Thoughts on APML

The Attention Profile Markup Language (APML) is a neat idea–but it’s hard to pin down exactly what that idea is. This is how its creators describe it:

APML allows you to share your own personal Attention Profile in much the same way that OPML allows the exchange of reading lists between News Readers. The idea is to compress all forms of Attention Data into a portable file format containing a description of your ranked interests.

The comparison to OPML is useful. APML is supposed to be a standard XML format that makes it easy to transfer important information across web services.

The definition of APML in terms of Other Capitalized Jargon is much less useful, and I think points to a couple important flaws in the project’s philosophy.

On the one hand, it aims to be a format of compressed data–“Attention Data”–and especially data of the kind that can be easily collected from internet behavior. The APML FAQ indicates that there is all kinds of Attention Data– including clickstreams, bookmarks, and OPML-described feeds.

But the community emphatically denies that APML is just a data format. “APML is only interested in your Attention Profile,” which is defined as “a list of the topics and sources you are interested in, and a value representing your level of interest in them.”

There are two major problems I see regarding this plan.

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