ecommerce was Re: [uf-discuss] Principles of Microformats?

Mike Schinkel mikeschinkel at
Thu Dec 21 04:30:54 PST 2006

Benjamin West wrote: 
> I don't know if it's true either.  Tantek suggests I'm being 
> a bad scientist by allowing myself to look for patterns.  

Maybe that's why I'm a fish out of water here; discovering patterns is one
of my strongest interests and one of my best skills.

BTW, I didn't see this email until now because you only included my first
name in the body, not my full name.  My email software filters my emails
from uf-discuss with my full name and leaves in my inbox, and the rest it
moves to a folder for later review.

> > Correct. The problem (as I've seen it) is the vision and 
> process for 
> > microformats inhibits addressing those other issues.  
> Again, this is 
> > just an observation, I am explicitly no longer advocating 
> they change it.
> I respectfully disagree.  I'd like to start investigating the 
> use cases your business had trouble fulfilling, starting 
> with: are the problems you described with vendor 
> communication common?

*Sigh*  I've explained *one* of many different scenarious I am interested
in. I've already been given dead-ends in many other areas. That's not to say
I don't see benefit of Microformats in some contexts, but in the majority of
contexts the Microformats process doesn't work for me.  The Tantek and Ryan
and others have told me as much. So why fight it?

> Mike, this is real good stuff.  Can you continue elaborating? 

I can, for academic reasons, but this use case doesn't work with the
microformats process. To address my former company's needs I would have
needed to get a small group of vendors together, and they would not be
interested in dealing with the uf-discuss list, only with a list specific to
the use-case.

BTW, Joe Andrieu recently suggested people on the list read Clay Shirky
talking about how "A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy" [1].  I read it yesterday
and it was ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT! Thanks Joe!  It identifies clearly some of
the issues with the microformat process.  OTOH, it calls for ground rules,
and Tantek, Ryan, et. al. have set them. So I am now going to quit fighting
those rules and when I participate in microformat I'll accept the situation
as it is, not as I want it to be.

> 1.) How many ecommerce sites have their inventory published 
> on the web? - my guess is nearly all of them, although I suspect 
> there are some confounding factors.

99% would be my guess. You can't sell things unless they are on your
website.  And if you are a "call for more information" kind of company, you
are not an ecommerce company. :)

BTW, I wrote a long message [2] about how to handle products generically
back in november.  Absolutely zero people responded to me.

> 2.) How many sellers have trouble getting product information 
> from their vendors?
>   - this one kind of surprises me, I thought everyone had at 
> least a php script hooked up to their database to produce a CSV.

It's not that they have trouble, it's that someone has to take the
initiative.  And that isn't always the highest priority for someone at a
vendor, or at the reseller. Far better to have machines do it, but the
process on all sides needs to be as simple and low friction as possible,
hence why microformats is a good fit. Remember, we are talking many small
companies, not Microsoft. (But it's also needed by resellers for dealing
with Microsoft).

Plus, what about the magazines that want to maintain a "buyer's guide?"  And
what about the "how to select" kind of websites that want to help people
select products?  What about the companies whose business models don't
currently exist because we haven't thought of them? (But again,
"Microformats" doesn't address that.... ;-)

> 3.) How many esellers use vendors to populate a 
>  part of their online offerings?

100%  Resellers with any size product line can't afford to create all the
product information. Vendors know their products far better in aggregate
than the resellers ever can. Note I'm not talking about VARs who specialize
in a handful of products. They have different issues and tracking product
info is not really one of theirs.

> 4.) Would hlisting <> 
> solve this particular use case?

Like a car would solve the needs of a dump truck.  Sure you could use it,
but it would take orders of magnitude more time and get the car really,
really dirty.  :)  Said another way. classified ads are optimized for the
listing, ecommerce product information need to be optimized for the product
information.  Take a look at [2] for a better idea. 

-Mike Schinkel


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