I used to advocate the adoption of RSS a lot, and came across some of the problems you mention repeatedly, such as the inability to consume certain pages in off-the-shelf feed consuming apps.
Many of the problems resulted from non-standard character encodings, or incorrectly encoded item.description text. Links/URLs were occasionally missing or pointless (e.g. pointing to the root domain from which the feed was served, rather than anything relating to the particular feed item). Generating sensible URLs for feed items could also turn up issues with the way pages were served, eg on sites where session variables or other arbitrary keys were required.
The reason the problems were allowed to slip through was because of the context in which the feeds were published. Eg request goes in for ‘we need a feed’; developer adds feed, runs it through validator, job done.
But the job isn’t done, just as the job isn’t done when a someone publishes a public/open data set but doesn’t do anything more than that, or someone publishes an OER and considers that now it’s public, it’s useful.
I spend way too much of my time trying to glue things together, and finding more often than not that they don’t play nice. For example, Guardian datastore data often falls just short of being easily combined with other data sets, even other Guardian datastore published datasets, though this is getting better all the time as workflows are tweaked ever so slightly…
One possible solution, where things are published /with the intentions that others re* them/ is for the publisher to demonstrate a simple remix or combination with at least one other information source.
If you publish an RSS feed, demonstrate one or two off-the-shelf ways of consuming it. This is what any user is likely to try first, so save them the grief of finding out it doesnlt work by making sure it does.
When releasing data, if you’re publishing data relating to countries, for example, see if you can use one of the many services for generating map mashups to map the data. IF you can’t, what is it in or missing from your data that’s making it hard to do.
If you’re publishing an OER, big or little, /how/ might you see it being remixed/reused with other OERs. If your content includes lots of diagrams, how easy is it for someone else to reuse that image (with attribution and in compliance with any other license requirements) in their own presentation. If they want to embed it in a blog post (generating not only more views of the content, but also trackable data that you can measure) just try giving a few examples of embedded use. If it’s hard for use as publisher to do the baby steps, why should anyone else bother? (Saying you’re publishing something because you don’t know how other people will use it is not the issue… if it’s hard to do the easy stuff, very few people will bother. The publisher needs to demonstrate the easy stuff, and see it as a way of getting a couple of pragmatic tests implemented as well as a quick tutorial in getting started with re*ing the warez.
PS one of the things I’m considering doing more next year is comment on other people’s posts directly. The danger with taking such an approach is that those responses get lost (i.e. I can’t easily search for them, and as the major user of this blog as personal notebook, searching over things I’ve previously written is an important feature). Of course, I could blog a response to other peoples’ posts, but this fractures the conversation somewhat. I also know from experience that whilst folk may read comments on a blog post, they may not always click through on trackbacked links, if such links exist.
So, I’m considering adding a new category to this blog – CommentedElsewhere – that captures the longer comments as reposts here, with a link back to the original comment, and the original context. Good plan, or not? Will it just make OUseful.info even harder to follow? Should I set-up a separate ‘OUsefulComments” blog, repost substantial comments there and then maybe draw a feed into the sidebar here? Your comments would be appreciated…:-)