Microformats 2 and RDFa Collaboration

During the recent schema.org kerfuffle, Tantek Çelik and I found ourselves agreeing with each other on the fundamentals of how a Web vocabulary should be developed. Like any technology standard meant for the world to use, we hoped that it would be developed transparently and scientifically. Tantek asked me to review the new Microformats 2 work and I thought it would be interesting to see what they’ve been up to recently.

I’ve been a contributing member of the Microformats community for some time, having participated in the design work for the hAudio, hVideo, hMedia, hProduct, hRecipe, currency, collection and measurement Microformats, among others. I’ve documented the process, commented on inconsistencies in the community, been critical of the confusing spec-creation steps, raised governance and technical issues, pushed the community to more clearly address patent and copyright concerns as well as admit that the lack of a unified parsing model is holding Microformats back. I have been harsh about how the community was run, but continued to participate because there were a number of redeeming qualities in the Microformats movement.

All of the frustration with the various inconsistencies, the administrators, and lack of progress led to me to take a hiatus from the community. I think many others in the community felt this frustration around the same time, as you can see the discussion average of 125 messages per month drop to an average of 10 per month and stay there to this day. When I took a leave from the Microformats work, I joined the RDFa Working Group at the W3C where I now Chair the group that created RDFa. In 2007, my company was working on expressing music on the Web as structured data and RDFa seemed like a much better way to do it, so we shifted our focus to RDFa and distributed vocabulary development. Fast forward to today and both PaySwarm and MusicBrainz publish all of their data as RDFa. However, with the recent launch of schema.org, an interesting question was pushed into the public view once again: What is the best way to develop a Web vocabulary for structured data in HTML if millions of people are going to depend on it?

The Microformats 2 work attempts to address a number of concerns that have been raised in the community over the past several years. Most of these issues were logged during a period of peak activity in the community, between 2007 and 2009, during the development of the hAudio, hVideo, hMedia, hProduct, collection and measurement Microformats. Here’s a quick breakdown of my initial thoughts on the Microformats 2 work:

The Good

There are a number of really great things proposed for Microformats 2 that could breathe new life into the community.

  • Unified parsing model – Microformats 2 has it – this is one of the best changes to the new direction.
  • Flat set of properties – All Microformats are treated as objects with a flat set of properties. This maps to JSON nicely and is another move in the right direction.
  • Hungarian prefixing – All Microformats 2.0 markup will now have an h-* prefix for the Microformat, a p-* prefix for string properties, a u-* prefix for URLs, and a d-* prefix for datetimes.
  • Vendor extensions. – I hope this catches on – it allows a path toward experimentation which we desperately needed for the PaySwarm work. The Microformats community has a saying, “Pave the cowpaths”. This philosophy effectively boils down to ensuring that standards are rooted in existing practice. However, you can’t pave cowpaths that aren’t there yet. Typically, innovation requires the first cow to start making the cowpath. It would be nice to have an open community that you can innovate within – this could provide that mechanism. Moo.
  • Separation of Syntax from Vocabularies – Tantek mentioned that the Microformats 2 work would separate vocabularies from syntax. I couldn’t find that statement on the page, but I think it would be great to do that. I’ve always believed that the real contribution of the Microformats community to the Web was in the development of well-researched Web vocabularies. We now have syntaxes that are capable of expressing Microformats; RDFa and Microdata. Why do we need yet another syntax? The part of this new Microformats 2 reboot I’m most interested in participating in is the vocabulary part. Specifically, porting all of the Microformats Vocabularies over to RDFa 1.1 Profiles. The markup would be almost exactly the same as what is proposed on the Microformats 2 wiki page (example below).

Meh

Some of the changes to Microformats aren’t really necessary, nor do I think that they will result in stronger uptake of Microformats.

  • Root Class Name Only – Microformats aren’t that difficult to publish. Simplifying them down to one tag will probably not result in much uptake or data that is interesting or helpful.
  • “hcard” instead of “vcard” – Yes, it was a point of confusion. I don’t think it really prevented people from implementing Microformats.

