Micforormats: Yay or Nay?

This is a repost of my response to a question on UWebD list, but since the list doesn’t have publicly available archives, I thought it would be valuable to post this here.

In my opinion, marking up content with microformats falls right in the stride of any Web standards-aware developer, because the reasoning behind microformats is exactly the same as the reasoning behind supporting Web standards.

You don’t support Web standards to get a W3C badge or earn respect of colleagues. Even further, you don’t support standards to improve accessibility (although accessibility plays into standards). You support standards because you want your content to be correctly interpreted by the widest audience possible.

And since interpretation of content relies on semantics of markup, the notion of semantic markup plays an important role in this goal. Microformats are but a way of extending semantics of HTML in a standards-compliant fashion, through a well-thought-out process.

Even if you aren’t a Web standards believer just yet, you should use microformats in the context of search engine optimization. I believe… strike that, I know that Technorati’s microformats search, released a few weeks ago, is the tipping point for widespread adoption of microformats crawling by search engines.

Rather than relying on obscure and fuzzy techniques of determining the purpose of content, the capability to accurately and cheaply extract specific types of information (such as contact info, event info, reviews, etc.) it’s a no-brainer value proposition.

Besides, microformats are very easy to add to the page. I did this at a couple of my presentations — ask the audience to give me a page and convert contact information into a hCard within minutes.

Now, speaking of the big boys. Who’s on first? Well, Yahoo! Although Bill Gates did mumble “we need microformats“, reacting to O’Reilly’s pressure at Mix’06, it is Yahoo! Local beta that went live yesterday, featuring over 17 million pieces of microformatted content.

When we started this a year ago, this was just a crazy idea. Now it’s becoming clear that it’s something that might just make the Web a better place.

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BarCamp Birmingham: Unconferencing the Magic City

Today we had our first meeting, dedicated to planning a Barcamp in Birmingham. What’a Barcamp? Noo, it’s not camping out in a bar, although that seems like an intriguing idea in itself. Barcamp is a conference, powered by participants, rather than organizers. But don’t let me put any more syllables in the horse’s mouth. The first paragraph at barcamp.org explains it pretty well:

BarCamp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share
and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with
discussions, demos, and interaction from attendees.

This Barcamp thing has been taking the world by storm. From Paris to Houston, from Amsterdam to Raleigh-Durham, these fiery nerd commotions are popping up all over the place.

Well, why not Birmingham? True, some of my colleages act surprised (thankfully, in jest) that there are actually “internets” in Alabama, and it takes special nudging to get goodstorm.org to officially recognize Alabama as a State-side territory. But in all seriousness, Birmingham is crawling with technolgists, talent, and raw creative power. That’s what comes with being a cultural and technology center, you know.

The first planning meeting went very well. A bunch of great ideas were generated and I think we quickly reached the point of realization that this may actually work. With some elbow grease, initiative and the ever-present spirit of collaboration, we are really going to do this!

There are still lots of unanswered questions, and very little is set in stone. So, if you’re interested, jump right in! Come on over and help accomplish something beautiful. Not for money or hidden agenda — for karma. Read the barcamp basics, add yourself to the list of campers, or get on the planning wagon. Join the mailing list. BarCampBirmingham needs you.

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Microformats in Alabama

Did a talk at IPSA today on Microformats (slides are online for those interested). I think it went well. It was a bit odd that people didn’t ask many questions, but maybe this was due to the fact that I ran over the time limit just a tad. The presentation is a quick remix of Tantek‘s SXSW and W3C Technical Plenary talks, coated generously in my handwaving and sprinkled with hCalendar demo of Capital University home page.

Folks at DAXKO did a great job of hosting the gathering, and gave us the tour of facilities after the presentation. The have awesome office space and a very healthy feel to the environment — in both mental and physical aspects.