Prisoner’s Dilemma for aggregators

Some people have said that the issue with not well-formed feeds and aggregators is a kind of prisoner’s dilemma.

In other words, if all aggregator developers pledged to reject not well-formed feeds, then that would be incentive for people to fix their feeds.

The reasoning goes like this: aggregator developers are handling not well-formed feeds as part of competing with other aggregators. If they all pledged not to do this, then they’d all be equal on this score.

But this isn’t correct. I don’t have NetNewsWire (try to) handle not well-formed feeds for reasons of competition. I do it because people already using NetNewsWire want to read these feeds. And I do it because future users will want to read these feeds too.

It has everything to do with wanting to produce quality software. I suspect the same is true for other aggregator developers.

By the way, I do often email people when they have bugs in their feeds. And I’m sure other aggregator developers do too. But we still need to do the best we can with feeds with bugs.

It’s not our job to be syndication cops.

Our software should support standards, but it should also try to work with feeds with bugs, because that’s in the best interests of our users.

20 Aug 2003

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