The Bad

Some of the most important things that the Microformats community needs to change are not addressed. I’d like to see them addressed before assuming that new work done in that community will have a lasting impact:

  • The Administrators – One of the strongest criticisms by the community has always been the status of the self-appointed leaders. They do a good job most of the time, but having a mechanism where the community elects the leaders and administrators would get us closer to a meritocracy. Not allowing the community to govern itself shows that you don’t trust the membership of the community. If you don’t trust us, how can we trust you? If there is a “you” and a “them”, then it becomes easy to have a “you versus them” situation. The Microformats community could learn a great deal from the Debian community in this respect.
  • The Process – I had previously complained that it was not very clear what you need to meet each hurdle in the Microformats process. This seems to have been clarified with the new Microformats 2 work. I’m still concerned that too much is left in the hands of the “leaders”. There was a great deal of what I felt was “moving the goalposts” when developing hAudio. The process kept changing. If the process keeps changing, it can mean that all of your hard work may not end up making it to the “official” Microformats standard stage. So, I am suspect of the process if the community has no power over who gets to change the process and when.
  • Open Innovation – How does one innovate in the Microformats community? That is, how do we have an open discussion about the Commerce, Signature and PaySwarm Web vocabularies in the Microformats community? We’re trying to solve a real-world problem – Universal Payment on the Web. We need to have an open discussion about the Web vocabularies used to accomplish this goal. How can we have this discussion in the Microformats community?
  • Collaboration – How can the RDFa community, Microdata folks and the Microformats community work together? I’d really like all of us to work together. I’ve been trying to make this happen for several years now, each attempt met with varied levels of failure. Our continued track record of not reaching out and working with one another on a regular basis is damaging structured data adoption on the Web – and each community feels as if they are blame-less for the current state of affairs. “If only they’d listen to us, we wouldn’t be in this mess!”. Schema.org is just one signal that all of us need to come together and work on a unified way forward.

Working Together

So, how do we collaborate on this? We have added Microformats-like features to RDFa over the past few years because we wanted RDFa 1.1 markup to be just as easy as Microformats markup. This example is used on the Microformats 2 page:

<h1 class="h-card">
 <span class="p-fn">
  <span class="p-given-name">Chris</span>
  <abbr class="p-additional-name">R.</abbr>
  <span class="p-family-name">Messina</span>
 </span>
</h1>

The markup above can be easily expressed in RDFa 1.1, using RDFa Profiles like so:

<h1 typeof="hcard">
 <span property="fn">
  <span property="given-name">Chris</span>
  <abbr property="additional-name">R.</abbr>
  <span property="family-name">Messina</span>
 </span>
</h1>

This is useful to the Microformats 2 work because every RDFa 1.1 compliant parser could easily become a compliant Microformats 2 parser. Food for thought.

Let’s try to work together on this. As a first step, I think that the RDFa community could easily generate RDFa Profiles for Microformats. This would give people the ability to use Microformats either in the Microformats 2 syntax, or in RDFa 1.1 syntax. That would drive further adoption of the Microformats vocabularies – which would be great for both communities. How can we make this happen?

Thanks to DL and DIL for reviewing this post.

14 Comments

Got something to say? Feel free, I want to hear from you! Leave a Comment

  1. Manu,

    Thanks for taking the time to take a look at microformats 2 syntax brainstorm. I very much appreciate your feedback and commentary specific to microformats 2 and have taken to heart your statements like:

    “I couldn’t find that [Separation of Syntax from Vocabularies] statement on the page”

    when there was no statement, it was just an emergent property of the design. Since obviously you were looking for such an explicit statement, that’s good feedback, and now I’ve added that explicitly as one of the advantages to the new syntax.

    It seems you’ve mixed work on a specific microformats project, the microformats 2 syntax, and general feedback about participating in the microformats community. A few suggestions:

    1. It would be quite helpful if you could provide specific feedback. That is, on microformats 2, provide only microformats 2 specific feedback.

