Almost by definition, RSS, in its full XML glory, is ugly, and I have said before, “unsuitable for human eyes”. it is machine language, and there is no reason a person should look at it very long (geeks aside):


But I’ve known in the back of my mind, it does not need to be so, as shown by the feeds displayed at Feedburner, e.g.— that is the URL you can use anywhere RSS is accepted, but viewed in the browser, well it looks like a nice pretty web page. Peek at the source, and you are back in code-ville. Howzit done?

Through the magic of XSLT, a means to transform XML with stylesheets into something easier on the eyes, By no means do I really understand it, and the more I looked, the more complex it grew– it is almost a logical language in itself, that is.can be used to transform data into human content.

Anyhow, I bruteforced my way through my first real example. For next week’s NMC Summer Conference, I wanted to set up a site to host some podcasts, getting hopefully digitized files from the main sessions, and doing some conference participant on the street interviews, etc. To make it simple, I am relying on some code and concepts I used before to generate iTunes Ready RSS from data I can manage in an Excel Spreadsheet, and run through a PHp script to update the XML file.

This is no different from any other RSS file, except it references in the second line an XML stylesheet:

which pretty much contains the basic web structure of the other conference web pages, except it is littered with a few more xls statements and stuff to template-ize the content in the XML file. Again, this was brute forcing it, just keeping at it until Firefox stopped reporting errors. XML is a lot less forgiving than HTML, all tags need closers, you have to watch the &’s, etc. And then there was something just major goofy with Internet Explorer choking on some hidden character (finally tracked down with some help from BBEdit).

Anyhow, this URL is really just XML.RSS, but with a style sheet duded up to match the other conference pages (yes, I know al about the issues of the web design here, the tiny fonts, etc, that is all going into the factory over the summer for an overhaul):

There is only one item there now for testing purposes, it will be filled in next Wednesday as the conference unfolds. I might add the little MP3 flash players. I did have to make some fun generating a testable MP3, laying down some tracks in Garageband….

Yummy, tasty, XML. Please pass the whipped cream.

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Fun as it is to play with, you’re not busting your hump too much on feed styling, are you? It’s on its last legs, since IE7 and Firefox 2 will ignore it in favor of their own styling, and Opera and Safari already do.

  2. Only half a hump busted, Phil, and it seemed worthwhile to get a taste of XSLT. Browser styling of Feeds? Sounds promising though I feel wary that it will be a clean process across all the players.

    But thanks for the heads up on that… this was really meant as a one time experiment.

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