It was about 2.5 years ago now, that I joined Research in Motion – makers of the Blackberry – for what turned out to be the shortest stint of my career. I was brought in as their “Web 2.0” guy, though as part of the standards organization rather than R&D (which should have been a warning sign). My job, initially, was to write a white paper which described what RIM needed to do to embrace the Web. What’s the standards organization doing defining an R&D roadmap you might ask? Good question. I wondered the same thing. But that’s not what this post is about.

What it is about is that earlier this week, at the BBDC, RIM announced what is, AFAIK, its first on the topic of the Web; Web Signals;

BlackBerry Web Signals leverages RIM’s unique push technology to allow online content providers to automatically notify BlackBerry smartphone users when relevant content has been published and to allow streamlined, one-click access to the online information.

So I dug into the technical overview, and spotted this near the beginning;

To push content to users, content providers must first register their web signals with Research In Motion.


As they don’t seem to realize, the Web is agreement; a large, complex distributed system made possible by parties who agreed to use its constituent protocols. Publishers agreed because it gave them a low cost path to distribute information directly to the users who had also made those same agreements (by using an agent which implemented the protocols). Imagine now, if you will, what would have happened to the Web, had publishers needed to register with, say, AOL to reach AOL users, or Comcast for Comcast users. What a huge burden! It could be worse, the burden could be on the users, but why bother with one at all? Remember PQA? My point exactly.

Always, always, always, try do what you need using existing agreement.

In this case – of notification of content changes – RIM had a couple obvious options. Most simply, they could have used email, though of course the user experience is suboptimal, not to mention the privacy concerns of handing out the user’s email address to every publisher. Alternately, there’s RSS/Atom, something publishers are already pretty comfortable with. It might even sound a little familiar, seeing as I described the architecture necessary to support it in that white paper I wrote for them.

If you’ve read ahead in that tech overview, you’ll also notice that they predefine their URI structure, and don’t even mention which HTTP method to use on those URIs to send a notification, which probably means that GET does the deed. Yuck.

Come on RIM, get your act together. Competition is heating up, and those guys in Cupertino (mostly) have their act together when it comes to the Web.

Hey, it looks like Web3S was replaced by Atom/APP. Awesome. I think “Why not Atom?” was one of my first questions of Yaron when he described Web3S to me last year. I’m confident this is for the best. In addition to Atom/APP being existing standards (with an accompanying abundance of existing tooling), Microsoft will also gain the evolutionary advantages of the hypermedia as the engine of application state constraint, which Web3S opted to replace with a schema-driven application model.

Kudos to everybody involved in that decision.

I was checking out the latest Atom Publishing Protocol draft today. It’s come a long way, and it’s surprisingly brief – thank goodness for that. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of regret though; SOAP could have been Atom.

After 4 years on Blosxom (thanks Rael!), I decided I needed something a little more user friendly, so I switched to WordPress tonight. I had a few issues, most of which were resolved without much effort, but a couple weird ones required workarounds rather than clean fixes. If you have any problems, please let me know. Oh, and I switched to Atom (1.0) only too – or at least that’s the only feed I advertise.

And did I mention the comments?

Jon Udell asks three questions about the spontaneous integration observed in his LibraryLookup project. I’ll take a stab at answering them.

Why was this unexpected?. Because it wasn’t planned. 8-)

In what environment would it be taken for granted?. I’d say that any environment in which it was both possible and simple.

How do we create that environment?. Eschew data hiding. Make all data available with a simple mechanism.