[uf-discuss] Species microformat process

Scott Reynen scott at randomchaos.com
Wed Jan 31 12:09:26 PST 2007

On Jan 31, 2007, at 1:06 PM, Charles Roper wrote:

> I think what I'm trying to get at here is this: at present my feeling
> (and this is just a feeling) is that the microfomats gaining most
> traction are ones that are related quite closely to social networking
> and, dare I say it, Web 2.0 concepts. I'm not saying that's a bad
> thing, but I do feel that because there's not a lot of interest in
> species and related matters within these circles (the interest lies in
> technology, modern media and networking), that trying to develop a
> species microformat at this point in time is going to be an uphill
> struggle, simply because there aren't many people out there who would
> take advantage of such a thing right now.

I don't think this community is entirely representative of the web at  
large, so I wouldn't take perceived disinterest in this community to  
necessarily mean a potential microformat has no promise.  On the  
other hand, the target audience for microformats is not just any  
random person off the street, nor even any random person off the web;  
it's publishers.  So the important question is: what will it take to  
get publishers publishing the kind of species markup you'd like to see?

> I'm not really questioning the quality of the two approaches, but
> rather the fundamental uF principle of "paving the cowpaths." As far
> as I am aware (but please correct me if I am wrong), hCard is an
> extraction of vCard rather than an extraction of existing markup
> practice. This being the case, can other microformats, in the absence
> of existing practice, not be developed on the back of existing,
> canonical standards?

There are two aspects to this I fear you're conflating: the data and  
the markup.  The "cowpaths" here is the data.  Microformats, the  
"paving," is the standardized markup.  If the markup were already  
standardized, there would be no need for microformats.  But if the  
data isn't already commonly published, it doesn't matter how nice the  
markup is.  Contact data is incredibly common on the web, so hCard  
was successful.  Certainly using a 1-to-1 mapping of vCard helped,  
but that's not nearly as important as the ubiquity of the data.   
Better pavement is nice, but cowpaths are critical.

>> > This brings me to a question about Species. The Species proposal
>> > doesn't really reflect current mark-up practice but instead  
>> represents
>> > what might be a good way of doing things in the future if  
>> authors were
>> > to start using it.
>> I agree completely, and I think this is a problem with the current
>> effort, but it's one that is solveable.
> If this *is* a problem, why wasn't it a problem with hCard? I'm not
> trying to get at anyone here, I'm just trying to wrap my head around
> this apparent anomaly.

I think confusing markup *was* a problem with hCard.  Publishers  
weren't familiar with using class names to describe content for  
anything other than stylesheets.  But the ubiquity of contact data on  
the web meant that there so many potential hCard publishers out there  
that the skeptics could be temporarily ignored while others adopted  
hCard.  Meanwhile, consuming applications were developed, which made  
hCard more appealing to skeptics, and HTML semantics became better  
understood generally, which made skeptics less skeptical.  So it was  
a problem that could be overcome in the case of hCard.  Species  
doesn't have the same luxuries of widespread publishing and eager  
tool developers, but it does have the benefit of more widespread  
understanding of HTML semantics brought about by previous  
microformats (e.g. hCard).


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