[uf-discuss] Should microformat features (like rel-tag) have explicit scope?

Benjamin West bewest at gmail.com
Thu Feb 8 00:01:13 PST 2007

On 2/7/07, Ryan King <ryan at technorati.com> wrote:
> On Jan 31, 2007, at 7:07 PM, Derrick Lyndon Pallas wrote:
> > If I have a parser that only knows (and only cares about) the rel-
> > tag format, it will be confused by people that use rel-tag for the
> > category property in hCard. It seems unreasonable that every
> > microformat should have to know about every other microformat,
> > especially when they are nested.
> Actually I think it *is* quite reasonable to make parsers know about
> every microformat.
> Microformats are designed to be easy to publish, even when that means
> that they're hard to parse. Simple economics show that it's much more
> valuable to make publishing low-cost, because the increased in
> published data will allow you to amortize the cost of writing and
> maintaining parsers across more transactions.
> Also, microformats are not designed to be generic or open ended, but
> specific solutions to specific problems.
> Requiring authors to add markup in order to make rel-tag's scope
> explicit makes it hard to publish the data and doesn't solve any real
> problem.
No one has said anything about any required mechanism, except for the
unreasonableness of requiring a parser to know about every possible
semantic available for a given encoding.  The point is that the
rel-tag spec lays out a contract:
rel="tag" is specifically designed for "tagging" content, typically
web pages (or portions thereof, like blog posts).

...that seems to contradict itself...

If you need to define tags as part of a more specialised format,
rel="tag" is the recommended way to do so, and xFolk, hReview, hCard
and hCalendar all do this.

The assumption here seems to be that when a microformat appears on a
page, the subject matter of the microformat is highly correlated with
what the page is "about" (whatever that means...).  The justification
given for this assumption is the historical record for "real
publishing", and by concrete example, the book publishing industry.
If this assumption is true, then the subject of the rel-tag is largely
a non-issue.

It's hard to swallow this assumption, because it seems possible, and
highly likely, that authors' intentions are different.  As an author,
it would surprise me to learn that the categories I specify to
describe my friend would also be understood by a parser to describe
the page itself.   This creates a mismatch between the functional
model and the mental model of the author, and possibly other human
consumers as well. (Human consumers aren't going to consider the page
a subject of contained rel-tags, either...) When I explicitly publish
a piece of information, I expect it to be interpreted within that
context.  When other behaviour creeps in, the integrity of my
authorship becomes brittle.

I agree with Ryan that this is an authorship issue, and disagree that
it's not an issue.  Authors should know that any rel-tag useage could
be applied to the page as a whole.  This isn't made clear in the
formats that reuse rel-tag.  Currently, rel-tag is difficult to use as
a publisher, because the subject the tag applies to has become modal.
Either we need to remove the modal nature of the subject, make it
explicit, or provide a mechanism to control it.


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