    2. Please avoid name-calling. You say:

    “I’d really like all of us to work together. I’ve been trying to make this happen for several years now, each attempt met with varied levels of failure.”

    Name-calling statements like: “The Cabal – One of the strongest criticisms by the community” are *divisive* and work *against* your self-stated goals of working together. If you have a specific issue to raise, raise it, and put your name on it. Please avoid weasel worded phrasings like “by the community”.

    3. Please focus on technology and science, and not bureaucracy. You state: “a mechanism where the community elects the leaders and administrators would get us closer to a meritocracy”. I nor any of the other editors of microformats (excepting perhaps yourself) have any desire to spend time on bureaucracy. The microformats community is a meritocracy, those that show-up and provide constructive community-positive contributions build respect within the community. Those that show-up and are either destructive, or just rant, or provide negative or noise contributions, or selfishly overwhelm the mailing lists are eventually banned. Every open community has to filter against poisonous people in this way, and this isn’t just me saying it, this is based on lessons learned in open source communities: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4216011961522818645. You reference the “Debian community” – the microformats community operates a lot more like the Mozilla community and projects. It’s not a democracy and never will be. There are committers, module owners, etc. and all of that is based on technical merit and community-positive behavior – not elections. Showing up to a community and asking it to change for your political preferences is not likely to be very succesful – with any community.

    I’d like to see open scientific collaboration across all interested communities and people who are able to participate in a community-positive manner. For that to happen, the name-calling has to stop.

    So I am asking you, both as a community leader to another community leader, and on a personal level, please drop the name-calling so we can focus on productive efforts.

    Sincerely,

    Tantek Çelik

  2. ManuSporny says: (Author)

    Hi Tantek,

    First, an apology – I didn’t mean to “name call”. I apologize for any hurt feelings that may have caused. :)

    When I wrote “The Cabal”, I was using the moniker that was commonly used in the community to refer to the administrators of the Microformats community. In hindsight, I can see how you would be sensitive to this term and I have since replaced the term in the article to “The Administrators”. I will try to use this term going forward. Similarly, I would ask that you not use terms like “weasel worded” as that holds negative connotations as well. I used the term “the community” because I genuinely believe, after having spoken with a number of people in the community, that the self-appointed administrators jumping in and asserting a set of rights not held by the rest of the community created a rift in the community. I understand that you must cull poisonous people from a community, but that was never in question. What was in question was the methods utilized. Perhaps if you would run a poll in the community to get their feeling about how the administrators are appointed and how the process is managed, both of us would be able to have some hard data on this facet of the Microformats community.

    I’m concerned about Microformats governance and continue to be concerned about governance because it affected the technical work on hAudio. I can’t stand bureaucracy either. I would love to spend most of the time just doing the technical work. At times, the W3C Process is incredibly frustrating. However, I’ve found the Microformats process to be even more frustrating because the rules kept changing. At least the W3C Process is fairly stable and has a clear path from Draft to REC. The Administrators seem to have addressed that in Microformats 2, so that is certainly a step in a positive direction.

    It seems you’ve mixed work on a specific microformats project, the microformats 2 syntax, and general feedback about participating in the microformats community.

    Hmm, that’s because I was under the mistaken impression that Microformats 2 was a reboot of community governance, syntax, and how vocabularies are designed in the community. I was under this impression because the following things were changed: The Process, The Syntax, and The Vocabularies. So, I think I understand what Microformats 2 is attempting to do a bit more, but the details are now fuzzy.

    Now, let’s push all of the governance and process issues to the side and focus more on the technical work.

    Not speaking for the community, would you be open to having an RDFa 1.1 profile that would allow all Microformats 2 vocabularies to be used in RDFa 1.1 syntax, as demonstrated above and now in the Microformats 2 FAQ? Having seen the markup and understanding what is possible with RDFa 1.1, I think that this would be a great pilot project for the two communities to start working together more closely. It would also help kick-start the Microformats 2 work using a solid set of parsers. What do you think?

