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Programming Social Applications by Jonathan LeBlanc

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Why Do We Need to Define a Standard for Activities?

The reason why a standard like Activity Streams not only exists, but is also absolutely necessary, is obvious when we consider the number of sources that produce some type of activity or update for users.

Let’s say that we are the average social Internet citizens and use a number of sites to keep in contact with friends, family, coworkers, and users with interests similar to ours. This might mean that we use Facebook to keep in contact with friends and family, Twitter to quickly disseminate large amounts of activities from like-minded people and/or for business outreach, and Gowalla or Foursquare for location checkins.

Now let’s say we want to build a site that shows all of this data, or we want to feed all of the data into a single source and have it make sense. If every site and service out there implements its own methods for creating activities, we’ll have to go through a rigorous process to merge everything. Even when we do that, some sites may include a large amount of data in their activities, while others may include only a few minor strings to represent the activity.

This is the reason for the Activity Streams standard; it makes consuming data across many platforms and services a much easier process. Even though services may take the Activity Streams specification and enhance it to fit their particular needs and data (e.g., adding new verbs or object types in the response data), the core implementation and standards will ...

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