Blog Archive for the 'News' Category
It’s been a very busy week for users of microformats. We made our announcement of the important new value-class-pattern over the weekend. That’s the culmination of a huge amount of brainstorming and community effort, and offers great improvements to using microformats accessibly and in international contexts.
Then since Tuesday, things have gone stratospheric. Google announced support for microformats right in their search engine, through a new ‘Rich Snippets’ feature, exposing hReview and hCard content within search results for many millions of users.
Rich Snippets give users convenient summary information about their search results at a glance. We are currently supporting data about reviews and people. When searching for a product or service, users can easily see reviews and ratings, and when searching for a person, they’ll get help distinguishing between people with the same name. It’s a simple change to the display of search results, yet our experiments have shown that users find the new data valuable—if they see useful and relevant information from the page, they are more likely to click through.
— Kavi Goel, Ramanathan V. Guha, and Othar Hansson in the Google Webmaster blog.
It’s a big day. hCards and hReviews are already published in huge quantities all over the web (see lists of sites that publish hCard and hReview), but this is the biggest user-base so far to benefit from the consumption of microformats in an application.
It’s again wonderful to see microformats embraced as a way to enhance user experience and to see it shipped to such a large audience, so congratulations to Kavi, Ramanathan, Othar and their Google team on the launch.
Initially Rich Snippets are only displayed for a handful of domains, so if you’re an hReview or hCard publisher, add yourself to Google’s waiting list now!. And if not already listed, update our examples in-the-wild wiki pages too (hCard, hReview).
If you’re a developer new to microformats we highly recommend you refer to the large set of code examples on our wiki, which will help you get started: hCard examples, hReview examples. There’s also full hCard and hReview documentation.
Finally, if you need help checking your code, check the debugging tools wiki page for validators, linters and debuggers.
It’s fantastic to see microformats applications hit such a large search audience. From the earliest experimental index at Technorati, to Yahoo putting microformats into mainstream search with SearchMonkey in March of last year; we’ve come a long, long way, and it’s looking great. With Google adding support for two of the major microformats, it really underlines structured data as a concrete foundation of the open web, and modern web development in general.
And yet more! An immediate benefit to everyone from the Rich Snippets release: Yelp have added hReview and hCards to all of their listings. You never need copy and paste a restaurant address by hand again!
The value-class-pattern solves two of the three most challenging issues that microformats have encountered in their entire history: accessibility and localization.
After many long months of focused iterating (repeatedly researching, brainstorming, testing, documenting) led by Ben Ward, the value-class-pattern alpha draft is ready to use and support.
Publish and implement
Several publishers have already started using the value-class-pattern, including this blog, and some implementations have already started supporting it as well.
Everyone who publishes content marked up with microformats or develops microformats implementations such as parsers and authoring tools should take a close look at supporting the value-class-pattern in the content they are publishing and the tools they are implementing. In particular:
- If your implementation parses hCalendar, hReview, or hAtom, please implement the value-class-pattern in your parser, test it with the examples given both in the spec and the growing list of value-class-pattern examples in the wild, and add it to the list of value-class-pattern implementations.
- If your site publishes hCalendar, hReview, or hAtom, please use the value-class-pattern for your dates and times, and add your site to the growing list of value-class-pattern examples in the wild.
- If your implementation generates hCalendar, hReview, or hAtom, please generate your dates and times marked up with the value-class-pattern, and add your implementation to the list of value-class-pattern implementations.
If and when you encounter any issues or have feedback regarding the value-class-pattern, please add them to the value-class-pattern-issues and value-class-pattern-feedback pages respectively.
Major resolutions and minor revisions
The value-class-pattern has greatly addressed accessibility and authoring issues across several microformats, in particular for typical uses of dates and times. However, there are still a few open issues on specific microformats for which we are still exploring better (more semantic, more accessible) solutions, in particular the geo microformat (and property of hCard) when specified as a single hyperlink or abbreviation, and hCalendar’s
dtend property when specifying a whole date (rather than a specific datetime).
With the value-class-pattern providing solutions to two out of the three biggest microformats challenges (the last of the three to be addressed in its own blog post), and resolutions to the remaining substantial open issues (e.g. as mentioned) on hCard, hCalendar, hReview, and hAtom, we will work on 1.0.1 revisions that:
- incorporate said resolved substantial issues to date
- require support of the value-class-pattern
- are edited for broader understandability and usability.
The editors of all drafts, in development, and future compound microformats should also require support of the value-class-pattern in order to encourage better accessibility in content that is marked up with microformats.
Thanks to those in the broader accessibility and internationalization communities that have kept up with their constructive criticisms, suggestions, test cases, testing, test results documentation, feedback, and overall participation. Your efforts have contributed to major improvements in microformats, and we could not have done it without you and your expertise. In particular:
- The original Web Standards Project article hAccessibility by Bruce Lawson and James Craig which provided both detailed documentation of real world concrete problems that were/are being experienced due to some uses of the
abbr element with microformats, as well as several ideas for alternatives to explore. Many of those ideas formed the basis for what the microformats community spent many months investigating in depth, testing, iterating, evolving and eventually narrowing down and refining into what made it into the value-class-pattern (e.g. value-title in particular).
