Care to Share Your OPML?
Wed, Apr 24, 2013 at 9:32 AM by Dave Winer.
  • A picture named drum.gifInteresting question last night on Twitter from Daman Bahner. He asked how about rebooting Share Your OPML now that there's renewed interest in RSS. That requires a little explaining for people who are not familiar with the original service with that name.
  • First, OPML is used to exchange subscription lists between RSS aggregators. I'm the one who made this choice, because I thought it would be cool if people could edit their lists in our outliner (at UserLand) and OPML was the file format of the editor. All our competitors wanted to make it easy for our users to switch to their products, and Radio was the product that got all this RSS stuff going with users, so it became an instant standard. And even though few people use Radio today, the choice of OPML is still with us.
  • If anyone writes a book about how standards really are developed, the way OPML became the standard for subscription lists would make an excellent counterpoint to the theory that all standards come from deliberative bodies of warring BigCo's.
  • Share Your OPML took advantage of the standard. I asked the readers of my blog to upload their OPML files to a server I wrote at share.opml.org. It was later rewritten by Andrew Grumet and then Dan MacTough. That version is visible today through the Internet Archive.
  • The reason it became popular? Because everyone who mattered in the RSS world of that day read Scripting News, and I beat the drum relentlessly and without shame for Share Your OPML, an idea I totally wanted to see happen. ;-)
  • How it worked...
  • When you uploaded your OPML, we added the info to a database.
  • From that we produced a top 100 list of feeds.
  • We ran an aggregator of the top 100, sort of an early version of TechMeme.
  • We kept a list of the most prolific subscribers.
  • You could find out who subscribes to a given feed (including your own).
  • And most important, it would make recommendations, based on the feeds you're following, suggesting feeds that "people like you" also follow. It was very good at this. (Can't show you this page because archive.org wasn't a member, and this was a members-only feature.)
  • We also had a blog, of course.
  • You can get an idea of how it works by clicking around the archive. That was the best thing about it. You could lose a lot of time just clicking around and seeing what was related to what.
  • We had to take it off the air because it was getting too popular and it was a labor of love, not a for-profit business, although it would have made an excellent for-profit business. I wanted to, but failed at finding a programmer to work with me on it. It wasn't the kind of project I wanted to take on by myself.
  • Anyway -- today it would still be a good idea, but now I have a startup that's keeping me busy.
  • Daman Bahner asked me about this on Twitter last night, and I asked him to put up a blog post explaining the idea. And that motivated me to write about it myself. Maybe we can fund this as a community thing. Might be a fun way to do it. Share your ideas, if you find this interesting.
  • PS: I'm meeting with an old VC friend in Boston later this week. I'm going to suggest they kick in some money for labor-of-love tech projects. That's how a lot of the best ideas develop. What would they get in return? First right to invest in the projects. Seems like a no-brainer (a term VCs like to use a lot). :-)
  • PPS: I've often wondered if any tech investors read my blog. If you are one, leave a comment, or send me an email. dave dot winer at gmail dot com. I'm interested in knowing if we have any money in our community.