[uf-discuss] FYI: Jeff Jarvis on microformats and Google Base

Ryan King ryan at technorati.com
Mon Nov 21 21:38:03 PST 2005

On Nov 21, 2005, at 5:20 PM, Jon Tan wrote:

>> <tantek at cs.stanford.edu>> wrote:
>> Wow that's an amazing article.  Thanks for passing it along David.
>> I think Jeff makes a lot of good points.
>> Before stating my own opinion, I would like to first ask the  
>> community:
>> How do you think the microformats community should respond to (or  
>> otherwise
>> engage) Google Base?
> Hello to all.
> This is the first time I've felt able to offer a contribution to  
> the list outside the arguments I have about MF in my head. I feel  
> that the MFs community response could contain the following:
> 1. Invite Google to [1] Participate in the development of MF  
> specifications,

They've always been invited and at least one employee has contributed  

> possibly in line with some of their existing categories (many have  
> been discussed here, e.g. Jobs, reviews, events etc. I would add  
> some others too: Property, products, services... the list is  
> endless.), [2] Consider integrating MFs within GBase as they become  
> specified to allow submission of MFs described data (possibly by  
> something as simple as by URI) and extraction of it.

I think they've already said no to this and I don't think they need a  
special invitation. Of course, if anyone here has contact at Google,  
you should bug them incessantly until they implement µf's. :D

Also, we have a good number of formats that need work. It'd be nice  
to move some alone, rather than just starting new efforts.

> The issue of an API and whether it is closed or open may be  
> depreciated if the data that Google Base will hold is in  
> Microformats and could possibly be aggregated in other ways anyway?  
> Supporting MFs input and output may also, in the long run, be a way  
> for GBase to be more comprehensive and useful.

This is, of course, for google to decide.

> 2. Engagement by example around, 'humans first, machines second':  
> The work currently being done, regardless of Google Base, is  
> probably the most important work I've ever witnessed. Either on a  
> networking level within our respective industries or a development  
> level. One day I hope that MFs will be a core component of every  
> file delivered via http, and as such, every piece of data will have  
> relative value as an aggregated and meaningful part of the human  
> information matrix, not just intrinsic value in the file or domain  
> that holds it. I imagine something as simple as my Mum posting her  
> recipes to her own web site (or even something like GBase) and  
> having them included in a MF aggregation matrix of all human food  
> recipes ad infinitum. I imagine her accessing a MF aggregation tool  
> to find others recipes or even adding others' recipes in MFs from  
> web pages to a, 'book' of her MF recipe bookmarks. 'Microformarks'  
> anyone? Or even Microfootmarks! It's a glorious thought and makes  
> me smile.

You could probalby replace "microformats" with "semantic web" in the  
previous paragraph and it'd sound much like the stories motivating  
the semweb.

Microformats are great, but don't think we invented the idea of a  
world-wide web of data, but we provide what is, IMHO, an easier way  
to publish structured content.

> Therefore, to achieve that we need 2 things, [1] More MF  
> Specifications to implement,

I disagree. What's wrong with the current ones? Have they all been  
implemented broadly and effectively?

> and [2] Software to show real use benefits for the human beings who  
> not only want visible information on the page, but a way of posting  
> that information for themselves and aggregated information from  
> infinite numbers of pages too (without SEO Spam getting in the way  
> of the results).

I have two responses to this:

1. We already have real, useful applications.

2. It seems that at least once a week someone says "but we really  
need a microformats killer app still." This is an open source-style  
community, if you think there's a need, build something to fulfill it.

> The latter is becoming more important IMO; Technorati etc. have  
> demonstrated the power of real world aggregators in evangelising a  
> single MF or MF type idea. The possibilities are endless but  
> perhaps we need a few simple online tools developed in tandem with  
> a given specification (e.g. around hReview) that can demonstrate  
> the practical implications how powerful MFs can be for everyone.

We don't have any hReview consumers, but don't we already have some  
"simple online tools"? Please see http://microformats.org/wiki/ 

> A day in the online life for all would change beyond recognition if  
> data was described by Microformats, and then aggregated for  
> distribution and use. Then the case  for MFs will be made stronger  
> by having more *useful* results of aggregated MF data for non- 
> technical users.

Of course.

> 3. Lastly a question: I believe that MFs may well become the most  
> significant factor in the development of the Internet since Google  
> itself. Maybe even since search engines themselves (which I believe  
> MFs may come to threaten in certain instances). Is it time to  
> consider engagement with the mainstream press on a more active level?

Uh, why? We have a fast growing community. One which is growing fast  
enough to cause serious growing pains from time-to-time. Organic  
growth is fine, thank you very much.

> I have in mind that whenever there is a mainstream press article  
> being written about the Internet, MFs should be on the list of  
> subjects to mention.

Should we have the mythical "microformats killer app" first?

> A BBC commentator said the other day, 'the Internet is mostly full  
> of rubbish'. A sweeping perception but nevertheless a lay person's  
> view; Valuable, meaningful data from MFs could negate that view. I  
> believe that when anyone who uses the Web (not just industry  
> journalists) can realise the potential significance of MFs by  
> examples and then conversion to the cause is automatic. It just  
> needs evangelising. Anything I can do to help I will.

We taking on a lot of things with microforats - entrenched  
technologies, companies and ways of thinking. I don't think we should  
add media hacking to that list. There's many other things you can do  
to help:

1. publish microformats
2. write tools which use microformats
3. educate people about microformats
4. research and develop new formats

> Apologies if I've been unintentionally verbose.

No problems.
Ryan King
ryan at technorati.com

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