In his latest post about RSS, Robert Scoble says:

“Now, imagine a new syndication format that brought up a page that showed what a news aggregator was, and explained how the system worked and why it’s more productive.”

My challenge: create a plug-in XSL file that works with RSS to explain to the user what RSS is and point him at a application to read RSS.

This is actually a fairly easy task.  XSL can be plugged into any arbitrary XML file via something called a processing instruction.  In the XML file, these appear as tags of the form:

<?some-processing-instruction some-attribute="some-value"?>  

There is a special processing instruction that ties an XSL transformation stylesheet to an XML document:

<?xml-stylesheet link="stylesheet.xsl" type="text/xsl"?>

Once the XML file was pointed at an XSL file, the next task was creating a quick-and-dirty XSLT transformation that picks out various bits from the RSS feed itself to create a customized-looking HTML page. You can see my XSLT file here: rss.xsl.

It turns out that my hosting provider isn’t set up out-of-the-box to serve XSLT files with the correct MIME type for Mozilla/Firebird to pick up. It’s likely that a few hosting providers aren’t set up correctly for this. It’s easily fixed, however, by adding a simple .htaccess file to the root of your site:

AddType text/xml .xsl

This .htaccess file sets up the correct XML mime-type mapping for .xsl files, allowing correct operation under Mozilla.

Works well, explains what is available and shows the user what they need to do. I’m sure more features could be added.

I have no idea how you might get this into something like Radio Userland, however.

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