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citeRel brainstorming

Various parties have proposed microformats related to citations and distributed conversations. Ryan King and Eran Globen started with hVia (which became citeVia and later citeRel :-)). You can see the conversation in these blog posts:

People already cite their sources in their blog posts and it would be great (and shouldn't be too difficult) to track that information. In that vein, read this post which covers the initial thinking on the topic. (This was a followup post).

Later, Eran expanded the idea to encompass not just via citations, but replies and updates as well. Follow up post here.


The basic idea we're trying to solve here is the tracking of distributed conversation- more specifically, distributed conversation between blog posts– the scope is intentionally limited here, though other aspects of distributed conversation are certainly important and related.

A smaller portion of the problem is in identifying the most authoritative sources in a web-wide thread. In researching anything, the ability to identify a primary source is invaluable. Adding this kind of ordinality would add value to any list of related links such as a tag page.
Citing (quoting or refering to as an authoritative source or precedent) and hat-tipping (giving credit to a non-primary source for calling attention to a primary [authoritative] source) are certainly two different animals. Common etiquette suggests use of anchor tags because they can be actuated by the user.
I dug around at WC3 and found rel="cite" is already defined in the XHTML Metainformation Attributes Module. In the XHTML 2.0 Hypertext Attribute Collection, href and cite attributes are defined and may coexist but they behave differently: The href attribute "specifies a URI that is actuated when the element is activated." For the cite attribute, "User Agents MUST provide a means for the user to actuate the link."
Whereas authors in general like their work to be cited with hyperlinks, and whereas users can be counted upon to cite primary and non-primary sources simultaneously without differentiating them, and whereas the only difference between a primary citation and a non-primary citation is the potential for skipped vias when considered across a distributed conversation, and whereas the use of existing specifications is preferred to the creation of redundant systems, and whereas increasing attributes is less severe than increasing nested elements, I propose that good definition and use of rel="cite" will resolve the problem of crediting sources via anchors. Andy Skelton
I see the conclusion as quite the opposite. Because rel="cite" *is* defined in XHTML2 drafts, and microformats allow you add rel values to HTML4/XHTML1 *now*, adopting the same convention makes a lot of sense.
If anything it bolsters the case for rel="cite" (as opposed to some other value like rel="source").
In a relCite microformat, you would define the "cite" value by normatively referencing XHTML2, rather than redefining it (even copy/pasting the definition from the XHTML2 spec -- though one could do so "informatively"), just like in hCard, we define the properties by normatively referencing vCard. Tantek
XHTML 2.0 states that it "should in no way be considered stable, and should not be normatively referenced for any purposes whatsoever." Andy Skelton

Nested cite/anchor tags

rel="cite" / rev="cite"

This could be a way to indicate a citation of linked content, typically web pages (or portions thereof, like blog posts) but inclusive of any kind of resource with a URL. "Cite" is defined as "to quote or refer to as a precedent or authority."

By adding rel="cite" to a hyperlink, an author could indicate that the destination of that hyperlink is an authoritative source or a precedent to the current page. rel="cite" would be used whether an author cites by quotation:

<blockquote>Our liberty depends on the freedom of the
press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.
<a href="http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Thomas_Jefferson" rel="cite">
Thomas Jefferson</a></blockquote>

or by reference only:

<a href="http://example.com/joeschmoe/article/99/" rel="cite">
Joe Schmoe's latest rant</a> is wrong, wrong, wrong...

rel="cite" hyperlinks are intended to be visible links on pages and posts. Note that other markup may be used to indicate citation:

<blockquote cite="http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Thomas_Jefferson">
Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be
limited without being lost.<cite>Thomas Jefferson</cite></blockquote>

but User Agents are not compelled to expose a link to the cited resource. Hyperlinks are preferred by most authors because they afford the user easy access to the cited resource.

citeRel vs. relCite

For basic structure and markup of citations it has been suggested that we use the following:

<!-- relCite example -->
<a rel="cite" href="source.url">source.title</a>

instead of

<!-- citeRel example -->
<cite><a href="source.url">source.title</a></cite>

There are several reasons to prefer the citeRel form over the relCite form of markup:

  1. citeRel uses only existing XHTML elements and values where relCite uses a new rel value.
  2. citeRel is easily extensible without breaking it's existing meaning.

Additional Resources