  3. Thanks for the follow-up Manu, and I appreciate the steps you’re taking to participate positively.

    1. To be clear, the phrase “weasel wording” is literally re-used from Wikipedia community per:

    https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style_%28words_to_watch%29#Unsupported_attributions

    Since the microformats community is also wiki-centric, it makes sense to to re-use existing wikipedia conventions. Alternative suggestions welcome.

    2. Your phrase “self-appointed administrators” is inaccurate.

    The microformats admins started as the microformats founders, the people that concieved microformats and created microformats.org. This is the same as in nearly any open source project, and frankly, even W3C – where the creator of HTML/HTTP/URL, Tim Berners-Lee, is the Director of the W3C. The creators of a project tend to also be the module owners, the committers etc. This is how open source and open standards communities tend to work.

    Further microformats admins were nominated by existing admins. This is described in the admin FAQ:

    http://microformats.org/wiki/admin-faq

    3. If you have suggestions for better methods for culling of poisonous people from a community, I am very open to hearing them. Please provide URLs to successful examples of doing so in other communities.

    4. The microformats process is imperfect and is evolving. You said you “found the Microformats process to be even more frustrating because the rules kept changing” – a lot of that was due to your input and finding flaws! It’s not perfect by any means and your work in the community certainly helped point out some holes which at least some of were addressed in response. I don’t think it is reasonable to complain about something having issues, and then also complain that it changes (to address those issues!).

    You also said “At least the W3C Process is fairly stable and has a clear path from Draft to REC.” – The W3C process similarly evolved over many years. You’re fairly new to W3C so you’ve missed years of bigger changes in W3C process (which has been around a lot longer that the microformats process). I hope the W3C process continues to evolve to fix problems such as “Last Call” not ever really meaning last call (I’ve pointed this out directly to W3C staff who work on the process and am confident they are looking at such problems and hopeful that we’ll see change and evolution there too).

    5. There are a lots of changes happening at microformats.org in response to many different issues, that doesn’t mean the changes are all part of one thing, no different than various wikipedia pages changing around the same time having any relation.

    You said “the following things were changed: The Process, The Syntax, and The Vocabularies”.

    The process changes were brainstorms that I personally (not “the admins”, to be clear) proposed in response to issues that you and others have raised about how does a draft become a specification etc. The brainstorms were reviewed by the community (wiki, email, in-person microformats dinners) and based on their feedback I edited and incorporated additional steps in the process (to define a path to a microformats spec level equivalent of W3C Recommendation).

    The microformats 2 syntax is a brainstorm proposal in progress and not even a spec yet, though based on your and others’ positive feedback, and the fact that the schema.org creators didn’t even know about it based on their assumptions about microformats (despite microformats 2 being publicly presented and widely discussed at a SXSW presentation in March), it may be time for me to write it into a brainstorming draft specification.

    There hasn’t been any big change to microformats vocabularies yet so I’m not sure where you got that idea. The vocabulary-independent microformats 2 syntax would enable more orthogonal and simpler vocabulary development but none have been developed in that way yet.

    6. Regarding projects, my priority in the microformats community now is to work on iterating on microformats 2, writing up the microformats 2 processing model, and hopefully using that to encourage syntax-independent vocabulary development which I believe there is a strong interest in.

    I don’t know what you mean by a “RDFa 1.1 profile”. If you’d like to work on RDFa 1.1 and microformats 2 related projects, I encourage you take the first steps yourself (just like any open source project), openly, and encourage others to participate. If others find it of interest, I’m sure they’ll participate.

    In practice, just like in open source, there is no way to “make” communities work on something or another. Just constructively pursue what seems most important to you, and be open to contributions. Thanks.

  4. Andy Mabbett says:

    Well put, Manu. I see no “weasel words”, or name calling, by you. You are quite correct that rule changes, often arbitrary and retrospective were made.

