[uf-discuss] Scraping or parsing?

Mike Schinkel mikeschinkel at gmail.com
Sun Mar 4 17:08:12 PST 2007

Ryan Cannon wrote:
> Adding an @profile attribute to he <head>element is far
> less technically demanding than, say, creating a tag
> space, which we also require. Especially as the addition
> also has no performance or usability impact.

It may be less technically demanding, but the latter is needed.

> I also think that authoring microformats with the intent
> that they be usable to the CMS-using/WYSIWG masses is a
> pipe dream. Users should *not* be encouraged to publish
> HTML markup they cannot read. Robust microformatted
> content will always require either an understanding of
> how to hand-code HTML or a tool to help generate it--is
> it unreasonable to think that the meeting of either
> condition implies the ability to add an @profile as well
> for 80% of cases?

I cannot overemphasis how strongly I disagree with that last paragraph from
a philosophical standpoint, for two reasons:

1.) There are two schools of thinking, one of which I believe to be severely

	A.) Don't worry about the syntax or how it is implemented, the tools
will take care of make it easy.
	B.) Don't even think about tools until it can be done and easily
understood by a human. Only then should tools be created.
Of course I strongly believe that "A" is the flaw perspective although I
know there are many people in that camp, you (it appears) included. I plan
to write a paper in the future on this issue after I've done enough research
and gathered actual evidence but for now let's look at the technologies that
have gained quick and *widespread* usage (a), and those that haven't (b):

	(a) HTML, RSS, CSS, XML, some microformats, shell scripts/batch
files, languages using text for source, and so on.
	(b) XHTML, XML Namespaces, XSLT, RDF, other microformats, Visual
programming languages, and so on.
Yes, through some Herculean efforts some of the technologies in (b) have
seen adoption, but not without tons of promotion by some entity with vested

The technologies that work are the ones that are designed for humans first,
with humans with tools second. If it can't be done in Notepad or VIM, it's
probably a bad idea.

2.) I also believe strongly that we should not dichotomize the population
and split them into the haves and the have-nots; the party members and the
proles, the Alphas and the Epsilons. Believing that there is or should be a
difference between "users" and "content authors" is either simply ignorant
or actively arrogant. The web with its recent social media component has
empowered EVERYONE to become content authors, and I don't honestly see this
abating. My expectation is that soon every kid from a first world country
(and soon every kid in the world, if OLPC succeeds) will be as comfortable
coding in HTML as today's office worker is comfortable using Microsoft Word.

And if you'll forgive the tinge of melodrama, by you seeking to repress
people's ability to richly author content you are in a small way working to
put limits on "users" freedom of speech. I personally will fight anyone
whose world view attempts to separate those who are anointed as being
"better" and mere "users" where the "better" ones are the only ones who are
going to get to publish rich content on the Internet, everyone else be

-Mike Schinkel
http://atlanta-web.org - http://t.oolicio.us
"It never ceases to amaze how many people will proactively debate away
attempts to improve the web..."

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