[uf-dev] XBRL, XHTML, Microformats and context-aware computing

Manu Sporny msporny at digitalbazaar.com
Mon Dec 17 13:03:17 PST 2007

Diane Mueller wrote:
> So I would like to pick your collective brains a bit to ensure we are on
> the right path here - the 'happy path' so to speak.

Just a quick note that you're going to probably get different opinions
on what the 'happy path' is... The Microformats is a very diverse set of
individuals, many philosophies are at work in this community. That being
said, there is much to learn from dealing with this community - people
are always willing to give their opinion.

> One of the approaches put forward is more of a Inline mashup rather than
> Microformats approach - this mashup approach is much easier to write an
> XSLT to extract valid XBRL from the XHTML. It's simpler, but it doesn't
> follow allow for the creation of valid XHMTL. It uses additional
> namespaces which cause the XHTML to be invalid.

Hmmm... have you looked at RDFa in addition to Microformats? A brief
glimpse at your standards documents tells me that they are quite
complicated standards. You define several complex taxonomies, which
probably means that you have quite a bit of namespacing going on.

Microformats try to keep things simple, relying on identifying and
standardizing common usage patterns. There is no namespacing in

What you're doing seems to have more to do with creating a new
vocabulary, not necessarily based on common usage patterns. If that is
what you intend to do, RDFa will probably help you out more than

There's still much to learn from this community on how to do web
standards correctly, though.

> How important is valid XHTML? 

Incredibly important. You should never, ever be generating invalid
XHTML. If you knowingly generate invalid XHTML, you are knowingly
breaking the XHTML standard - and that is quite a bad stance for a
standards development body, such as yours, to take.

> Did you and your colleagues go down this
> path?  If so, where did you end up?

Yes, very briefly. Generating invalid XHTML goes against pre-defined
standards (specifically, XHTML). The Microformats community, as well as
the RDFa community goes to great lengths to not break existing standards.

> Should we sacrifice XHTML validity for ease of processing?

No, you should never do this. There are correct ways to solve the
problem that you're facing. You should be very strict in what you produce.

It looks like you're sacrificing prematurely - there are other options
out there.

> If so, does
> this preclude us from partaking in the microformats standard work efforts?

Not necessarily, but you will get push-back from just about every
standards body if you choose to voluntarily break existing standards.
One of the reasons we have these communities is to prevent people from
making bad decisions when creating standards.

If you intend to generate invalid XHTML as part of your standard -
you're making a dreadful mistake.

> What microformat use cases call for strict XHTML validity?

Microformats work with XHTML, (among other XML dialects), HTML4 and
HTML4.01. Validity isn't required for Microformats... they work in
syntactically invalid documents... but that doesn't mean that invalid
documents are acceptable.

> What potential use cases for Microformats for Financial Reports could
> you dream up that might require strict XHTML validity?

Don't generate invalid XHTML. It's not a matter of use cases, it's a
matter of knowingly breaking a standard.

Here are a couple of links to financial issues that the Microformats
community is addressing:


-- manu

Manu Sporny
President/CEO - Digital Bazaar, Inc.
blog: Over One Million Songs Available on Bitmunk

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