XSA proposal

Lars Marius Garshol larsga at ifi.uio.no
Thu Aug 13 14:27:03 BST 1998

* Jeffrey Ricker
>My first reaction was just like Tim's: this is OSD. But then I saw that it
>was more of the e-commerce part rather than the mechanics of software
>distribution. Am I right? 

To tell you the truth my first reaction now was that I need to rewrite the
motivation part. :-)

XSA is supposed to solve a very simple problem: I and lots and lots of
other people maintain lists of software and we have a very difficult
time keeping them up to date. New versions are released that make our
descriptions obsolete, email addresses change, links die, product names
change etc etc

If developers could maintain XSA documents that listed these things anyone
who was interested could poll them for changes at intervals and discover
these things automatically. Today most software list maintainers simply
don't even try to keep their coverage up to date and instead rely on
developers to do it for them. The developers usually have their products
listed in too many places for this to be feasible, hence XSA.

What I've done besides the specification is to write a Java API and a
client that can be run from a cron job so that list maintainers (and
whoever else might be interested) can get email when something happens.

E-commerce never entered the picture, but that's not to say that an
expanded version might be useful in such a context as well. Or that XSA
might not make use of information published for e-commerce purposes.

>If so, perhaps it should be a part of a larger effort. 

That would suit me well. For this to work people need to write actual
XSA documents, publish them and update them. This is the Achilles heel
of the project: if nobody does that XSA is dead. The more official this
looks the greater the chance that people will take it seriously to do
it. (Which is why I've now added OSD support. It's tested and it works,
as far as it goes.)

To alleviate this I've made two CGI scripts that give users a form to
fill out and return a validated XSA document ready for publishing.
That simplifies creation, but the real problem is to be taken seriously.

Also, the reason I've kept XSA as simple as possible (and omitting almost
everything in OSD) is to make the documents easy to create and modify.
For the purpose I had in mind I don't see any benefits to more 
information, but that would make XSA harder to get started with.

>Have you spoken to the RosettaNet project about your ideas?

Never heard of it, I'm afraid. The stuff I dug up with AltaVista looks
like something that it might be possible to integrate with XSA (sort of
like I've now done with OSD), but I just didn't know about it before.

Do you have some URLs with details and perhaps some contact addresses?

--Lars M.

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