XSL for feeds

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XSL for feeds

Rob Miller-4
I know this discussion has been done before, but it never felt like
there was a clear consensus or a culmination of the discussion. So, what
do we think about adding XSL stylesheets for the feeds, a la the BBC [1]?

As far as I can tell, the arguments for boil down to:

# Improves usability considerably, especially with "greener" users; is
much better than their being presented with a screen full of raw XML.
# Has very little overhead - even the complex BBC example's XSL
stylesheet is a mere 6KB, which is insignificant even to dial-up users.
WordPress's would be even leaner.
# Is aesthetically pleasing, if you're concerned with such things

What are/were the arguments against? It'd be nice to get this settled
once and for all.

[1]: http://newsrss.bbc.co.uk/rss/newsonline_uk_edition/front_page/rss.xml

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Rob Miller
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Re: XSL for feeds

Kaf Oseo
Rob wrote:
> What are/were the arguments against?

If done, it will have to be provided in such a way users can (easily)
get to and modify it, such as a theme template.

Beyond that, I don't know if I'm particularly for it. The argument on
raw RSS being too confusing for 'newbies' is not very strong; once it's
explained why syndication feeds are not designed for *browsing*, they
tend to get it. But I can't see how a simple xsl with a few informative
Codex or other links would be terrible.

However, I don't plan on handling the support forum queries for how to
customize the stylesheet. :)

-Kaf

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Re: XSL for feeds

Rob Miller-4
Kaf Oseo wrote:

> Rob wrote:
>> What are/were the arguments against?
>
> If done, it will have to be provided in such a way users can (easily)
> get to and modify it, such as a theme template.
>
> Beyond that, I don't know if I'm particularly for it. The argument on
> raw RSS being too confusing for 'newbies' is not very strong; once it's
> explained why syndication feeds are not designed for *browsing*, they
> tend to get it. But I can't see how a simple xsl with a few informative
> Codex or other links would be terrible.
>
> However, I don't plan on handling the support forum queries for how to
> customize the stylesheet. :)
>
> -Kaf
>
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Could it not be done on the basis of "if theme's feed.xsl doesn't exist,
fall back to default"? Seems fairly reasonable. We could even have some
PHP in the XSL that displays a linkto the "Customising your XSL" Codex
page if the user is logged in, avoiding 99% of support forum queries.

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Re: XSL for feeds

Andy Skelton
In reply to this post by Kaf Oseo
> Rob wrote:
> > What are/were the arguments against?

I don't know... maybe it's just not mainstream enough. I thought we
were a cutting-edge culture... are there no patches floating around?

I saw this today and it made me very happy not to see a bunch of code
show up. There can be no doubt that ours would be better, but this is
at least something I wouldn't mind my mom seeing:

http://ws.audioscrobbler.com/1.0/user/skeltoac/recenttracks.rss

We would need a function to generate the XSL URI, falling back on
default/classic if the theme didn't provide one. Then add one line to
each of our feed scripts. Not hard.

Every time someone clicks on a feed link, we alienate them a little
bit. This is a great opportunity to get exposure and make friends.

Now, what are the cons?

Andy
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Re: XSL for feeds

Phil Ringnalda
In reply to this post by Rob Miller-4
Rob wrote:
> What are/were the arguments against? It'd be nice to get this settled
> once and for all.

As I remember it, my "argument against" was "don't spend too much time
on it, because Firefox 2 and IE 7 are going to completely ignore your
feed stylesheet and display feeds the way they want instead," which was
seen as a horrible insult and an inability to understand upgrade lag and
then pretty soon I lost interest in the thread.

Phil Ringnalda
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Re: XSL for feeds

Kaf Oseo
In reply to this post by Rob Miller-4
Rob wrote:
> Could it not be done on the basis of "if theme's feed.xsl doesn't exist,
> fall back to default"? Seems fairly reasonable. We could even have some
> PHP in the XSL that displays a linkto the "Customising your XSL" Codex
> page if the user is logged in, avoiding 99% of support forum queries.

It's how the comments template is handled, so sure.

However, I seriously doubt your % on the topic of support queries. We
can provide the best links and documentation, and that will take care
of a fair number of help seekers, but nothing like 99%. But the issue
is not one of how to remove the need to support this. It's how best to
do it so supporting it is made easier. Pushing it into theme templates
I think will work for that, with a simple stylesheet (one that is well
commented!) provided along with the default theme, and no xsl handling
when a stylesheet is not located.

