Share Your OPML (maybe)

I’ve had half an eye on the Share Your OPML as another possible source of FOAF data. I’ve been having scraping and converting various data sources to help faciliate interesting applications where possible. For instance this week I published some converted Freshmeat data, and in the past I’ve done various OPML conversions, e.g. for BloggerCon.

Making as much data available as possible also helps resolve specification issues, as we can then explore the pros and cons of various ways of modelling the data, especially in the light of implementation experience.
For example there’s an open issue on the Wiki concerning subscriptions and related to this there’s been some interesting work happening on community aggregations using FOAF group data. Planet RDF uses FOAF as it’s data source, and while I’m not sure about Planets Apache and Gnome they’re certainly publishing the data in this format.
So with this in mind I took at look at the Share Your OPML SDK. Unfortunately I can’t convert it to any other format as the documentation notes that you must not:

…convert the data into a format other than OPML, for redistribution, it’s likely we’ll say yes, but you must ask first. We want the data to be useful to you, but we also want to create an installed base of compatible data to encourage others to follow. We’ve learned that it’s necessary to say basically that you can’t use this data to thwart the purpose of our project. We wish it weren’t this way, but it is, so we have to say it.

Strikes me as a bit overly restrictive but I wouldn’t want to be accused of not playing nicely, so I’ve asked. Perhaps there should be a preference which says “I’d like to share my data, no matter what the end format is”?
Lets see what happens…
Update: what happened what I’m not allowed to convert the file to FOAF. As Edd notes in the comments, my request is deleted. I’m updating this posting to record that fact. I’ve little more to say on the matter other than note that the best way you can share you data, whatever the format it’s in, is to simply publish it on the web: there’s no need for a central service as people can
discover your data in a number of different ways.
It also seems to me that if I use a service under the impression that I’m doing so under a Creative Commons share-alike licence, then I expect that service to offer the same terms, after all the licence notes that: If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. So any site that publishes this data, e.g. aggregating it with that of others should make the data freely available, and also that it’s legal to transform that data, so long as the transformed version is provided under the same licence.

17 thoughts on “Share Your OPML (maybe)

  1. It appears that even asking the question is too sensitive, Leigh, as it has disappeared from the forum.
    Personally, I’d play in friendlier waters.

  2. OPML or bust.

    Right. So, recently Dave Winer has been working on a service to allow people to publish their OPML files into a collective group aggregation. Spiffy enough. He’s made the data public, he’s made an SDK, the data is even under a Creative Commons “Share A…

  3. Before seeing the license details I suggested the email addresses could be hidden using sha1, pointing to FOAF as to an example, and then as a PS. that an OCS export would be nice. Both comments were deleted.
    I think Edd’s right. There’s something unpleasant floating in those waters 😉

  4. Leigh, I deleted it because I didn’t want to have that discussion in public. I think you could have sent me a private email to ask for clarification. The way you handled it seemed a little confrontational, less like you wanted clarification, more like you wanted to embarass me. That’s why there’s a delete command.
    Edd, back atchya about the friendlier waters. I remember so well what you wrote on Dale’s DG about how RDF could get a boost by taking over the work we had done in RSS. Now it shouldn’t surprise you that I don’t want to hand over all my work to you, again, so naively this time, to assume you play nice. Learned the hard way that Edd’s justice is what suits Edd at any moment. So now you pay the price. I paid the price for trusting you. I’ll never make that mistake again.

  5. Dave, get over it. There’s nothing to win by owning the data formats any more. Even Microsoft has opened theirs up. Licensing your aggregated information, restricting it by serialization format is just daft.
    There’s no magic lock-in. If people can’t do what they want with your site, they’ll go elsewhere. RSS readers became commodity, and now aggregators are about to do the same.
    As for you “paying a price”, I find your re-interpretation of history disturbing, fortunately most of the conversations are still on the web in various places so people can make their own mind up.
    Despite that, I believe that from time to time we have had fruitful moments of interaction, and there’s no reason why we might not in the future. We may disagree on the technologies to use, but we’re both interested in a read-write, interactive web.

  6. Sharing, the web way

    I’m not a fan of OPML, I think it’s a truly awful format, but I did think Dave Winer’s Share…

  7. Dave,
    It wasn’t my intention to embarass you or indeed kick up any fuss. Perhaps I should have sent a private email, but the directions in the SDK document indicated that I should post my questions and comments to the discussion forum first and/or the OPML-DEV mailing list.
    I just opted for the former because I’m on enough yahoo groups, and I was going to sign up anyway to share some data.
    I didn’t realise that converting the format to FOAF would be so contentious, I thought it might be quite cool to visualise some of the data in foafnaut.
    Again, the comments said that if you want to “convert the data into a format other than OPML, for redistribution, it’s likely we’ll say yes, but you must ask first”. With hindsight that “we” should be actually be an “I” it seems. However I read the comment as a “we” and thought that there may be a discussion — hence the post to the discussion group.
    I’m glad to see that the SDK document no longer refers to the Creative Commons licence, as that’s the only aspect of this debate that really concerned me, the possibility that the CC licences could become diluted if they’re not correctly qualified.
    The fact that you don’t want to even explore any of the possibilities that data sharing might bring is sad, but is not that suprising in the end. It’d be nice to leave the past behind.

  8. What strikes me as odd is, again, Winer has delievered a great product that users love and the winer-watchers sweep in and try to co-op it. Can’t you people say “THANKS?”

  9. Synder, it’s work that nobody can build on. It’s against the spirit of the web that Winer so lovingly cites 24/7. Lock-In.

  10. There’s a very good reason that there’s an apparent dichotomy between the users who love the product and the ‘winer-watchers’. For the first group, well, you can always fool some of the people some of the time. The second group strikes me as the eternal optimists, always thinking this time it will be different.
    Those of us who are more sensible do, as Edd suggested, simply bail out the moment someone says something like: “Now it shouldn’t surprise you that I don’t want to hand over all my work to you, again, so naively this time, to assume you play nice… So now you pay the price.”
    Anyone who says things like that isn’t someone I want to either work with or rely on. As I’m not an eternal optimist, hoping that this time it will be different, the solution is simple: I stay away.

  11. Synder, “co-opting” would imply that I was trying subvert what Dave was doing, perhaps hijack the data and the users and bring them over to an alternate system. But I wasn’t.
    I was just thinking about converting the data into other formats, to see where else it could be used. c.f: Udell’s Metabolic Pathways

  12. I think if you asked for permission privately, you probably would have received a “friendlier” response. Nobody likes being raked over the coals publically for every move they make…

  13. Jenett,
    As I’ve already stated, I just followed the instructions: post to the list, or leave a message in the forum.
    It’s a shame the comment was deleted. There was no coal raking. I suggested posting a list of formats it’s acceptable to convert the data into, to save repeated questions, and then merely asked “Can I convert it into FOAF?”.

  14. Understood. And also understood why Dave may have felt confronted by it. No offense intended.

  15. Leigh, here’s a big fat sigh.
    Make the tent bigger, go find some new users, some new data, and use that to grow your format.
    Enough trying to grow your formats with my work.

Comments are closed.