[uf-discuss] Re: Microformats are being discussed on Slashdot

John Allsopp john at westciv.com
Tue Jul 11 22:54:14 PDT 2006


> Sounds like a good source for some easily answered FAQs.
> Who wants to help dissect, itemize, and answer?

OK, here is a start - for some perverse reason I've tried to glean  
anything remotely meaningful even if totally wrong headed from the  

Few seem to have taken the time to RTFA, which of course being /. we  
knew already eh?



Some of us have been doing this for YEARS. At least now we have a  
buzzword for it.

Anyone who has ever had to do a datamining project knows how to do  
this. I don't really think this is a big deal at all. Just another  
excuse to apply a Web 2.0 buzzword to a technique that's been around  
for quite a while.

Mixing presentation and data - good... bad... good. But it gets  
better a little, each time (maybe more of a spiral than a wheel).

How much of microformats could have been done using META, given that  
it's scoped to the page (which is no problem for the most important  
page semantics), and uses attributes? [claiming to be yawn barger]

Microformats seem to be a classic 'bag taped to the side', because  
the logic of the semantic web was still poorly visualised when XML  
was selected. I'm just asking whether META doesn't deserve  
rehabilitation as a 'bag at the top' instead...

Since the association between the human- and machine- readable texts  
is wholly imaginary, why not keep the machine vesion in META

It was all done 20 years before the web existed, as SGML. But thanks  
for playing.

This is just tagging in text; it's exactly what you do for CSS:  
You're saying this text is of a certain class. And you contain it in  
a box. All this is doing is using the same stuff and storing a little  
variable name and using it later. One might argue you are already  
doing that with CSS, it's just formatting stuff you're attaching to  
the variable rather than, ah, data structure..

I'm sure the LISP community would love to hear about this brand-new  
idea of embedding specialy, or domain-specific if you will, languages  
and data. How extraordinarilly novel

The problem with standards is that people keep making new ones

Ok, so this "microformats" thing is about encoding extra data inside  
an HTML file by abusing CSS class names for markup, isn't that  
completly unnecessary and nothing more than an ugly hack? Don't we  
have XML namespaces for exactly that reason?

The ugliness of this "microformat" thing is that it's shoehorning the  
function of elements into attributes: you have an attribute (in this  
case, the "class") that determines what the element really  
represents. WTF? This is best represented in XML: make an XML  
document type that specifies all these elements properly.

I mean, why do you need HTML for this at all? Your browser can  
display XML documents if you have an appropriate stylesheet (which  
these "microformats" also need anyway).

But, yes, you're right to point out that the buzzword web is  
reinventing yet another tool needlessly and badly.

There's no namespacing. There's not even an ATTEMPT at namespacing.  
This will fast become an unmanageable hodge-podge of insanity, with  
common words used willy-nilly in class attributes

Now, as if that wasn't bad enough, and, trust me, it IS bad enough,  
there's also the misuse of the "title" attribute and the "abbr"  
element. A machine formatted date is not the expanded version of a  
human formatted date, which is not an abbreviation. A renderer trying  
to make sense of <abbr class="dtstart" title="10034134134T00"> 
17th Smarch</abbr> will think "AHA! This here is an  
abbreviation, I will provide unto the user some means to see what  
that '17th Smarch' abbrevation stands for!" Usability disasters follow.

There's , but there don't seem to be many people using microformats  
taking advantage of it.

And I think that muddling data and presentation without explicit  
distinction is exactly what was wrong with HTML. Which we just spent  
a decade slightly recovering from. I guess IBM has made a lot of  
money on crappy tools, good tools to extract data from crappy data,  
and extra money for doing it right.

If you want to make your data available there are all sorts of  
standard and more efficient ways of doing it than embedding it in the  
presentation layer. If somebody is going to all the trouble to create  
a parseable human-readable page, why wouldn't they go to about the  
same amount of trouble and make a far more efficient and standard RSS  
feed? What about the buzzword of the last few years, SOAP? Hell, what  
about XML?


John Allsopp

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