-Kaf
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Re: XSL for feeds

Kaf Oseo
In reply to this post by Phil Ringnalda
Phil Ringnalda wrote:
> As I remember it, my "argument against" was "don't spend too much time
> on it, because Firefox 2 and IE 7 are going to completely ignore your
> feed stylesheet and display feeds the way they want instead," which was
> seen as a horrible insult and an inability to understand upgrade lag and
> then pretty soon I lost interest in the thread.


Sure, go ahead and ignore Opera. ;)

-Kaf
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Re: XSL for feeds

Podz
In reply to this post by Andy Skelton
Andy Skelton wrote:
>
> Now, what are the cons?
>

Right now, support.
We are asking theme authors to learn new code. I have no doubt some will
but I would guess most will not. Which leaves support to fall elsewhere.
That generates problems.....

Also, doesn't this work against RSS as a technology? If feeds are made
'pretty' then won't some people fail to see it for what it is? To take
the audiscrobbler feed as an example, a support question will be "How
can I get my blog header there instead".

That said, I know little about rss/atom etc.

I'm actually in favour of a default, but I'm not in favour of supporting
forum questions right now. Point me at an 'xslt for beginners' and I'll
go play :)

P.
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Re: XSL for feeds

David House
On 08/04/06, Podz <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Right now, support.
> We are asking theme authors to learn new code. I have no doubt some will
> but I would guess most will not. Which leaves support to fall elsewhere.
> That generates problems.....

Then lets have a WordPress-branded default instead of a
Kubrick-branded default. Then theme authors can feel happy about not
providing an XSL, because the default will fit in with any theme.

http://trac.wordpress.org/ticket/1380 is the bug for this, by the way.
I unassigned it so someone that want to code this can feel free to
accept it. Depending on how long it'll take to throw together, I may
find time over the next couple of weeks to code it.

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Re: XSL for feeds

David House
In reply to this post by Podz
On 08/04/06, Podz <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Right now, support.
> We are asking theme authors to learn new code. I have no doubt some will
> but I would guess most will not. Which leaves support to fall elsewhere.
> That generates problems.....

Actually, I just had a better idea. XSLT can basically spit out
anything you want, so in our case we'd get it to spit out HTML. It
doesn't specify colours and fonts etc., that's what CSS is for. So we
have three layers:

RSS
Transformed by our XSLT sylesheet to HTML
Style by CSS

We can allow theme authors to change the CSS layer. We could also
allow them to change the middle layer as well, but in most cases this
wouldn't be necessary. This way, they don't have to know any XSLT.

As for an XSLT tutorial, http://www.w3schools.com/xsl/default.asp

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Re: XSL for feeds

Rob Miller-4
David House wrote:

> On 08/04/06, Podz <[hidden email]> wrote:
>  
>> Right now, support.
>> We are asking theme authors to learn new code. I have no doubt some will
>> but I would guess most will not. Which leaves support to fall elsewhere.
>> That generates problems.....
>>    
>
> Actually, I just had a better idea. XSLT can basically spit out
> anything you want, so in our case we'd get it to spit out HTML. It
> doesn't specify colours and fonts etc., that's what CSS is for. So we
> have three layers:
>
> RSS
> Transformed by our XSLT sylesheet to HTML
> Style by CSS
>
> We can allow theme authors to change the CSS layer. We could also
> allow them to change the middle layer as well, but in most cases this
> wouldn't be necessary. This way, they don't have to know any XSLT.
>
> As for an XSLT tutorial, http://www.w3schools.com/xsl/default.asp
>
> --
> -David House, [hidden email], http://xmouse.ithium.net
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>  
That sounds cracking, especially since theme authors will likely only
want to change the appearance of the message rather than the message
itself, which will likely be something generic :)

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Re: XSL for feeds

Owen Winkler
In reply to this post by David House
David House wrote:

> On 08/04/06, Podz <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> Right now, support.
>> We are asking theme authors to learn new code. I have no doubt some will
>> but I would guess most will not. Which leaves support to fall elsewhere.
>> That generates problems.....
>
> Actually, I just had a better idea. XSLT can basically spit out
> anything you want, so in our case we'd get it to spit out HTML. It
> doesn't specify colours and fonts etc., that's what CSS is for. So we
> have three layers:

Do not give theme authors the ability to customize yet another
presentation method for their blog.  There is a very simple solution for
this.  The solution is two-fold:

1) Insert a hook to drop XSL into the feed so that overzealous feed
customizers can style things themselves if they really must.

