I’m currently in San Diego at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference (ETech ’06) courtesy of co-presenting a talk with Jo Walsh entitled Hack Your Own Conference: the World Summit on Free Information Infrastructures.

The talk to interest the most so far was by Tim Bray who spoke about the Atom syndication format. Rather than being a technical examination this was a discussion of the process and politics of producing the standard. Summary:

  • RSS 1.0 was broken in major ways and the process to make a new RSS had become toxic (in Bray’s words).
  • This led to work on Atom starting with the ‘Pie’ wiki (as in easy as pie) initiated by Sam Ruby.
  • Ultimately it was conducted within the IETF rather than the W3C.
  • Something like 17,000 message (60 megs) over 2-3 years for the standard (went stable 2005-07) and 4600 messages (17 meg) over 1.5 years for the publication API (not yet stable):
    • All done by email/wiki (only email has standing)
    • Anyone could join
    • Consensus decreed by chair; may be appealed
    • trolls banned for 30 days may appeal
    • General reveiw by whole IETF
  • This was a slow process but overall it led to a very solid spec with a lot of authority (no-one could say they were excluded)