[microformats-discuss] Definition of "microformat"?

Stephen Downes stephen at downes.ca
Thu Sep 15 18:49:48 PDT 2005

Ryan King wrote:

> On Sep 15, 2005, at 1:26 PM, DuCharme, Bob (LNG-CHO) wrote:
>> I was surprised at how difficult it was to find a good definition  of 
>> the
>> word "microformat". Most attempted explanations, like
>> <http://microformats.org/about/> http://microformats.org/about/,   
>> reads more
>> like marketing literature discussing its philosophy. Saying that  
>> it's "a way
>> of thinking about data" or that it's "an evolutionary revolution"  
>> doesn't
>> give many clues to help determine whether a given format qualifies  as a
>> microformat.
> I think you've inadvertently hit on the key point here- microformats  
> are a philosophy as much as they are a technology.

My take:

"Microformats are descriptions of types of data that can be expressed in 
a consistent manner and which can be part of, or embedded in, larger 
data elements. When the consistent expression of a microformat is 
defined and widely employed, this data may be reliably extracted from 
these larger data elements, thus allowing the microformat data to assist 
in the characterization and indexing of the larger data elements."

The intent of this definition is two-fold:
   - first, it attempts to capture the idea that microformats are 
descriptive of existing practice - the data *can be* expressed in a 
consistent format, because instances of the data contain information 
that is (more or less) of the same type and structure, but which (in 
actual practice) may not yet be expressed in a consistent manner
   - second, it captures the idea that there is an attempt to represent 
such information in a consistent manner, and describes what the purpose 
of doing so would be

I hope this definition is useful. I continue to regard this project with 

-- Stephen


Stephen Downes  ~  Research Officer  ~  National Research Council Canada
http://www.downes.ca  ~  stephen at downes.ca         __\|/__ Free Learning


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