2) Set that hook to display a default XSL stylesheet that *creates a
two-frame frameset* (or better, an iframe with a header).  The top
frame/header has a notice that says "You are viewing a feed URL.  Add
<a>the feed</a> to your <a>aggregator</a> to read this site from there."
  The bottom frame contains the *blog home page itself*.

That way, you get the notice that you should be using that URL with an
aggregator along with a link to what an aggregator is and where to get
one.  You also don't have to worry about your blog appearing in a new
format, because you're already using the format that your theme provides.

Owen
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Re: XSL for feeds

Jason Salaz
On 4/8/06, Owen Winkler <[hidden email]> wrote:
> 1) Insert a hook to drop XSL into the feed so that overzealous feed
> customizers can style things themselves if they really must.

http://trac.wordpress.org/ticket/2357

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Re: XSL for feeds

Andrew Krespanis
In reply to this post by David House
I must be missing something here... does IE not support styling of XML with CSS?

If it does, why don't we just use CSS to style the RSS feed; thereby
killing off the need for newbies to learn another language? I don't
know about you guys, but I found learning XSL a hell of a lot more
daunting than learning CSS.
It's not like people are going to need to do anything real crazy (eg:
CSS tables via display:table; etc) with their RSS feeds, so surely CSS
would suffice?

-Andrew.

On 4/8/06, David House <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On 08/04/06, Podz <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > Right now, support.
> > We are asking theme authors to learn new code. I have no doubt some will
> > but I would guess most will not. Which leaves support to fall elsewhere.
> > That generates problems.....
>
> Actually, I just had a better idea. XSLT can basically spit out
> anything you want, so in our case we'd get it to spit out HTML. It
> doesn't specify colours and fonts etc., that's what CSS is for. So we
> have three layers:
>
> RSS
> Transformed by our XSLT sylesheet to HTML
> Style by CSS

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Re: XSL for feeds

Robert Deaton
On 4/10/06, Andrew Krespanis <[hidden email]> wrote:
> I must be missing something here... does IE not support styling of XML with CSS?

I'm not sure

> If it does, why don't we just use CSS to style the RSS feed; thereby
> killing off the need for newbies to learn another language? I don't
> know about you guys, but I found learning XSL a hell of a lot more
> daunting than learning CSS.

There are reasons for XSL over CSS, namely the need for
transformations of some sort. http://www.w3.org/Style/CSS-vs-XSL

> It's not like people are going to need to do anything real crazy (eg:
> CSS tables via display:table; etc) with their RSS feeds, so surely CSS
> would suffice?

IE doesn't support display: table; anyways

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Re: XSL for feeds

John Keyes-2
In reply to this post by Andrew Krespanis
On 4/11/06, Andrew Krespanis <[hidden email]> wrote:
> I must be missing something here... does IE not support styling of XML with CSS?
Safari 1.3 and Firefox 1.5.0.1 support it.

> If it does, why don't we just use CSS to style the RSS feed; thereby
> killing off the need for newbies to learn another language? I don't
> know about you guys, but I found learning XSL a hell of a lot more
> daunting than learning CSS.
> It's not like people are going to need to do anything real crazy (eg:
> CSS tables via display:table; etc) with their RSS feeds, so surely CSS
> would suffice?

There are a number of resources out there available for this already:
http://www.petefreitag.com/item/208.cfm
http://interglacial.com/~sburke/stuff/pretty_rss.html

(in fact just look at these search results http://tinyurl.com/jgps4).

I've done lots of work with XSLT so I'll be able to help out with that
approach if someone needs it.  I don't have much time available but
if you want to bash questions of me, feel free.

-John K

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Re: XSL for feeds

Lee Kelleher
In reply to this post by Robert Deaton
On 11/04/06, Robert Deaton <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> On 4/10/06, Andrew Krespanis <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > I must be missing something here... does IE not support styling of XML
> with CSS?
>
> I'm not sure


It does.

There are reasons for XSL over CSS, namely the need for
> transformations of some sort. http://www.w3.org/Style/CSS-vs-XSL


Good article... which basically says "Use CSS when you can, use XSL when you
must."
I don't believe that we MUST use XSL for this, when CSS can do the job well.

I also think that the RSS/Atom feeds should be WordPress branded, not theme
branded (yes, I'm aware theme developers could hack around this, but that's
not a bad thing).  It makes as a good Public Service Announcement from WP
about RSS/Atom.

- Lee Kelleher
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