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Content Syndication with RSS by Ben Hammersley

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Case Study: mod_Book

My wife and I are currently planning on moving from London, England, to Sweden. To that effect, much of the contents of our home is already in storage, and most of this is books. We sent 86 tea chests full of books to the warehouse, and we still have plenty more to go.

Many people really like our books, many people like to borrow them, and for many reasons it would be quite cool to be able to put the details of books we have into an RSS feed. When we unpack the books, we will most likely scan their barcodes and order our library (we’re geeky like that), so we will have all sorts of data available.

So, the challenge is to design an RSS module for both 1.0 and 2.0 that can deal with books.

What Do We Know?

The first thing to think about is precisely what knowledge we already have about the thing we are trying to describe. With books, we know a great deal:

  • The title

  • The author

  • The publisher

  • The ISBN number

  • The subject

  • The date of publication

  • The content itself

There are also, alas, things that we might think we know, but which we in fact do not. In the case of books, unless we are dealing with a specific edition in a specific place at a specific time, we do not know the number of pages, the price, the printer, the paper quality, or how critics received it. We might think we do—after all, I bought most of these books, and I can touch them and pick them up—but for the sake of sharable data these are not universally useful values. They will change with time and are not internationally ...

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