[microformats-discuss] Microformats and the Semantic Web

Danny Ayers danny.ayers at gmail.com
Thu Aug 11 08:15:31 PDT 2005

On 8/11/05, Tantek Çelik <tantek at cs.stanford.edu> wrote:

> > Things like fitness for purpose,
> You never know what purposes people will use new technologies for, so this
> is less important a factor than you might think.

If it's not fit for the purpose, people are less likely adopt it.
True, it's less of an issue with software (which is usually bendable)
than hardware (which isn't).

> What's more important is to model current behavior, whether you can
> understand a "purpose" in that behavior or not.  The behavior exists, that's
> all that matters for adoption.

Maybe. Although I'd hate to see the word "innovation" go completely
out of the developer's dictionary.

> > utility,
> Some utility is needed, but too much utility is often an encumbrance.


> > documentation,
> That both helps and hurts.
> There are plenty of W3C formats with *too much* documentation (e.g. lengthy
> cryptic specs).  Too much documentation is a negative.

Very good point.

> > evangelism
> > (including hype and FUD about alternatives),
> That's of limited utility.  It only works if people get some actual results
> quickly.  Otherwise it engenders a backlash.  This is happening with RDF.
> One of the reasons that "microformats" and "lowercase semantic web" are
> resonating with so many people so quickly is ironically thanks to how many
> years and years RDF and the Uppercase "Semantic Web" have been hyped with
> very little of *additional* utility to show for it (additional = very little
> marginal utility above and beyond existing or simpler solutions), at least
> on the public Web.

Heh, yep, you're probably right there.

> > and maybe just plain luck
> > play big roles. Barely a day goes by without my looking at a PDF doc,
> I hardly ever look at PDF docs.


> > Blog trackback format (RDF/XML hidden in XHTML comments) has to be one
> > of the clunkiest designs ever (no fault to Ben Trott, there wasn't an
> > obvious alternative at the time) yet seemingly within seconds of
> > Movable Type supporting it, every blogging tool under the sun
> > supported it.
> Not true.  Few tools support TrackBack today, and the clunkiness of user
> interface means it's not used except by a very select few.  Mainstream media
> that have tried implementing TrackBack have universally found it to be a
> failure (e.g. CNET).

Its use may be declining (thanks to spam, not the format) but the tool
support is there - TypePad, WordPress, MSN Spaces, Radio, Drupal etc

> > The same can be said about the blogging and pingback
> > APIs - truly ugly formats, with much simple alternatives (doc-oriented
> > XML over HTTP) yet with huge adoption.
> WTF is "doc-oriented XML"?   Do you mean "generic XML"?  See recent blog
> posts about that.

I mean declarative message passing over HTTP via XML documents rather
than procedural method calls tunnelled through XML formats over HTTP
(irrespective of the particular format).

> > Whereas RSS 1.0, with
> > its more complex syntax, is supported virtually everywhere RSS 2.0 is.
> Also not true.  RSS 1.0 is largely a dead format.  We see a minor fraction
> of RSS 1.0 feeds vs. the predominant RSS 2.0 format.

I'm sorry, but speaking as a blogger I use a fairly popular open
source tool, WordPress. It supports RSS 1.0. I don't think this is
uncommon. Last time I looked the vast majority of aggregators
supported RSS 1.0. I bet Technorati and most of the other services
that read feeds also can read RSS 1.0. Actual use of RSS 1.0 may be in
decline relative to RSS 2.0, but that does not negate the fact that it
did achieve significant adoption despite having a more complicated
syntax than RSS 2.0.
> >>> People familiar with the standard html toolset look at that and say
> >>> to themselves, "I can at least attempt it".  I'm not sure as many
> >>> people say that when confronted with RDF.
> >
> > I'd put that down to presentation - the fact that microformats can be
> > viewed as RDF formats is significant.
> To be frank Danny, it's significant to a certain community.  I'm not sure it
> is significant to the overall adoption rate/potential of microformats (thus
> I see it as in general off-topic for this list, though I wanted to let this
> particular thread go on a little longer that last time to see if it revealed
> any interesting points).  

Ok, my point was just that in most cases the person creating
microformat data won't be thinking "I can at least attempt it" in
regards to RDF. Yet in effect (from the RDF person's pov) they would
have created RDF at no extra cost. But the publisher's *perception* of
the relative difficulty of RDF will remain unchanged.

I won't be upset if you've had enough of this thread ;-) 

But I did think some of the points were worth talking about though,
even if drifting off topic - I'd like to see widespread adoption of
microformats, and suggest caution with assumptions about what drives
adoption. But as it happens I think microformats are doing very well
on all the factors I could think of, except the cool applications
which are hopefully on their way...

I mean, it's great that the compatibility is
> there, but I can also see many more implementations developing which "just"
> use microformats, take the data, and apply it directly to a solution,
> without going through separate/more-abstract interim model.

Oh yep, sure. The Greasemonkey kind of thing being a good example. But
as Technorati are nicely demonstrating, there's a lot more can be done
with data on the Web. From my own point of view, having more
ready-integrated data available is sweet. For which I'm grateful ;-)




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