Simon Willison’s Weblog


Saturday, 6th July 2002

Better blogrolling

Stuart at saw my post about and re-implemented his blogroll to update from his subscriptions, complete with last updated times. It’s such a brilliant idea that I’ve implemented it here as well. allow you to syndicate your subscriptons in various formats, but by far the most useful is favorites.xml, which orders them by last time updated and includes information on the time they last notified of an update. It took less than 10 minutes to write a short PHP script to parse the XML and a few minutes more to set up a cron job to grab the XML file every hour. This is impressive stuff—thanks to, XML and idea-sharing-via-blog myself and Stuart both have an automatically updated list of blogs right there on our sites.

More on

More info on syndication. Phil Ringnalda has published a PHP script which can be used to syndicate a blogroll from For people without the capability to run server side scripts, also syndicate blogrolls in a javascript file which uses document.write commands to display a blogroll on a page.

More blogroll fun

Stuart has added an extra innovation to his blogroll. Clicking on a link there now sets a cookie (via javascript) recording your visit—these are then used to display a ’new’ icon if a blog has been updated since your last visit. The only downside is that the system can only track visits made through links on Stuart’s site. Stuart says that easily automated stuff like this is why he recommends using a system like Moveable Type rather than rolling your own blog software. He’s right, but I treat writing my own as an entertaining learning excercise—I get to play with RSS, web services, XML parsing, the fun never stops ;)

Interesting suggestion

Micah Sittig made an interesting suggestion in a comment attached to an earlier entry. Micah suggested adding an inert ?lastUpdated=time attribute to links in my blog roll, causing browsers to display links to blogs that have been updated since the last visit in a different colour. I’ve implemented this temporarily, but I’m slightly worried about whether or not this constitutes abuse of the XHTML standard. The additional query string doesn’t break any of the blogs on my blogroll but it is still resulting in fundamentally different page request being sent, which could lead to problems. I’ll leave it for the moment, but I think this may need reconsidering in the future.

Mozilla sidebar added

Thanks to another excellent suggestion from Micah, this site now has an experimental Mozilla sidebar. Click here to try it out (only Mozilla or NS6 owners need apply).

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The Two Way Web

Dave Winer: The Two Way Web. The Two-Way-Web is a vision for the Web as an easy writing and publishing environment. This is an old essay from March 2001 (I only found it today) which describes a vision of a web where content can be quickly and easily edited through a variety of tools, which communicate with content management systems using XML-RPC and SOAP. This is all stuff I’ve been thinking about recently, so it looks like I’m only a year and a half behind Dave ;)