they refer to material that is yet to come.

I suppose this is all evidence of a scramble to meet deadlines in a fast-moving industry, but I'm afraid I switched to Eats, Shoots and Leaves mode. Allegedly we're all more educated in Blair's Britain, but I wonder whether that is so that we can produce more and of higher quality, or whether it's to provide us with error-correction instincts needed to read the works of others.
Tags: books
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