variations on hCard (was: Misc (was: [uf-discuss] Disambiguation
Conventions? (was CommentsfromIBM/Lotus rep about Microformats)))
andy at pigsonthewing.org.uk
Thu Dec 14 11:23:48 PST 2006
In message <011901c71f6d$03731b00$0201a8c0 at andrieuhome>, Joe Andrieu
<joe at andrieu.net> writes
>> >we have no way to
>> let parsers
>> >know that the "new" hCards may not be people, companies, or
>> >organizations, but instead may also be places.
>> This interests me. It's not apparent from the 'wiki' that
>> that's a more recent development. Please can you site links
>> for the relevant discussion?
>Well, it is actually more convoluted than that.
Thank you for a remarkably comprehensive answer.
>The unique fact is that
> is the only entity in the entire chain of authorship, from CCIT to
>Versit to IETF to change the spec from being about people to being
>about /more/ than people. Other changes were about adding features to
>extend what you could say about people. We just up and redefined the
And yet when people propose extensions to hCard (such as Date of Death),
we're told that mapping to vCard prevents such (which itself is a
fallacy: for example, Date of Death could be ignored by parsers, when
converting hCard to vcard).
>the description of hCard on the wiki now extends that to companies,
>organizations, and even locations.
>This is a pretty significant loss of semantic specificity. While a
>human can disambiguate between hCards for places and hCards for people,
>a /machine/ would have a very hard time of it.
I have a similar example. I asked, a while ago, about the possibility of
a uF to mark up "What's New" pages, and was advised to use hAtom.
Indeed, people were very kind and helpful in assisting me in doing so,
and I now have a What's New page:
which is, usefully, available as a feed.
Semantically, though, there's nothing to tell parsers that the page
describes updates to the website which it represents; in fact, some just
see it as a blog.
Firstly, this is an example of the "blog-like behaviour" mindset I
referred to in a post a few minutes ago.
Secondly (and this didn't cause me any great problem), in order to add
hAtom to the page, I had to first add a vCard listing the author, which
meant making the "author" (sic, I gave organisational-, not personal-)
details visible on the page. So that's evidence of a microformat
requiring me to change my publishing behaviour; and again evidence of a
"blog-like behaviour" mindset.
> The entire point of the semantic web is to make it easy^H^H^H^H
>/possible/ for machines to make sense of the information that's out
>there. Now, when a spider finds an hCard, it can't tell if it is a
>person, company, organization, or place. That sucks.
I hadn't thought of that previously, but it's true; and it does.
Solutions could be (or, given that the horse has bolted, perhaps "could
have been") a secondary class
<div class="vcard person">
<div class="vcard organisation">
<div class="vcard place">
making separate uFs, with (near-)identical field sets:
or having separate mandatory, and mutually exclusive, fields for each
n - a person
n-org - an organisation's name
n-place - a place-name
p*rsers could then map all these to "n" for the purpose of allowing
users to add them to their address book programmes.
>It would be much more useful if hCards could actually be expected to be
>people! Imagine that. Then machines might be able to do something
>useful with this class of entities it discovered while cruising around.
>But that route is lost to us.
Some form of extension, such as I suggest, could be added in future -
though "legacy" hCards would still be found, of course.
>Standards aren't meant to "evolve". The are revised. Updated. Changed.
>Explicitly. Intentionally. And with clear versioning. The nature of a
>standard is to be /standard/ across contexts, especially time.
>I don't intend this email as an attack on anyone. I do mean it as a
>flag for problems that many in the community have dismissed as
Again, thank you. I do hope that nobody will be so foolish as to
consider your comments as "damage", "pain" or "noise".
* Say "NO!" to compulsory ID Cards: <http://www.no2id.net/>
* Free Our Data: <http://www.freeourdata.org.uk>
* Are you using Microformats, yet: <http://microformats.org/> ?
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