rel="payment" + PayPal MassPayRequest API = Automated Payment Mechanism?

Last year, Jay Deadman had a good idea about creating a rel="payment" microformat. This was written up and submitted as a new microformat.

I haven't heard much about this microformat since I posted about it last year, and couldn't find it being used in the wild. I recently went looking for an update and found something in the spec I hadn't noticed before - specifically, the spec states

One of the goals with this microformat is to give content aggregators such as RSS readers a way to extract these support links and give them special attention (such as displaying a standard button along with the content).

A bit further in the spec:

rel="payment" is not intended to initiate an automated transaction.

In other words, rel=payment only provides for a manual mechanism for payment (i.e. a tip jar, etc).

This is still a good idea, but it would be even stronger with support for automated payment (even micropayments). Just imagine if the video in my RSS feed was picked up by Google Video and I was paid on the number of times it was viewed, etc. As the content creator, I wouldn't have to work out a payment mechanism with the various video sites (YouTube, etc).

As currently spec'd the rel="payment" tag needs two additional parameters:

  1. Payment Provider - PayPal, etc
  2. Payment Provider ID - Unique ID for the Provider

The spec would go from

<a href="[url]" rel="payment" title="Donate Money Via PayPal">

to something like

<a href="[url]" rel="payment" title="Donate Money Via PayPal" provider="PayPal" providerUserID="someUserName">

In the case of PayPal, their MassPayRequest API (requires PayPal Developer Network login) requires either an email address or PayPal User ID. Other payment providers would need to have a similar API.

Would providing this information in a feed open up a person to potential security concerns? The User ID is somewhat exposed already when sellers use it on eBay and other auction sites. PayPal provides a way to encrypt the link for a button, but it requires knowledge of OpenSSL, etc. They also offer a "button factory" to simply creation of the link, which could then be used programmatically in an HTTP POST. If the button factory concept would work, the spec could remain close to the original (url becomes encryptedUrl):

<a href="[encryptedUrl]" rel="payment" title="Donate Money Via PayPal">

This would be a much more secure mechanism and achieve the aim of providing an automated payment mechanism.




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Social News and Spam Farms?

Niall Kennedy has a great post today about spammers gaming Digg. He traces the origins of a Digg post that became a top 5 post in the tech section (the post was about weight loss tips)

Of particular interest is this section

I believe social media accounts are currently available for rent or for sale, rewarding active users with paid placements or account resells in much the same way as a World of Warcraft character might be resold on eBay. Social media sites and search engines need to stay on top of this new form of content creation, continually analyzing data and scrubbing out the dirt. Sites overrun with web spam quickly lose their utility and might be banned from search engines.

Kevin Rose started Digg because he thought Slashdot "takes power away from the people" due to Slashdot's editorial control. Digg is continually working to make sure the site is not gamed by spammers (annoying some heavy users) However, if social news ends up in a situation where you can purchase a userID in the same way you can with Warcraft, Digg will have a big problem on its hands.

Is the answer to this to introduce some form of moderation on submissions? Niall writes that the Digg post in question received over 900 diggs before it was buried. It seems likely that many of the 900 diggs were manufactured, either by a "digg-bot", voting up the post, or by a human "digg farm". Definitely something to watch.

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Libsyn Acquired

Libsyn announced today that they have been acquired by Wizzard Software

From the release

The acquisition combines the worlds largest and fastest growing podcast network with Wizzard's expertise in speech technology integration, creating a powerful new service for podcasters worldwide. The combined companies will focus on providing independent content creators with comprehensive search engine indexing, transcription and blogging integration and new tools so that they may better attract advertisers and sponsors allowing them to reach highly-targeted audiences with more relevant advertising and promotional opportunities.

Wizzard must be looking to take Libsyn to the next level by adding speech recognition technology and becoming a search engine for podcasts. That would put them in league with companies like Blinkx, etc.

Congrats to the guys at Libsyn. I met some of the founders at the PME a while back. They were passionate about their product and all the ups and downs that come with being a startup.


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Calcanis Leaves AOL

Apparently Jason Calcanis has resigned from his position at AOL today. Jason's Weblogs, Inc was acquired by AOL approximately a year ago. Perhaps his holdbacks (clawbacks) are complete and he chose to leave. (I'm wonder if it is tied in any way to Ross Levinsohn leaving Fox Interactive today? Ross Levinsohn was onstage just last week at Web 2.0 talking about how great it is at Fox Interactive.) Overall, I'm not surprised Calcanis has chosen to leave. He alluded to some of the restrictions he was feeling at AOL on the Gillmor Gang a while back. In the big picture, it is hard for a large acquirer like AOL to keep the founder of a company they purchase. Founders tend to think in big (sometimes bold) strokes. They generally like to formulate an idea and MOVE quickly. Perhaps Jason was feeling less than agile at AOL and is now off to do his Next Thing.

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Java Goes Open Source!

After years of saying "no way!", Sun announced today that Java will be released under the GPL2 license, effectively becoming open source.

Way back in 1997, Sun successfully lobbied the International Standards Organization (ISO) to make Java a standard. Unlike most other standards though, Sun worked to make sure that they were the only entity that could contribute to the standard. I'm no ISO expert, but I don't know of any other standards approved by this body that were one-company shows.

From the link above:

Giving a single company submitter status is unusual for ISO. Normally. such status is given to trade groups or consortia.

This "single owner" of an ISO standard hurt Java in a lot of ways. I have no doubt that the language would have moved forward much quicker and become more widely used if Sun had released the source years ago instead of fighting.

As Tim Bray points out today - "it's water under the bridge, forget it!"


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Listening to the Blogosphere

Scoble had a post about his most recent trip to Google today that contained an interesting quote:

A lot more blog listening behavior. Carl Sjogreen, who runs the Google Calendar team, told me that the first thing he does every morning is do this search: “Google Calendar.” He says he answers everyone’s questions, even if you’re a kid in another country with only four readers.

Such a simple thing to do, yet so powerful. Listening to what the bloggers have to say and responding.

It amazes me that this is not standard operating procedure for a product team. Anyone on the team, not just the business guys. Dev, QA, everyone should be watching for conversations about their product and helping to quickly respond. Some of the best feature requests and bug reports come straight from a user's blog. Unfortunately, I don't see a lot of this at the b0rg.

As the DevMgr for two Windows Live products (WL Alerts and WL RSS), I have search feeds in my aggregator (Bloglines) that I check multiple times a day. (We rolled Windows Live Alerts into production this week. There have been a number of posts about the changes, some good, some critical. It has been great to be able to get immediate feedback on what our users think).

If you are interested in doing something similar for your product, a really easy way to get this rolling is to head over to TagJag (the renamed, enter a search query (e.g. "msn alerts") and grab the URL for the OPML output. Next, go to your aggregator and import the OPML. You can now easily monitor the conversations going on regarding your product. (If your aggregator doesn't import OPML, find one that does). Currently, TagJag puts together a bunch of sites in the OPML output including:

Google News
Yahoo News

Some might not apply (e.g. RSS Auctions) - just remove them from your feed list.

Become a better advocate for your product - do this today


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