    Perhaps we could be told how many contributors (excluding mere spammers, of course) have been banned, and the reasons in each case? Noting, of course, that the supposed and undocumented (at least last time I looked) grounds for doing so are apparently nothing like those on Wikipedia, nor the W3C’s.

  5. John Foliot says:

    I really wasn’t going to weigh in here, as it only marginally relates to Manu’s posting. However, via twitter Manu encouraged me to share my thoughts, so here goes:

    I have concerns about some of the ideas that Tantek (a friend, whom I respect immensely) advocates here with regard to governance issues and the notion of community built standards. While I whole-heartedly support the ideal of standards evolving as a community driven process, there is a problem when a segment of that community is silenced, ignored or marginalized.

    Yes, I am talking about the “accessibility community”, and no, I am not speaking about the microformats community; rather that other big ol’ autocracy on the block – the WHATWG. For with the WHATWG we can see first-hand what happens when “final decisions” rest with an extremely small group of people (editor for life Ian Hickson), and what happens when some members of the larger community are dismissed by “The Administrators” either through lack of caring, lack of hearing or lack of understanding. No matter the reason however, in an autocracy those marginalized in the community have no recourse.

    Tantek wrote:

    The microformats admins started as the microformats founders, the people that conceived microformats and created microformats.org. This is the same as in nearly any open source project, and frankly, even W3C – where the creator of HTML/HTTP/URL, Tim Berners-Lee, is the Director of the W3C.

    True enough. However, through time, maturity and input from a very large and diverse community that goes beyond simply the Engineer Elite, rules, process and a series of checks and balances have emerged to ensure that voices outside of the ‘in-crowd’ receive a fair and unbiased airing and review. This is an important point to consider: in the early days of any emergent “movement” – whether an Open Source project or a Community Advocacy group – in those early days a cohesion of thought, a single focused mind-set, is crucial for the growth of the embryonic project. But there also reaches a point where a lack of diversity can inhibit growth of that same project. I believe the expression is “not seeing the forest for the trees”.

    Standards, especially those that have an international scope and reach are very different than other “Open Source” projects; sure, they might start out in a similar fashion, where a small group of concerned folks with a common itch to scratch band together for a common goal, but at some point Standards have to become, well standard. Open Source projects (Linux for example) can happily fork and support an entire eco-system of near identical but-for-a-minor-difference siblings – in fact that kind of forking can actually be beneficial. For a Standard however, once forked the Standard is no longer a Standard – oh, it can remain a specification, but a competing specification to others in the market, complete with the risk of missing inter-operability. For this reason, creating a Standard, at least one for the web, is significantly more complex than simply drafting a specification, and the cost of failing is significantly greater.

    The cost of such a bureaucracy is often high, and today’s Engineer Elite, used to rapid change and an Agile Development environment, often have a hard time dealing with the slow ploddings of bureaucracy. It’s much simpler to anoint a person “Captain” and let them make the final decisions. When your numbers are small and everyone is wearing the same team colors, this makes sense and works well, it’s poject management 101. Getting a few thousand web-focused engineers to agree to some technical specifications is no mean feat, but it is far from reaching a goal that supports the needs of communities far greater than those few thousand engineers. This is where diversity comes in, and a need for a bureaucracy to ensure that those diverse voices are heard, and their concerns properly addressed.

    Manu’s concerns about the administration and process of growing and improving Microformats is itself a micro-view of the problems faced by the larger growth of HTML, and the division between WHATWG and W3C. Anyone who knows me already knows I am a staunch advocate of the W3C process, for it is within that process that an already marginalized community*, the one I care about and advocate for, is afforded the respect and opportunity to bring forward their needs (often poorly explained in engineering terms, as those affected are not engineers, they are affected users). But those needs, and the owners’ ideas of how to address those needs, are given a fair hearing. They are not cavalierly dismissed by the King as “cargo-cult” actions, simply because the autocracy has decided that they know better. That lack of maturity is the Achilles heel of the WHATWG.

