[uf-discuss] [Zen of Microformats] Two Fundamental Principles of Information Design

Ara Pehlivanian ara.pehlivanian at gmail.com
Thu Mar 8 11:43:24 PST 2007

On 3/8/07, Ian Davis <lists at iandavis.com> wrote:
> On 08/03/2007 13:47, Costello, Roger L. wrote:
> > That's where Microformats come into the picture.  Add the hCard
> > "family-name" subproperty to each local expression:
> >
> > <li class="family-name">Costello</li>
> >
> > <div class="family-name">Novak<div>
> >
> > <informant class="family-name">Smith</informant>
> >
> > <pilot class="family-name">Johnson</pilot>
> >
> > <managingEditor class="family-name">Parker</managingEditor>
> >
> > Now the information is resolutely specific and local; simultaneously,
> > it is globally and collectively useful.
> What are the coordination costs of each author finding and agreeing to
> use the same class values? Those costs are cheapest when the
> specifications are centralized (e.g. microformats.org) but doesn't that
> centralization act as a bottleneck to development? To get this kind of
> coordination the authors have to wait until the appropriate
> specification has been agreed.
> I think there are similarities here with the coordination costs of
> something like Xanadu (which required cooperation between parties to
> form links) and the WWW (which doesn't, I can link to Google without
> them linking to me). It was the elimination of coordination costs that
> allowed authors to work independently and allowed the exponential growth
> of the web.
> Ian
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I understand what you're saying about letting authors write their
markup freely as opposed to bottlnecking the process. The trouble with
that however, is the ensuing chaos that emerges when you want to do
anything useful with the data being generated by those very same

What I think your contrast of microformats' bottleneck with the web's
free growth is missing is the notion that there indeed /was/ a
"bottleneck" in the development of the web in the form of Tim
Berners-Lee. It's just that it was all up front and not distributed
throughout its growth. When he invented HTML, he did the same kind of
work we're trying to do with microformats, but he did it by himself
and presented it to the community as a fait-accompli.

I believe that the growth of any data format requires some agreed upon
standard for its consumers to use. Otherwise, how can you ensure
reliable consumption of the information if you don't have any idea
what you're going to get? It's like parsing XML from an unknown source
without a schema.

If you want the benefit from the fruit of microformats, you need to
pay the cost of developing it. Besides, it's like the old adage goes,
nothing worth having comes easily.


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