minimal vocabulary

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One aspect of the start-simple microformats principle, and one of several naming-principles.

One way of keeping a solution simple is to minimize the vocabulary that the solution uses, and certainly of those, minimize any new vocabulary that are introduced.

Contents

benefits

Minimizing the vocabulary used for properties (and values) of a microformat helps make and keep microformats easier to understand.

Fewer terms in a vocabulary means a lower cognitive load for anyone seeking to understand that vocabulary, whether they are authors of markup, or developers of tools that parse markup, or developers of tools that take abstract representation of data in such vocabularies (e.g. in JSON) and write code to process them.

Minimizing the introduction of new vocabulary is particularly important. Doing so:

preserve literal vocabulary when reusing meaning

When reusing the schema or meaning from an existing format, when possible re-use the respective vocabulary as well.

This is particularly important to illustrate, given how often the opposite has occurred (unnecessary renaming/tweaking/abbreviating of existing terms).

avoid renaming when reusing

The renaming of terms when reusing the semantics of an existing format happens often enough to merit labeling as an anti-pattern to be avoided.

Here are some examples:

renaming example org

On the other hand, the following apparently simple / intended to be helpful renamings have been found:

renaming example organization name

The unfortunate "clean-up" efforts:

the Anglo centric renaming anti pattern

All of these renamings/expansions/abbreviations may seem (semi-)obvious to English-centric readers, but cause unnecessary confusion when a non-native-English developer encounters different terms that mean the same thing from vCard to these other technologies.

To a non-native-English developer, "org" and "affiliation" are two different sequences of characters, and look as different as "bet" and "nssvyvngvba" do to a non-native-ROT13 developer.

The unnecessary English renaming of English word properties from earlier standards is an Anglo-centric (specifically English-speaking designer) design mistake that needs to be more thoroughly written up as a design anti-pattern to be avoided.

For now we can refer to this problem as the "Anglo-centric renaming anti-pattern" or just "renaming anti-pattern" for short.

more examples

see also

minimal vocabulary was last modified: Monday, July 6th, 2009

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