[microformats-discuss] Are microformats "data-first"?

Dr. Ernie Prabhakar drernie at opendarwin.org
Fri Jul 29 10:19:28 PDT 2005

Hi all,

I'm still trying to get my head around the "zen" of microformats.  In  
that vein, I really appreciated this post (hat tip to Sam Ruby) about  
"Data First vs. Structure First"


> Some people find the act of categorizing and abstracting natural  
> and rewarding, others find it frustrating and unnecessary. The  
> problem with information technologies is that computer programmers  
> are likely to fall in the first category and users of such programs  
> are likely to fall into the second one.
> Data First strategies have higher usability efficiency (all rest  
> being equal) than Structure First strategies.
> On a local time-scale and once established, "Structure First"  
> systems are more efficient.
> we all know that a complete mess is not a very good way to find  
> stuff, so "data first" has to imply "structure later" to be able to  
> achieve any useful capacity to manage information. Here is where  
> things broke down in the past: not many believed that useful  
> structures could emerge out of collected data.
> But look around now: the examples of 'data emergence' are  
> multiplying and we use them every day. Google's PageRank, Amazon's  
> co-shopping, Citeseer's co-citation, del.icio.us and Flickr co- 
> tagging, Clusty clustering, these are all examples of systems that  
> try to make structure emerge from data, instead of imposing the  
> structure and pretend that people fill it up with data.

In other words, microformats seem to explicitly embody a "data-first  
-- but enable emergent structure later" philosophy, which is why it  
is both attractive and annoying to the traditional XML crowd.

Is that a fair statement?
-- Ernie P.
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