[uf-discuss] Today, Tomorrow, and Someday Problems

Manu Sporny msporny at digitalbazaar.com
Fri Sep 5 00:30:53 PDT 2008

Tantek Celik wrote:
> eventually decided that it was time that someone started to experiment
> with the broad semantic HTML *today* work being done by modern web
> designers, solving today's real world web problems, with shared
> vocabularies based on existing standards. I met up with Kevin Marks
> who had similar ideas and microformats was started.

That being said, I owe a great debt to this community and the people
that started it and continue to contribute, including you and the other
uF founders, because it is here that I first saw that the semantic web
was achievable in the near term.

With over a 1,900 directly involved in this community, it is clear that
the idea behind Microformats is something that resonates with us!

The issue I had was with the execution of Microformats - most notably,
the process and the parsing rules. It was only after hAudio ground to a
halt (the second time) due to the many arguments revolving around the
decision to not use "TITLE", pseudo-namespacing, scoping, accessibility,
etc., that I followed up with the W3C as I became increasingly
frustrated with the process.

Our start-up had a problem to solve (mark-up of audio on web pages) and
we wanted to do it right, through a standards body of some kind, instead
of forcing our view on the world. We were determined to start an
initiative to make the W3C take semantics in HTML more seriously. To our
surprise, we found the RDFa Task Force who were doing just that.

> That was years ago (2003-2004). In the meantime, microformats 
> adoption has taken off much faster than any of us could have 
> hoped for, while XHTML2 is largely ignored. XHTML2 wasn't a 
> "tomorrow" technology 5 years ago [1], and it still isn't 
> today.
> You could say there may be some
> bitterness/resentment/jealousy/denial about that.

I joined the W3C as someone who was bitter about many of the standards
that had passed the process. The nastiest scar that we held was a
system-wide implementation of SOAP as our messaging protocol only to
find out that the entire protocol was horrifically over-engineered. "It
came from the W3C, it must be good", we thought. Similarly, we had
issues with HTML 4.01 and a variety of other W3C technologies throughout
the late 1990s and early 2000s.

I don't take a strong position on XHTML2 or HTML5 because I have learned
enough to know that there are too many people that want too many things
out of both technologies to say that either standard is "good" or "bad",
or solving today/tomorrow/someday problems. Everybody has different
priorities and depending on one technology to solve all of our problems
is never the answer. It's going to be a mix (HTML5, XHTML2, Javascript,
Microformats, RDFa, etc.) like it has always been on the web.

> Anyway, I'm largely ignoring it, as I'm trying to do my best 
> to ignore the "microformats vs RDFa" baiting / 
> artificial-dichotomy that so many have pursued. We have 
> too much productive work to do to be distracted by such drama.

Agreed. There is too much work to be done and that getting involved in
the perceived drama is distracting.

When I hear someone talk about the "drama" between XHTML2 and HTML5, or
Microformats and RDFa, it is usually in the form of false perceptions
that one community has about the other.

This is interesting because it breaks down into two categories:

- People that think there is drama due to false perceptions on the
positions that the other community holds. "The RDFa community is waging
war on the Microformats community - I read about it in a blog post", or
"The Microformats community thinks RDFa is just a repeat of RDF/XML."
- People that have been burned by one community or the other in the
past, usually during a design argument, which clouds their desire to
work with the community ever again.

So rather than actual drama, we have perceived drama because the
communities aren't talking. We are letting false perceptions or negative
experiences that we have had in the past cloud our ability to work with
each other.

This isn't directed at you, Tantek, as I know you strive to make your
reasoning and thinking as fair and logical as possible. It's directed
more at the general community (both RDFa and Microformats).

There are a number of very good thinkers in each community and it is a
shame that they continue to be separated because of false perceptions
and clouded judgement.

-- manu

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