microformats vs. semantic XHTML (was Re: [uf-discuss] Commentsfrom IBM/Lotus rep about Microformats)

Mike Schinkel mikeschinkel at gmail.com
Wed Dec 13 15:36:06 PST 2006

As with the rel="muse" concern, my comments regarding uppercase/lowercase
microformats were misunderstood and the subsequent related discussion was
way out of scope since it was based on my comments.

When I first used the term "(lowercase) microformats", I was merely trying
to communicate a concept. I didn't know of a universally understood term so
I used a phrase whose meaning would I thought would be relatively easy to
determine from context.  I had no desire nor was it my intention to invent a
meme, thus the subsequent debate on the topic was simply unnecessary.

However, it does point out that there is confusion, and an authoritarian
approach is unlikely to resolve both the ambiguity and the manner in which
people apply the term in the wild. Frankly, it's not a huge issue to me
because social dynamics will end up creating the commonly understood term
even if some people aren't ok with what that term ends up being.

Tantek Çelik wrote:
> semantic XHTML (OR semantic HTML)
> This is well-used well-adopted pre-existing term and there is 
> no need to invent a new term to mean the same thing.

Point of note, apparently not as well adopted as you believe.  Ian Hickson
referred on WHATWG to (lowercase) microformats/semantic HTML as "keywords in
HTML's extension attributes": 

Ian Hickson wrote[1]:  
> A microformat isn't just anything that uses keywords in HTML's 
> extension attributes; a microformat is a format that has gone 
> through the very rigorous process of research, design, and 
> public study that Microformats.org documents. 

So it seems that well-adopted terminology is still not common.  FWIW.

One final point:

Tantek Çelik wrote:
> This is one of the reasons why I have avoided capitalizing 
> the term "microformats" everywhere it is used.  There is no 
> "capital" variant.  There is just "microformats", as has been defined.
> And just as "squares" are "quadrilaterals" with additional 
> constraints, microformats are semantic (X)HTML with 
> additional constraints.
> In particular, the difference between the specific semantic 
> XHTML technique that is 
> "using semantic class names, ids, rel/rev values"
> and a 
> "microformat"
> Is that *anyone* can make up semantic class names, id, 
> rel/rev values, for any reason in any way, and in fact, 
> modern web designers and information architects were doing so 
> *long* before microformats was even coined as a term.  
> Indeed, it was precisely this pre-existing behavior that 
> inspired me to first even dare to propose microformats as a 
> refinement thereof.
> A "microformat" is such because it is a use of semantic class 
> names, etc.
> 1. Are designed according to microformat principles [1]
> 2. Follow the microformats process [2]

Is seems to me Tantek you are saying here and in other emails that, on one
hand "there is no distinction between official and unofficial microformats"
and on the other hand "they are microformats if and only if they follow the
principles and the process."  Either all semantic class names are
microformats or there is a difference between microformats that follow the
rules and those that don't. You can't have it both ways.  

Now I don't care strongly enough about this to continue the debate, but I
will say that I believe your positioning will paint you into an untenable
corner if you don't rationalize it. Again, FWIW.

-Mike Schinkel

-Mike Schinkel


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