    (* I know Tantek has issues with the “weasel word” of “the community” – so I have no issue with attaching my name to this statement even though I am not “disabled” beyond starting to lose my hearing and fading eyesight – the travails of age. But I am not the only person who has these concerns, just one of the louder ones, and Tantek knows as well as I do the names of others, many themselves with disabilities, who are part of that same “community”. However, I will not name names out of respect for those others – it is not my role to single them out, I will leave it for them to self-identify.)

    Tantek wrote:

    Please focus on technology and science, and not bureaucracy. You state: “a mechanism where the community elects the leaders and administrators would get us closer to a meritocracy”. I nor any of the other editors of microformats (excepting perhaps yourself) have any desire to spend time on bureaucracy.

    Tantek, as a friend and fellow traveler, I urge you and your administrators to think about bureaucracy, and on how to ensure that this effort you are dedicated to does not fall prey to the same problem the WHATWG now faces – a lack of diversity and a monolithic view of “the one true way” that chooses to ignore and dismiss those who lack a certain political clout, simply because they are not part of the in-crowd. It might just make the difference between real success and a good idea that almost went the distance.

  6. John Foliot says:

    Addendum:
    In an effort to avoid “broken telephone” syndrome I would like to clarify a comment made in my earlier posting with regard to the “Cargo-cult” comment. It is in reference to a comment made in the WHATWG version of HTML, found at http://www.whatwg.org/specs/web-apps/current-work/multipage/introduction.html#how-do-the-whatwg-and-w3c-specifications-differ? where The Editor writes: “The W3C HTML specification is missing a clause that requires conformance checkers to discourage cargo-cult accessibility authoring because of a working group chair decision from May 2011.” (Bullet point 11).

    (Manu and I have been having problems with this link in the blog, so I figured I’d be less obtuse and just say it out loud)

  7. karl says:

    Disclaimer: I have a scientific background.

    The big issue with always claiming to use science for working on technology often means that you probably don’t. Because the object of science is not that. There are many ways of researching, pushing ideas, and be part of a process of scientific research (see I didn’t use science). People have a tendency to mix up Pop science (or if you prefer geeks doing star trek sciences seriously) and scientific research, specifically when they tie to the meaningless « real life » expression.

    The social contract is a lot more interesting in terms of adopting and adjusting the technologies we have developed. Technology indeed evolves in a universe of data, findings, etc. but at the end of the day when human starts using it, the principles on which the technology is based on are « weak in the knees. » There are plenty of scenarios in the society which are not logical but necessary in the way our societies work… yes imperfectly. Technology is reduced, constrained, used in ways which seems evil for most engineers, but that is part of what the society is. The same way we can properly use grammar and vocabulary to strictly communicate an idea, humans use it also for poetry, fictions, etc, and breaking the rules of grammar for that specific purpose. We seal our desires in our expressions.

    Finding the right balance is part of the game. Absolute logic doesn’t work, specifically in a large human crowd with different ideas, cultures, needs, etc. A process is a social agreement. The W3C Process has always evolved and will continue to evolve, the thickness or the slow pace of its evolution might be a (frustrating) feature but a useful one. It dampened the shock and take into account a larger spectrum of opinions.

  8. John wrote:

    Tantek, as a friend and fellow traveler, I urge you and your administrators to think about bureaucracy, and on how to ensure that this effort you are dedicated to does not fall prey to the same problem the WHATWG now faces – a lack of diversity and a monolithic view of “the one true way” that chooses to ignore and dismiss those who lack a certain political clout, simply because they are not part of the in-crowd.

    John,

    As you and I have discussed this and other issues several times and in person, I take your comments to heart, and in particular I very much appreciate the tone and respect in which you communicate them. You set an excellent constructive example.

    One of the approaches that’s being taken (as much as I myself and other admins can set a tone) in the microformats community is to attempt to capture some of the *human* needs of the few, or as you put it the “those who lack a certain political clout, simply because they are not part of the in-crowd”, in principles and process for development.

