Woot, RSS, Streams and Twitter.

Last week there was a woot-off. While I’ve only purchased something from Woot once or times before, the woot-offs are really cool because you never know what they might put up there. I decided it’d be a fun side project to right a little script to post the latest woot to Campfire and the script was trivially simple to write. Tinder makes it really easy to interact with Campfire so I just had to figure out a way to get the current Woot. I used woot’s RSS feed to give me this data. It was pretty easy: fetch the feed, parse it, loop through the entries and find the first item in the ‘woot’ category, a little more parsing and voila. I had it.

(I realized after the fact that woot already has a twitter account strictly for wootoffs, but it was far from complete enough to replace what I’d built. For starters, I would have had to parse the text of the tweet and even then, it didn’t include a direct link to the product or a link to an image.)

What dawned on me was what a poor job RSS does for this sort of thing. I had to continually poll (every 30 seconds) to see if anything had been updated, at some points nothing changed for nearly an hour. I see why technologies like pubsubhubbub and rssCloud are a potential replacements. But why haven’t they taken off? Well, for one, the name pubsubhubbub is a little obtuse, but moreso, it just seems a little complicated. When you have to create a youtube video to explain your technology in overly simplified terms like the pubsubhubbub team did, you aren’t off to all that great of a start. Wordpress adopted rssCloud but has it made any difference? We’re over a year in and neither technology seems to have taken hold in any significant way.

Not foreign to continual polling, Twitter took a different approach, introducing a streaming api. I can’t help but think this is a much easier and more dynamic means of delivery. But who wants to consume a bunch of different streams? Well, pretty soon, we may not have to. Twitter has also been working on annotations. Woot could simply annotate their tweets and anyone writing a service around it just subscribes to the stream. Awesome. Twitter annotations is an amazingly powerful idea wrapped up in the simplicity of their service and I can’t wait to see what people do with it.