December 13, 2005

Structured Blogging and Microformats

Decentralization, Innovation, Semantic Web By: ams

This afternoon, PubSub and Broadband Mechanics are announcing a “structured blogging initiative” at the Syndicate conference. The press release even includes a quote in support from us here at CommerceNet:

CommerceNet believes strongly in the vision of bootstrapping a more intelligent Web by embedding semi-structured information with easy-to-author techniques like microformats. Through our own research in developing tools for finding, sharing, indexing, and broadcasting microformatted data, we appreciate the challenges these companies have overcome to offer tools that will interoperate as widely as possible. We applaud their recent decision to support the microformats.org community in all of the core areas where commonly accepted schemas already exist, such as calendar entries, contact information, and reviews.

Given that we’re strong supporters of microformats.org, why did we take this stand? First and foremost, for the reasons stated above: because they’re committing to shipping tools that make it easier to produce microcontent using microformats. Even if they were supporting any number of other formats, we’d be glad to welcome any new implementations to the fold.

Of course, we’d prefer to minimize any confusion, too. Many other implementations exist for microformats and are copiously documented and discussed in public forums at microformats.org. Clearly, the (re-)launch of a public .org site titled StructuredBlogging with aspirations to non-profit status of its own could lead to perceptions that there’s some sort of “vs.” battle going on.

That might even have been true, a few months ago when the idea-of-structured-blogging was still conflated with a debatable proposal for structured-blogging-the-format that hid chunks of isolated XML within otherwise readable documents using a <SCRIPT> tag. The major news here today that we’d like to celebrate is that they’re in favor of using microformats for all of their core, commonly-used schemas like reviews, events, and lists.

Now, is the old format still in their code tree when you grab their alpha plugin? Sure, and there will always be room for developers who really, really want to cons up their own schema out of thin air. The microformats-rest mailing list is grappling with the same problem, focusing on XOXO as a solution for now.

The more intriguing implication of their work at StructuredBlogging.org is their microcontent description (MCD) format — even if it’s all hReview at the bottom, there’s room for custom UIs for reviewing movies that are different from reviewing restaurants, and we’ll see if that’s where these explorations lead to…

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