Toward a Community of Microblogs

Building social networks is hard. Standards might be harder. Previous attempts haven’t succeeded. So why reinvent the wheel when we can just push our own wheels in a slightly different direction?

The goal of this initial musing is to offer a brutally realistic standard for microblogs that will slide into an ecosystem that isn’t interested in new microblogging standards; already has softare compatible with RSS feeds; and users who are blogging, reading blogs, use email, and maybe prefer using microblogging services like Twitter and Tumblr.

It’s not intended to replace anything. It’s just a statement of intent to be something for people who might feel an emptiness in their hearts. Maybe something even lighter weight than RSS Cloud or other XML-RPC based solutions (i.e., for static hosted microblogs).

Also before I go ahead and implement this, I’m going to reach out to Dave Winer and see if he’s got a better (or several better) implementations of this sort of half-baked, but whole-hearted idea.

Posted 2014-09-12


Just plain old RSS 2 with a few aspects implemented in purposeful ways. I think this is better than using a namespace because it’s really just using what the RSS spec already makes available and then it will be more compatible with existing tools like IFTTT.

Special usage of channel elements

identification as microblog

<category>RSS2gether microblog</category>

identification of which feeds the microblog is following

Just a list of feed URLS, implication is that you don’t have to send email to someone who is following you if you plan to respond publicly.

<category domain="">RSS2gether following</category>

the following data could also point to a json file, and/or include Twitter account URLs instead of just RSS feed URLs, etc.

(optional) identification of duplicated content

<category domain="">Reposting to Twitter</category>

Whatever feed owner wants (e.g., CC BY-SA 2.5 plus an indication that there is something else going in the docs)

<copyright>Michael Tofias 2014, CC BY-SA 2.5 but see also docs</copyright>

docs specify RSS 2, but permissions granted to reblog and explain how the feed is

Using category and author tags and where to find the feed’s “following list.”


email for whole feed

<managingEditor> (Michael Tofias)</managingEditor>

profile pic

Use the RSS <image> tag with a base 36x36 image:


and suggest providing a range of image sizes next to URL using @2x,…, @12x notation.

Special usage of item elements

Just needs to identify what is being addressed:


<category domain="">Callout to Manton Reece</category>

response to specific item

<category domain="">response to Manton Reece</category>

response to multiple specific items

<category domain="">response to Manton Reece</category>
<category domain="">response to Manton Reece</category>


Reblogged content should be wrapped in a blockquote and include (appropriate to the feed’s author) citation and link since human readers with feed readers unaware of rss2gether will also be reading the item.

<category domain="">reblog of Manton Reece</category>

reblogging a response

<category>reblog of response</category>
<category domain="">reblog of Manton Reece response</category>
<category domain="">reblog of response to post</category>

See also the above note for reblogging.

response to a response (optional, perhaps not even useful)

<category domain="">response to response</category>

email for a specific post

<author> (Michael Tofias)</author>

Alternatively, it might be better to use the subject field for the URL. Maybe that should be the default if no author tag email address is specified.

Use of email

Some ideas

  • suggested post ID be embedded in email address.
  • email invoked from website should contain warning that this site’s received email may be reprinted.
  • automated (or human generated) email-as-notification of public post should just contain the feed url.
  • emails from humans can look like whatever.
  • suggest that received email might be subject to whitelisting, blacklisting, and filtering for spam, etc.


It’s up to each author interested in publishing an RSS2gether feed to decide and figure out how they are going to subscribe, parse, read, and interact with other publishers RSS2gether feeds as well as how they will receive, block, parse, read, and interact with emails to their microblog email address(s). That’s outside of the spec.

The spec looks kind of annoying but the idea is that a user could implement the required features of a post using something as a field or two of metadata in the header of Markdown file such as

response: Manton Reece,


callout: Manton Reece,

Alternatively, responses and callouts could be specified directly in Markdown using the link title attribute.

[Manton Reece]( "callout")

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