[uf-discuss] Apple Data Detectors

Guillaume Lebleu guillaume at lebleu.org
Tue Feb 5 15:01:55 PST 2008

Thom Shannon wrote:
> Not sure if anyone's mentioned this before but the new version of Apples
> Mail has functionality similar to what microformats is trying to enable
> (hCard and hCal)
> You can mouse over data in an email like addresses, phone numbers and 
> dates, then add them to your address book/calendar.
> http://www.apple.com/business/videotips/?movie=maildatadetectors
> A few things spring to mind:
> a) Does it use microformats if they're present? - I just tested it, it 
> put the postcode in the state field so I guess not
> b) Wouldn't it be nice to get hold of their pattern matching code!
> c) Interesting how they've done the interface, not too far from some
> mock-ups I saw for FF3, what can we learn from it?
Thom, you probably have found 
http://www.miramontes.com/writing/add-cacm/index.php, which describes 
ADD as it was introduced in 1998. The side column only mentions that the 
current implementation looks Livedoc/ADD-like. It was an interesting 
read to me.

What I have been thinking more and more and what this tells me again is 
that the same way we talk of POSH and microformats, we could talk of 
plain text or plain old english formats, essentially standardizing how 
people write dates, addresses, etc on the Web or on their emails. Asking 
people to write "Tuesday, February 5, 2008" in this order, with the 
commas, etc. is very likely even simpler for normal people than writing 
<abbr class="foo" title="2008-05-02">Tuesday, February 5, 2008</abbr>. 
Knowing that receivers will be able to do more with this just by writing 
it this way, like not forgetting your event, is a big value when 
comparing it to the additional costs. Even english writers can do this, 
not just Web developers. Of course, the issue is that this is currently 
an Apple-only plain-text microformats and implementing may be a bit more 
work than parsing a microformat (only guessing here). So cheap 
publishing costs, but possibly more expensive/not as widely available 
consumption mechanism.

I wonder if this technology could not be used in a reverse way: detect 
formats as I'm typing (names, addresses, phone numbers, etc.) in plain 
english and convert them in microformats (cheap publishing costs, cheap 
consumption costs). The way I see it is that it would provide some 
code-autocompletion-like feature that makes a little calendar or contact 
list show up as I'm writing. For instance, if I start to type "Thanks 
Tho", "Tho" is recognized as being likely a person (following "Thanks" + 
I have two people in my contacts matching "Tho"), and I'm prompted to 
confirm whether I'm talking about Thom or Thomas. I select Thom and 
behind the seen the right microformat is added to my content for the 
convenience of those that will consume my content.


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