- Everyone who has contributed documentation of patterns, issues, brainstorms, opinions regarding the
abbr element, dates, datetimes, accessibility, assistive technology, internationalization/localization, etc. to the microformats wiki. All these additions to our broader body of knowledge helped shape and refine the value-class-pattern you see today.
- In particular I want to thank James Craig for the many hours he spent extensively testing and documenting of several alternatives with screen readers.
- Personally I have very much appreciated Derek Featherstone‘s optimism regarding microformats and accessibility, consistent in-person encouragement to me and others to keep working at it, and continued positive reminding to keep in mind the broader community of those that use the Web.
- Finally, thanks to all of the authors, designers, and developers supporting microformats, especially those who continued to do so when well aware of accessiblity and other open issues, for their patience and for never giving up.
Thank you to everyone for being patient whilst I ran the MediaWiki upgrade this evening. It took a little longer than hoped thanks to very slow database migration scripts, but the microformats wiki is now live again, and back to full read-write access.
There’s a lot to say about the process of the redesign, which I’ll try to capture at a later date on my personal blog, since it’s been an interesting project to work through. But, For a more immediate summary of what’s been changed and enhanced (plus some gotcha bug-fixes made to MediaWiki itself), check out the Wiki 2.0 page on the wiki itself.
For the casual observer, you can get an idea of the redesign by visiting and comparing the the Wiki front page, the hCard specification and the hAtom draft specification.
We’ve also got space set aside on the wiki to file bug reports (wiki-2-issues), and feedback is welcome in the comments here as well as on the microformats-discuss mailing list.
The aim, as always, is that improvements like this to our tools will help us to more effectively work with and build microformats; I very much hope you like the changes.
Updated: 17th November, 00:31 (GMT-8).
As announced on the -discuss mailing list earlier this week, the microformats wiki is due a big upgrade. That’s going to be happening over the next few hours, so the wiki will be read-only for a (hopefully short) while whilst backups are taken and upgrade scripts run.
Afterward, the wiki will be updated to MediaWiki 1.13, be running some new extensions to improve authoring and reading and be updated to resemble the still-gorgeous microformats.org look and feel. This is as good a time as any to thank Dan Cederholm for the great work he did on the original theme way back when we launched.
This post will be updated with progress. Thank you for your patience.
Update 1: The wiki is now in read-only mode, and the database backed up and duplicated.
Update 2: We’re now running MediaWiki’s update script on the mirrored database. The microformats wiki is, you’ll be unsurprised to learn, rather large, and we’re skipping ahead by a large number of MediaWiki revisions, so there’s a lot to be altered. For your amusement, the script output currently reads “
Deleting old default messages (this may take a long time!)…”. Rarely a truer word spoken.
Update 3: And we are live. Over the next hour or so you’ll see things move around a little as I go through and update some default page settings and start fitting things into our new categories system. I’ll also be added a new page explaining the changes I’ve made in more detail, introducing you to the new mark-up we support and, once those instructions are in place, providing a place that you can report issues and provider feedback. Thanks very much for bearing with us during this update!
The Web is by far the most successful medium in history for the open publishing and sharing of content. Focusing efforts to promote and enable open content on the Web first and foremost (rather than say, proprietary data warehouses and corporate databases) thus has the greatest enabling effect for open content in general.
Textual content on the Web is dominated by HTML (including XHTML of course) due to its broad reach and ease of authorship. The more we are able to use HTML as the common carrier of higher fidelity chunks of information, the more we empower and enrich the publishing and sharing of textual content.
Thus microformats are developed in line with “plain old semantic HTML” (POSH) practices and principles, that is, as valid semantic extensions to HTML. Semantic HTML by itself enables sharing open content with headings, paragraphs, and lists, etc. Microformats build upon that foundation, reusing rather than reinventing (i.e. XOXO reuses HTML for lists and nested lists for outlines, rather than inventing new tags or vocabulary), and extending only for commonly published semantics beyond HTML, such as contact information, events, reviews, episodic content, etc.
These extensions can be used to publish documents containing just one type of information for consumption by domain-specific applications (e.g. a contact list for address books, or an event list for calendaring tools), or many types intermixed and nested, embedded in a larger document that ties them all together with meaningful context such as a resume, meaning that would be lost were each type of data isolated, removed from its context, and published in its own special-purpose format silo.
Whether simple collections, or compound documents, by building on HTML, all such uses work well not only on their own, but embedded and mixed with existing web content, in a way well understood by web authors, browsers and search engines alike, in stark contrast to other methods. Finally, it is this broader reach, to existing content, authors, applications, search services, and a variety of devices, that makes textual content built on HTML even more open from a practical perspective.