Jun 162008

As we at Ringside build out our administrator dashboard, I’ve been working on a feed retrieval API and a new social tag for feeds.  When developing applications for Facebook, the application can only publish feed entries via the Facebook API, but there is no way to retrieve those feed entries.  The Ringside feed tag will enable just such a capability, as well as the ability to import RSS feeds from anywhere online.  Here’s how:

<rs:feed-aggregator display="byDateTime">

  <rs:feed uid="100042" friends="true"
    actions="false" stories="true" />

    url="http://del.icio.us/rss/ringsidenetworks" />


This example is slightly complicated, so I’ll break it down piece by piece. The first thing to note is the feed-aggregator tag. This tag aggregates feed entries for all of its contained feed tags, and displays them according to the value of the display attribute. Currently, feed entries can be displayed by date and time or by tag.

Next you’ll notice that the feed tag can be used in different ways. The first feed tag in the example reads from the social network’s database and is controlled by the attributes specified.  The feed tag will retrieve feed entries relative to the id of the specified user.  Alternatively, the ‘actorid’ attribute can be specified for feeds that are relative to pages or applications.  If the ‘friends’ attribute is true, only the entries by the user’s friends will be displayed.  The Facebook API enables the publication of actions and stories, and those attributes determine whether the feed tag should retrieve actions, stories, or both.

The second feed tag in the example is what you would think it is for – reading and displaying RSS feeds.  The feed tag will retrieve the latest feed entries from the specified URL and display them according to the display attribute, which is not shown in this example since the feed-aggregator tag will do all rendering according to its display attribute.

This should be pretty exciting for social application developers, since integrating RSS feeds and social network feeds into their applications will become very easy.

These tags are currently under development, so if you have ideas to make them even better, please share your thoughts via a comment below.

Jun 162008

I don’t pretend to know what the future of the Social Web holds, but I have some ideas about the markup language that will power much of it.  First though, let me recap the short history of Social Web Markup.

About a year ago Facebook launched their social network with a full application platform consisting of a rich set of social APIs, many of which were wrapped with easy to use tags called FBML (FaceBook Markup Language).  Since then, a few things have happened.  First, Bebo opened up their social network with their own markup language which they called SNML (Social Network Markup Language), which was mostly the same as the FBML collection, though it included some tags only offerred by the Bebo platform.  Finally, Ringside Networks released beta versions of their Social Application Server, which supported many of the FBML tags, and a few only available on the Ringside Platform.

This is all well and good, since tag libraries for specific social networks definitely enable social application developers and designers to create rich social applications quickly.  What is unfortunate about the current situation is that these tag libraries are closed in that they are only supported by the platforms that offer them (though the open source Ringside Social Application Server supports many FBML tags).  This means that social application developers would have to rewrite portions of their applications in order to deploy to multiple social networks.  I’m reminded of the early days of the J2EE application server market, when each vendor offered their own tag libraries in an effort to differentiate their platforms from each other.  In the end though, most of those tag libraries did many of the same things via different syntax, and ultimately JSR-52 was established and the JSTL (JavaServer Pages Standard Tag Library) was produced. Now all J2EE application server vendors support JSTL.

I don’t necessarily see the same course of events unfolding in the social web space, but perhaps there will be some similarities.  First of all, I’m inclined to believe that social application developers will want to be able to write a social application once and run it anywhere. In order for that to happen, those developers would have to code using standard APIs and tags, which is an argument for a standard for a social tag library.  Alternatively, because Ringside offers the ability to render social tags via widgets, I can see a whole community emerging around social tag development, which would in turn enable the rendering of those tags via widgets anywhere across the web.

What do you think?  Are you a social application developer?  Do you want to be able to write once and run anywhere?  If so, how do you see social tags evolving?

Jun 112008

Last week Jonathan Otto, author of the Run Voomaxer Facebook application, and Eric Pascarello, highly acclaimed author of AJAX In Action and JavaScript: Your Visual Blueprint for Building Dynamic Web Pages, joined the Ringside team and participated in some great discussions with the team.  In one of those discussions, Rich Friedman gave an overview of various open source licenses and what they mean, including GPL, LGPL, BSD, and others.

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