[whatwg] "Just create a Microformat for it" - thoughts on micro-data topic

Manu Sporny msporny at digitalbazaar.com
Wed May 6 08:58:54 PDT 2009

Ian Hickson wrote:
>> One organization for *all* topics, ever?
> I don't think that would really scale. Even for major languages, like 
> HTML, we haven't found a single organisation to be a successful model.

Then you, Ben, and I agree on this particular point:

In order for semantic/micro-data markup to scale well, we must ensure
that distributed vocabulary development, publishing and re-use is a
cornerstone of the solution.

> Manu's list didn't mention anything about a single organisation

Then I wasn't clear enough - I meant that the single organization was
the Microformats community and that the list works for that particular
community, but is not guaranteed to work for all communities.

You could say that the "single community" could be the W3C or WHATWG -
pushing vocabulary standardization solely through any one of these
organizations would be the wrong solution, therefore we should be
cognizant of that in this micro-data discussion.

> Surely all of the above apply equally to any RDFa vocabulary just as it 
> would to _any_ vocabularly, regardless of the underlying syntax?

Not necessarily...

> 6: Justifying your design is a key part of any language design effort 
> also. Not doing this would lead to a language or vocabulary with 
> unnecessary parts, making it harder to use.

What happens when the people you're justifying your design to are the
gatekeepers? What happens when they don't understand the problem you're
attempting to solve? Or they disagree with you on a philosophical level?
Or they have some sort of political reason to not allow your vocabulary
to see the light of day (think large multi-national vs. little guy)? In
the Microformats community, this stage, especially if one of the
Microformat founders disagrees with your stance, can kill a vocabulary.

> 7: With any language, part of designing the vocabulary is defining how to 
> process content that uses it.

Not if there are clear parsing rules and it's easy to separate the
vocabulary from the parsing rules. This should be a requirement for the
micro-data solution:

Separation of concerns between the markup used to express the micro-data
(the HTML markup) and the vocabularies used to express the semantics
(the micro-data vocabularies).

> 9: The most important practical test of a language is the test of 
> deployment. Getting feedback and writing code is naturally part of writing 
> a format.

This statement is vague, so I'm elaborating a bit to cover the possible
readings of this statement:

Writing markup code (ie: HTML) should be a natural part of writing a
semantic vocabulary meant to be embedded in HTML.

Writing parser code (ie: Python, Perl, Ruby, C, etc.) should not be a
natural part of writing a semantic vocabulary - they wholly different
disciplines. Microformats require you to write both markup code and
parser code by design.

> As far as I can tell, the steps above are just the steps one would take 
> for designing any format, language, or vocabulary. Are you saying that 
> creating an RDF vocabulary _doesn't_ involve these steps? How is an RDF 
> vocabulary defined if not using these steps?

I don't believe that Ben is saying that at all - those steps are best
practices and apply generally to most communities. However, they do not
work for all communities and they do not work well when they are
transformed from best practices to a requirement that all vocabularies
must meet in order to be published.

-- manu

Manu Sporny
President/CEO - Digital Bazaar, Inc.
blog: A Collaborative Distribution Model for Music

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