Posts Tagged ‘shelley powers’

The Week of Microdata

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

It’s been a really busy week for microdata. So busy that I haven’t personally had a chance to read up on all the details of the various announcements. That won’t stop me from trying to summarize it all for you, though.

First, Ian Hickson (HTML5 editor, Google employee, cat lover) finally made a concrete move on the long-simmering microdata in HTML5 issue. Instead of backing either Microformats (which works in HTML5 as-is due to its methodology) or RDFa (which Ian seems to be stating is a poor solution to the use cases it’s made to address), he decided to make his own new microdata syntax “based on RDFa”. I’ll leave it to the audience to determine whether this is a side-effect of the WhatWG’s NIH mentality or whether it’s genuinely a better tool than RDFa. Here’s Ian’s WhatWG annoucement, and here’s the new section in the HTML5 draft. For another perspective on it, the always fiery Shelley Powers gives us her two cents (adjusting for inflation) on the matter.

You would think a move like this might spell certain doom (cue dramatic music) for RDFa’s future in HTML5. However, at the same time Ian is trying to move us away from RDFa, his company makes a very concrete move towards adopting it. Google, during their big Searchology event, introduced Rich Snippets, wherein webmasters marking up relevant data in either RDFa or Microformats will have the possibility of Google making extra use of that information when their site is displayed in search results. Here’s the official Google blog post about the topic, including a delicious FAQ.

I’m not trying to be snide here, but if Ian’s own company is supporting RDFa extraction, as well as Yahoo’s Search Monkey, there’s little reason to believe that RDFa won’t somehow get adopted into HTML5.

In case Google’s Searchology event took up all your attention, on the same day the Microformats community made an annoucement about officially adopting the value-class pattern. Here’s their news post about the topic. If you’re already using Microformats, they suggest you get busy updating your syntax. If you don’t, this might be a good jumping point to look into what Microformats can offer your site.

If you’ve somehow gotten this far in the post without knowing what microdata is, I’d suggest you take a look at both the RDFa and Microformats websites. Marking up data so it’s both human-readable and machine-readable is an important step towards the semantic web, which Google’s recent annoucements have indicated they’re supporting as we move forward. So dig in, and see what use you can make of either solution in your own websites. Also feel free to check out Sam Ruby’s recent microdata blog post about the recent developments.

Comic Update: HTML5 Manners

Monday, May 4th, 2009

I’m going to lay out a chronology of prior events for you all so that today’s comic has a context other than the poor movie experience that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine (I really wanted to love that movie.)

Chris Wilson (W3C HTML WG co-chair and Microsoft employee) posted an e-mail to a HTML5 discussion that made reference to the “W3C HTML5 Spec”.

Mark Pilgrim (Google employee and WHATWG Blog author) in the WHATWG IRC channel then implies that HTML WG co-chair Sam Ruby would have been attempting to be divisive had he written that e-mail, but since it came from the other chair, Chris, he was in fact being stupid.

Shelley Powers (computer book author, software developer and technology architect) expresses utter frustration in a blog post about the future of HTML5 by pointing out this incident and many others that indicates a “Hatfield-McCoy feud” (in her words) between the W3C and WhatWG that is miring the whole process down. Gems in her post include an IRC discussion (starts here, ends here) between HTML5 editor Ian Hickson and Microformats champion Tantek Celik where Ian shows his bias in the microdata issue (read that: whether to include RDFa in HTML5) by asking Tantek to vet the use-case submissions. The “vetting” quickly devolves to the pair saying “Use microformats for everything” or if such a situation isn’t possible, to simply create a custom microformat for your own use.

Yes, that’s it, let’s make dozens of one-shot formats to solve the many microdata issues we’ll doubtlessly be facing in the next several years. That can’t possibly create any sort of data-harvesting compatibility issues. If I can see the shortsightedness of this issue (and I fail to wear coats on cloudy days because “it’s not raining yet”) then you can bet this isn’t a tenable, long-term solution.

They take some time to attack Creative Commons while they’re at it.

These aren’t the only times these sort of offensive public conversations have occurred, where WhatWG members have publicly derided, insulted or challenged the intelligence of the individuals they’re politely talking to in other conversations about topics they’re mutually involved in (such as HTML5). Mr. Last Week in HTML5 is a great (albeit foul-mouthed and somewhat spiteful) source of links to these conversations occurring all the time.

Ian responded to Shelley’s post, taking umbrage (as Shelley put it) at her “insulting accusation”. Shelley’s response cut to the core of the matter, exposing the main issue at hand here, and one that needs some serious addressing. In her words: “Don’t you get it? Don’t you see what Last Week in HTML5 is trying to demonstrate? You talk respect in my comments, or Sam’s comments, and elsewhere, but you show disrespect to me, to Sam, to others, in the IRC, and it completely undermines everything that you do.

I can’t state it better. These people aren’t average developers trading insults about trivial code snippets on small-scale projects. These are industry movers-and-shakers who are supposed to be working together to help create the standards that will define how we use HTML and other web technologies for years to come. I expect professional disagreement to occur (I’d be worried and concerned if that didn’t happen). But to start insulting one another personally in a public discussion (or frankly, privately) is shameful to the entire process and the entire community that is depending on them to do a good job.

Shame on you, sirs.

I’ll leave you with the following quotes from this IRC discussion including Doug Schepers, Ian Hickson, and a person named ‘roc’ (I don’t know his real name) [edit: As I've been informed in the comments, roc is Mozilla's Robert O'Callahan]:

shepazutoo (Doug): wow, Hixie, “contradicting other specs has never stopped the SVGWG before” (q.v. xlink, css, etc)… first, those were almost certainly mistakes rather than purposeful contradictions, and second, you’re acting like the current SVG WG is the same set of companies and individuals that wrote the SVG 1.1 spec, which you know to be false… can you please drop the political histrionics? we’re acting in good faith to correct some past errors, and to work with other WGs and with browser vendors to make all the specs align usefully

Hixie (Ian): i think you may have missed the smiley

roc (Robert): a smiley is not a “get out of jail free card” to be annoying