Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

An XML Virgin Does a Little Experimenting

After reading Danny Sullivan’s tutorial on creating an RSS feed, I have hand-rolled a custom XML file for graphicPUSH.

So maybe I’m a little late in the game, but I spent some time learning a few things about XML, and set up a syndication feed for graphicPUSH. While I am venturing into this new scripting technology a naïve old-school designer, I have found that the learning curve for XML is surprisingly gentle. The aesthetic similarities to HTML are there, and XML even has its own styling companion called XSL (which I am told is much more complex than CSS), but the sheer flexibility of the language is so immense it seems unbelievable.

The ease of use is almost backward. As web designers, we expect new technologies to build on the old ones and become ever more complex and niche-driven. In the beginning there was table-layout HTML with a few crude CGI scripts, then more database-driven backends, then ASP and PHP, then ColdFusion, Flash, CSS, XHTML … it goes on. But XML breaks everything down and uses perfectly descriptive markup to string together information, and the simplicity is equivalent of an architect playing with Legos after designing a mile-long suspension bridge.

I read Danny Sullivan’s excellent article “Making an RSS Feed,” and within an hour I had graphicPUSH streaming a valid RSS 0.91 and 2.0 compliant stream to the world. I also referenced Spoono’s tutorials, and although being a bit unforgiving in their Spartan nature, they provided an excellent source of supplementary info. I look forward to playing with XSL and further integrating XML into this site.

I have long been using RssReader (freeware for Windows) to pull news and blog entries from dozens of sites, and I very much enjoy the technology. Instead of manually going to a site, the aggregator scrapes the headlines every fifteen minutes, and I can choose whether I want to read the full article.

RSS feeds have the potential to deliver the same marketing punch as a traditional e-mail newsletter in a far more attractive way, since the user gets all the content without giving up a potentially spammable e-mail address. It’s a huge time saver, and I hope everyone reading this tries the technology if they haven’t already. (And when you do, be sure to plug into graphicPUSH. I look forward to feeding your inbox.)