“Simplifying Complexity”, or “Atom Ain’t Easy”
Ah, the good ol' days, before I learned how complex the internet is. I remember the peaceful days of my youth last year when I started designing Info Bite List. RSS had a few problems. Atom had a few problems. I had some answers. Designing an alternate format was easy. The internet was my virtual oyster.
Well, it turns out that it's much easier to see that something's wrong than to know exactly what's wrong and why. It's easier to come up with a solution than to come up with a great solution. It's easier to get some people to agree with you than to get many people to agree with you, and impossible to get all people to agree with you. It may be possible to get all smart people to agree with you sometimes, but even smart people have irreconcilable opinions sometimes (in part because not everyone has the same needs and goals).
Many proposals look great on first read. But it seems that there's always someone who knows something about some existing internet standard that makes the proposal unworkable, or at least provides a powerful enough counter-argument that the "right" solution is not obvious.
The world wide web is not only a web of documents spread across the world, but a web of standards, each of which depends on, influences, or conflicts with any number of other standards. It's easy to come up with a nice looking solution till one becomes aware of existing standards. The job of the Atom community is to come up with the simplest solution that provides the most power, and interoperates correctly with the greatest number of other standards possible. Fulfilling all three goals completely is impossible. And finding the proper balance between them isn't easy.