    That is, rather than saddle “those who lack a certain political clout” with bureaucratic responsibility, I for one as a community leader prefer to (iteratively) listen to their human needs and implement them on a more fundamental level (principles & process), so that everyone involved with the effort takes such needs into account, just as a matter of doing the work. This doesn’t mean that we’ll always get everything right, but I do believe it means that we can do more things right for a more diverse set of human needs, both more often and more efficiently than requiring knock-down drag-out fights and permathreads as you and I have both seen in the W3C HTML WG.

    While not perfect, I do believe such an approach (fundamentally altering the culture of a community) can be overall more effective to meeting such human needs over the long run, than requiring “those who lack a certain political clout” to show up to fight every single time. This is true for any set of folks who is too busy or otherwise lacks the time/depth to participate, whether accessibility related, internationalization, or just everyday web designers and authors who have to use this technology but who are too busy with professional work to bother with political or bureaucratic processes (why openly calling for public feedback is necessary but insufficient).

    I think it’s up to all of us, as both community leaders and participants in the development of technologies, to take special care to document *human* needs (as distinct from odd/intricate technological or machine or informational edge case needs) and address them in the technologies we work on and develop.

    John, I think we do agree greatly in principles and values/needs, but may have different approaches to addressing them. I think that’s ok. We need to allow for people and groups to try many different structures for addressing such needs. Consider them all experiments from which we can all learn from and use to iterate and improve each others’ processes and methods.

    John wrote:

    It might just make the difference between real success and a good idea that almost went the distance.

    microformats have been incredibly successful by any measure – microformats vocabularies and are the most commonly used (and useful) method of real-world semantic markup on the web beyond HTML itself (per data presented by Google at last year’s SemTech conference). microformats.org just celebrated it’s 6th birthday 2 days ago which I think is quite a “distance” that we’ve persisted.

    I want to amend your concluding statement slightly.

    It’s not just the difference between almost going the distance and “real success”. “real success” is not good enough.

    We need to always be asking, how can we make this technology better in ways that meet the human needs of more people?

    Regardless of how successful the technology might be, we can and always should strive to make it better for humans. This is one of the reasons the description for microformats starts with and continues to be:

    “Designed for humans first and machines second”

    http://microformats.org/about
    (while there’s much on that page that could use some updating, we’re sticking with “for humans first”, at least as long as I have a say in it :)

    Thanks,

    Tantek

  9. John Foliot says:

    Hi Tantek,

    Thanks for the kind words – it is indeed true we’ve discussed these issues in the past, and because you have always listened with an open mind, and have shown respect to the ideal of debate, I am only too happy to pay you that same respect back – I believe as I know you do, that open, frank and spirited dialog allows for the larger community to also engage and think through issues for themselves, and we ALL are winners when that succeeds.

    You wrote:

    I for one as a community leader prefer to (iteratively) listen to their human needs and implement them on a more fundamental level (principles & process), so that everyone involved with the effort takes such needs into account, just as a matter of doing the work.

    As I noted previously, this works well when a project is young. You are wise, you are smart (not always the same thing), and you have a sense of humanity about you that means that this is likely working today in the current microformats community (one which I follow but sadly lack the time to participate in more fully) – although comments in this thread do indicate a sense of frustration has existed in the past around ‘moving goal-posts’ and ‘rules’.

    This doesn’t mean that we’ll always get everything right, but I do believe it means that we can do more things right for a more diverse set of human needs, both more often and more efficiently than requiring knock-down drag-out fights and permathreads as you and I have both seen in the W3C HTML WG.

    Tantek, I share your sense of frustration that the “senate” that is the W3C can become bogged down in what often seems intractable perma-threads. But the alternative, an imposing of a decision based on might alone (we are the WHATWG browser vendors, what we say goes) cannot be better. The current leader of the WHATWG autocracy lacks your wisdom, your sense of humanity, your understanding – sadly, while smart beyond belief (yes, genius) he cannot see that binary black and white alone is also flawed, he cannot fathom what Karl said when he wrote “Technology is reduced, constrained, used in ways which seems evil for most engineers” (hixie has specifically stated “DRM is Evil” – not to take this off on another tangent). A certain amount of autocracy might work today within the microformats community, but that is because you are the autocrat.

