Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

What the funk is that?

The RSS feed at http://www.neilturner.me.uk/excerpts.xml is most definitely not funky. We recommend a steady diet of white bread and American cheese.

This makes a change from my main feed, which is most definitely funky, apparently, despite me trying to defunk it. If you have no idea what the heck I’m on about, read on.


According to Dave Winer, A feed is funky if it uses extensions to provide information that can be expressed by core elements. (you can read a full definition in the RSS Political FAQ). Basically, your feed is funky if you use elements like <dc:subject> as opposed to <category> – the latter is predefined in the RSS spec so the former is supposedly redundant. Dave also explains why this is a problem, saying that aggregators could be much more simple applications if we all followed the same standard and not used a gazillion different elements in different feeds which all mean the same thing. Of course, the counter-argument is that namespaces like Dublin Core, which I used in my example, predate RSS 2.0 by some time (I believe), so Dave probably should have used what existed already instead of redefining the wheel. And then there’s a counter-counter-argument that I’ve just thought of, which is that by using only the main RSS namespace you’re saving on bandwidth since your feeds don’t have to define 6-7 extra namespaces to cover all the elements used.
The reason why this argument became an issue is that when Six Apart introduced RSS 2.0 as a default feed type in Movable Type 2.64, they used ‘funky’ elements instead of those defined in the official spec. Of course, these elements also existed in RSS 1.0 (which is RDF-based and therefore different to 2.0 and 0.9x) so most aggregators were robust enough to cope with this anyway. I have adopted Brad Choate’s Non-funky RSS 2.0 MT Template for my main feed, which means that I only use ‘official’ RSS 2.0 elements where they exist, and only resort to external namespaces where no alternatives exist. However, while the RSS 2.0 format has the most defined elements of any of the previous RSS formats, I have had to resort to using several tagged-on namespaces to provide extra metadata. While I do not believe this makes the feed funky, apparently it is because I’ve resorted to using RDF elements in RSS 2.0 which is discouraged. But it validates and it works, so, heh.
On the other hand, my excerpts feed, which I introduced yesterday, is not funky. It only uses official elements, with nothing extra tagged on. No extra namespaces are in that file at all. And, as such, it is very unfunky. It’s also still valid, and it still seems to work too.
You can use The Funkidator to check your feed, but be aware that it’s likely your feed will be funky, since most are in my experience. It’s only geeks like me who have taken a mild interest in this subject who have non-funky feeds, and that’s because they’ve tried to make them non-funky (or they use a product from Userland Software, which I assume will make non-funky feeds). It’s not something to get in a fluster about – if your feed validates and works in all the aggregators that you’ve tested, then there’s probably nothing to worry about.

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