Supernova: Microformats

Tantek Çelik, Technorati, hCard and hCal

Microformat principles

– solve a specific problem, e.g. XFN, XML solves a wide range of problems simultaneously. Microformats such as tags solves a specific problem

– keep it simple

– evolutionary improvements

– design for humans first, machines second. Semantic web is about making the web more machine-readable

– adapt to current behaviours

– reuse from widely adopted standards

– modularity, embeddability

– decentralised development, content, services; but also includes centralised publishers. not either/or.

vCard and iCal – common, but not XML, so not suitable for the web. Are XML or RDF variants, but no one uses them. Can’t be easily embedded in XHTML, can’t be easily displayed.

hCard and hCal – mapped 1:1 into XHTML, using same terms, same schema.

Date formats are a nightmare, so uses human presentable time and date instead of machine-readable ones.

Tantek uses hCal to put his events on his blog, and there’s a little script that sends his events to anyone’s calendaring events. Which is actually really cool.

Tantek’s slides.

Michael Sippey, Six Apart, hCal

Experiment, using MT to keep a timeline of major events throughout the year. Annotates journals with weather info and major events, but no seasons on the West Coast, so can’t do the ‘snowing then, so must be April’.

MT produced ATOM, RSS1.0, and iCal feeds.

Joined MT because of possibilities for microformats and micropublishing, particularly aggregation and discovery. People can publish different things in different formats but can still aggregate them.

In personal blogs, people like to talk about what they have done, movies, music, books, etc. so put that with microformats and thus you end up with hReview – a format for reviewing things.

Strip down core data elements of a review by looking at existing reviews – Amazon, Yahoo, blogs, etc. What data elements are necessary?

Tools make it very simple. MT supports ability to override the default app template, so can customise the way that it displays, e.g. title becomes item, category becomes rating, body text becomes review text. So simple enhancement of MT and some template tags, one creates a review which is a div class in the template.

Usable for job listing, events, competitive review, and people are customising MT, creating new plug-ins to do this, but applications are going to (are being?) built to aggregate small bits of information.

Real cute little hCal in MT app by Les Orchard that puts the hCal fields in the MT entry body. Nice. Gets integrated into the tool so that it’s really easy to create micro-content for distribution on the web.

Kevin Marks, Technorati, Tags

Tags – different way of organising knowledge. Trad way is hierarchical where each thing has a place. From Aristotle. Like shelving books.

E.g., picking categories for Yahoo Groups can be difficult because it’s got a high cognitive load – have to think about where things belong. Even faced with categorising photos – iPhoto has a keyword feature which no one uses because it’s all hierarchical. Flickr, however, allows you to decide on your categorisation from the bottom up, so it’s a lower cognitive load.

This means that you actually do it.

Dynamic categorisation wins. Apply it to blogs. Blogs have categorisation works in the abstract, and categories are exclusive, if it is in one place it’s not in the other. So people end up either not using categories or using one or two. Most popular category is ‘general’.

So Technorati tags picks up existing categories, but wants an easier way. Easiest way is by links, but must distinguish between linking to something to talk about it, and linking to create a tag. Visible links promote good behaviour, prevents gaming. Decentralised linking.

Use rel='”tag”, so can link to anything. Because it’s simple, people can easily write plug-ins for different tools. Fits in well with other formats like hReview and xFolk.

Kevin’s slides.

Technorati Tags:

2 thoughts on “Supernova: Microformats

  1. “[Microformats] solve a specific problem, e.g. XFN, XML solves a wide range of problems simultaneously. Microformats such as tags solves a specific problem”

    Did he specify exactly what that problem was?

  2. Richard, the 3rd part of the post, covering my talk, explained that.

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