    However, what happens when Tantek retires? We are all human, and at some point you are going to reach a stage where you will no longer be in a position to be the wise and benevolent King – then what? History and literature are full of cautionary tales of legacies gone wrong, and most of our current political democracies arose from exactly those kinds of scenarios – heck we need not look any further than today’s headlines to see that happening again.

    I think everyone knows and agrees that microformats would not exist today in the form we know them without your careful, deliberate and even firm guidance. You have been a good father, and I think you have prepared the child well. But as an actual father to 2 daughters now in their 20′s, I can tell you first-hand that at some point you too will need to let go, to let what you have borne have a life and an existence of its own – you will not be able to be there to provide the final guidance and direction every time, and it will be at that point that your “baby” may go off the rails. Ensuring that the evolution and growth of micoroformats has strong internal processes, checks and balances in place now allows the ideal to continue to exist without depending on a single (or extremely small) point of success or failure.

    Tantek, I celebrate and salute microformat’s 6th anniversary, and congratulate you personally for being so instrumental in it getting that far. As a friend i will back your efforts all the way, but I hope you will reflect on microformats after Tantek, and choose wisely there as well.

  10. fireh says:

    Hi, i’m a front-end developer from south-east asia and i’ve just started learning about these standards on how to represent my personal information through html.

    Since drupal7 chose to use RDFa, i thought it would be easier on my end if i chose it too, however i found some differences that doesn’t fit my image of HTML5.
    First assumption is that i think HTML5 no longer want to use DTD hence the simple <!DOCTYPE html>.
    Second would be that i think i’ve read that the definition of extension in html5 is one that uses data- attribute, and it mustn’t introduce new attributes or even elements.

    Both RDFa and microdata introduce new attributes, and i think RDFa is going to also include DTD.
    I have this feeling that both is not in the same spirit as HTML5, and would be reluctant to embrace them.
    So that would leave just microformats if they choose to use data- attribute.

    It’s just my assumption….
    Pardon my limited vocabs :3

    fireh.

    • ManuSporny says: (Author)

      First assumption is that i think HTML5 no longer want to use DTD hence the simple <!DOCTYPE html>

      HTML5+RDFa does not require a DTD and works with the simple &lt!DOCTYPE html> declaration – so no problems there.

      Second would be that i think i’ve read that the definition of extension in html5 is one that uses data- attribute, and it mustn’t introduce new attributes or even elements.

      The data-*attributes are used for in-page data that is required by the web page JavaScript code. The Microdata and RDFa attributes are used for page data that the web author intends to be of use to the rest of the Web. For example, for SEO purposes or data export purposes. The data-* attributes and the Microdata/RDFa attributes are meant for two different purposes.

      Both RDFa and microdata introduce new attributes, and i think RDFa is going to also include DTD. I have this feeling that both is not in the same spirit as HTML5, and would be reluctant to embrace them. So that would leave just microformats if they choose to use data- attribute.

      The people that are working on the HTML5 specification and the Microdata specification and the RDFa specification have contact with one another – so the three technologies are not being developed in a vacuum. Both Microdata and RDFa are designed to work with HTML5. There is currently no plan for Microformats to re-use the data-* attributes (I’m also a participant in that community).

      The bottom line is that I don’t think your assumptions about RDFa and Microdata are correct. :) Both structured data syntaxes are designed to work with HTML5. RDFa does have a DTD for HTML4 and XHTML1, but one isn’t required for HTML5. The only reason you need a DTD is in case you want to validate your document. At the moment, the data-* attributes have nothing to do with the problem space that Microdata and RDFa are attempting to address.

      I hope that answers your questions – you should be able to use either Microdata or RDFa just fine in HTML5. :)

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