Andrew Chen wrote a response to my previous post about Syncato. He thinks I want to create something called a “distributed conversation protocol” and then take over the world. Actually creating a protocol would be the difficult part, given what is happening with Atom πŸ™‚ So no, I’m not advocating a new protocol. All I want is a new tool (a new school tool) to enhance tracking of conversations. We already have RSS, XML, XPath, etc – these are all protocols or standards. What we need now are tools, not more protocols. And this is what attracted me to Syncato. It’s a new weblog tool that may be the holy grail of structured writing πŸ˜‰

But Andrew worries about the “depersonalization of the web”. He reckons that a plague of protocols has been visited upon the blogosphere – RSS, Trackback, Pingback. Andrew goes on to say:

“People are objects that emit content. There are repositories of the emitted content. Content is sometimes emitted in response to other content. Because content is emitted at a specific point in time, the content emission patterns, when seen in relation to what they were emitted in response to, form what is often known as a “discussion thread”.

OK, I have no problem with the phrase “discussion thread” (or, luckily, the word “emit”). I admit it, I am interested in following discussion threads on the blogosphere. So what’s the problem? Andrew goes on to say:

“Various protocols in the past have supported the viewing of content as a “discussion thread”. The “revolution” (NOT!) that the RSS/TrackBack/PingBack and other technologies associated with the “blogosphere” advocate is that the content can “stay” in it’s original place and not need to go to some other (and implicitly that “otherness” is bad ask yourself why!) central server (such as an NNTP or SMTP server) before being viewed. That’s it! That’s all there is to the “revolution”.”

Ahh, I’m beginning to see where Andrew and I differ. I’m interested in tracking topics and ideas that interest me. Often those things are “distributed” over the Web. e.g. various people may blog about the same topic, but they do so on their own blogs or in a comments thread attached to a blog post. Tools such as k-collector and Topic Exchange aggregate these things into topic threads, which interestingly is done via a central server. But the “revolution” which I’m interested in is one where I’m able to aggregate topics and conversations on my terms. Syncato has promise in this regard (bearing in mind I haven’t yet implemented the product, I’m just going by what I read on Kimbro Staken and Jon Udell’s blogs). Syncato is a system which allows a reader to perform XPath queries on an XML weblog, in order to aggregate information which the reader is interested in.

I don’t see why XPath is any different to performing other kinds of searches on weblog data. XPath is “a language that allows you to easily perform searches against XML documents using a path-like string”. If Syncato, the weblog authoring tool, produces XML data as its output – then what is the issue with searching on that data? Andrew suggests it will chew up valuable bandwidth or cpu cycles. That may be so – I’m not qualified to challenge that. But what I do know is that I want to have tools to search for and aggregate content that I’m interested in, damn the bandwidth. I want the power to aggregate content on my own terms. I don’t just want to subscribe to content, I want to interrogate it too. Savvy?

And now, to end this post on a lighthearted note (and explain the silly title), here’s my favourite quote from a fantastic movie I saw yesterday – Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl:

Mr. Gibbs: Then, on the fourth day, he roped himself a couple of sea turtles and made a raft.
Will Turner: He roped himself a couple of sea turtles.
Mr. Gibbs: Aye. Sea turtles.
Will Turner: What did he use for rope?
Jack Sparrow: [from beside them] Human hair.
Jack Sparrow: From my back.