Dave Winer on title-less posts

Dave Winer posted today about NetNewsWire needing better support for title-less feed items:

These items have no titles for artistic reasons. The author did not put them there. You, as a software developer, are not entitled to add them (haha that’s a pun).

I agree with Dave on this. Titles are clearly optional in the RSS 2.0 spec. The fix for the “Untitled” text that some feed readers use isn’t for authors to add titles where they aren’t needed, it’s for the UI in feed readers to improve so that they gracefully handle title-less posts.

(And this is not to pick on NetNewsWire. I’ve seen other apps and feed syncing services with the same assumption about titles.)

When I wrote about defining a microblog post, blank or missing titles was one of the fundamental points. If we want to have blogging software that’s as easy to use as a modern social network, titles can’t be required.

I’m hopeful that as feed readers adopt JSON Feed, developers will dust off their older code for feeds and make improvements for title-less RSS items as well. This is why we highlighted microblogging as a use case in the JSON Feed spec.