class="hack"? Re: [uf-discuss] Comments from IBM/Lotus rep about Microformats

Chris Messina chris.messina at
Sun Dec 10 18:01:26 PST 2006

On 12/10/06, Bruce D'Arcus <bdarcus.lists at> wrote:
> On 12/8/06, Dr. Ernie Prabhakar <drernie at> wrote:
> > Um, maybe I'm not quite understanding what you mean by "model". Are
> > you saying that there's no way to create a generic parser that
> > transforms the microformatted data into a normalized form?
> Not exactly. More importantly, that there's no extension model, so
> that people are reliant, in effect, on this community to make the data
> that is important to them visible.

The extension model is as transparent as any -- you must go through
the same iterative process that it takes to make a microformat. In
terms of one-off extensions that will have narrow-spread usage, you
can simply add more classes or rel values as to your wont. No one's
going to stop you.

In fact, I've taken to using rel=client on my blogroll simply to make
up for an absence that I see in XFN. This may not be very satisfying,
but I could care less if anyone actually adopts that value... it's
useful for me in describing the relationship.

> > What you may not realize (I didn't at first either) is that
> > is -- by *definition* -- optimizing for a world
> > there are only a "handful" of discrete microformats.  Thus, there is
> > no point in worrying about the general case; there are only special
> > cases, and a relatively small number of those.
> But I think that what I've seen on this list is that this is a myth.
> Every week, it seems, someone asks for a new microformat.

Yes, but how often is a new microformat actually "created" or
"launched"? It's extremely rare for good reason.

The goal of this community is not to necessary act as a filter, but to
adhere to a process for coming to some kind of consensus on a small
number of formats that can be embedded in ordinary web pages. We look
at widespread existing behavior and help massage that behavior in such
a way so that we can help computers understand that data better. We're
not competitive with RDF or any other attempts at composing a
Generalized Schema of Reality. Indeed, our purview of reality is so
narrow as to, in some cases, fluster those who want their pet format
codified or blessed by the community.

But, if anything, it's the defense against horizontal drift that makes
the microformats community so strong and so much more likely to
succeed over the long term.

Think of microformats as a magnifying glass that's really good at
boiling rain drops one at a time. That should help put our
potentiality in perspective. That's not, in any way, intended to
prevent or defer others from developing their own semantic XHTML class
names or of executing on the same community process. In fact, I
strongly encourage such work; but, in terms of web-wide adoption, it's
unlikely that *any* but the most widely discoverable behaviors will
end up ever being turned into "sanctioned" formats by the community.

Or, so says I. ;)


Chris Messina
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