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Whatever happened to microformats?

Whatever happened to microformats?

I was just reminded recently of how excited I was to learn about the potential of microformats, semantic data that is readable by both humans and machines. But I haven't heard anything about them in years. Have they been overtaken by more social-oriented data such as Activity Streams?

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13 comments

LOL, I was wondering this same thing  recently.

I think that what happened is that to a certain degree, they succeeded! If you install http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operator_%28extension%29 in Firefox and look at websites, you'll see that microformats and xHTML pervade many, many sites (even this one!).

From what I understand, despite this widespread adoption, mf became a de facto standard, and was never picked up by W3C or other standards groups. W3C instead seems to have pursued RDFa in XHTML  http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml-rdfa-primer/   http://www.w3.org/TR/rdfa-syntax/ and I think this is where what we all know as "microformats" ended up.

See arguments from Evan Prodromou at http://evan.prodromou.name/RDFa_vs_microformats

Athough there are still many microformats hanging around, I think most open source efforts have moved towards RDFa (including Drupal in Drupal 7's built-in RDF and extensions http://drupal.org/project/rdfx ,  and it's RDF module for Drupal 6 http://drupal.org/project/rdf )

If you want to get excited about RDF in Drupal (and in general) check out this now somewhat old video: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8487255297768440860

Neat, eh? :)

 

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I had never even heard of microformats, but then I'm coming to the semantic web game a little late. I have played around with Drupal 7, though, and its support of semantic web ontologies is very nice. It comes out of the box with (some) Dublin Core, FOAF, and a few other ontologies partially implemented.

Do microformats allow machines to infer triples? That, to me, is the real benefit of RDF. The network of information is much bigger than just individual bits alone. Sam, have you done much with RDFx yet? I'm wondering how stable it is, since it's still alpha. Drupal modules tend to work even when they're in alpha or beta, but I especially need this one to work.

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Also, to address a question in Ruby's post: I think that adoption of mf's and RDFa have actually propelled the evolution of activity streams, and portable data around the web. It's just that most of the action has moved behind the scenes into the development of web sites (like Flickr, Facebook, etc).  Search engines in particular are leveraging this data. One example is http://search.creativecommons.org and I know google looks at mf's and RDFa too.

People are also doing interesting things with RDFa and HTML5 for example: http://lin-clark.com/blog/theming-html5-and-rdfa-drupal-7  imagine what you could do with sites that were marked up in this way (and the RDFa spec makes it possible to do in Drupal, Rails, Django, PHP, WordPress, etc etc etc). The building blocks already exist!

Plus, I found this interesting post confirming that RDFa and microformats people are starting to work together: http://manu.sporny.org/2011/microformats-2/

 

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@Michael Widner

 

"Microformats" do not produce triples, but RDFa *does* produce namespaces that RDF parsers can use! (via RDFa parsers).  I have worked with RDFx and the functionality I tried worked well. It's a module meant for developers, so you'd be implementing code likely for many things you'd want to do with it. I usually get a feel for problems with "alpha" modules by looking at the issue queue http://drupal.org/project/issues/rdfx?categories=All  Looks like the basics of the module work, based on the issues that are active.

 

(sorry to others if we're hijacking discussion here with technical details, we can move it if others desire).

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I don't know what you two are talking about, but I'm in geek heaven.  Carry on.

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If you are interested, I am glad to take the time to break it down into simpler terms that are useful for the community here, with examples.

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I think that would make a good wiki page for this group. I know there are introductions to this material elsewhere on the web, but some explanations for the HASTAC crowd with well chosen links would be great, methinks.

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Sure, glad to create wiki page here! Great idea. Will start it later today.

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I knew RDFa could go to triples. That's important for me as I plan to plug Drupal 7 into a triplestore. Good suggestion about the issue queue. Thanks.

As for shop-talk, I fully encourage it and since I created this group, what I say goes. That is how collaboration works, right?

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Michael, thanks for clarification on nature of discussion group you created here. Glad we can get into dirty details :)

As you explore RDFa in Drupal and in general, feel free to ask here and I will try to answer if I can. I am exploring RDF/SPARQL uses for Drupal, Mediawiki, Django and Rails 3 applications over the next few months. Glad to try and collaborate.

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I examined Semantic Mediawiki in depth and found it lacking. It didn't run well on a Linux environment (clearly coded on Windows). For example, the gardening bots for importing ontologies didn't work properly. I had to run them from the command-line after hacking the code just to figure out what the commands were supposed to be. Moreover, it's not true semantic web, but a semantic layering on top of the standard Mediawiki software and its own wiki language. So, you can export to a Triplestore, but you can't actually import from it, which severely limits the things you can do with it. The user interface for queries and such, too, was not at all intuitive. Maybe they've improved it since I last looked at it, but I'm finding Drupal 7 already a better fit for my work.

I'm eager to hear about your experiences with it and the other CMSes you're looking at, though. Please do share as you work on them.

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I examined Semantic Mediawiki in depth and found it lacking. It didn't run well on a Linux environment (clearly coded on Windows). For example, the gardening bots for importing ontologies didn't work properly. I had to run them from the command-line after hacking the code just to figure out what the commands were supposed to be.

Yes, I mostly mention it because I try to support where people are already using it.

Moreover, it's not true semantic web, but a semantic layering on top of the standard Mediawiki software and its own wiki language. So, you can export to a Triplestore, but you can't actually import from it, which severely limits the things you can do with it. The user interface for queries and such, too, was not at all intuitive. Maybe they've improved it since I last looked at it, but I'm finding Drupal 7 already a better fit for my work.

Well, the work I did with Howard Rheingold/Institute for The Future back in 2004 and onwards really sold me on using Drupal as a research database platform, and RDF really just makes it better. Sometimes, I can set up a research platform in one day with Drupal, which is pretty remarkable. Drupal's not always the best choice for everything, but it is great for creating things like research databases, for sure!

 

I'm eager to hear about your experiences with it and the other CMSes you're looking at, though. Please do share as you work on them.

I really enjoy developing in Ruby on Rails 3. However, for a project for the Great Lakes Food Hub here in the Industrial Midwest, I am looking at using GeoDjango with PostGIS and Django RDF libraries listed here: http://lanyrd.com/2011/europython/sftzy/ to create regional information systems for Food Hub participants. For smaller projects, I'd definitely use Drupal 7 with RDF tools (I have one of them going on now. One of the biggest problems I have is not with the technology, but convincing project participants to *use* the technology!)

I am also working on building regional technology networks around rapid prototypin technolgoies with various schools, and this is another case where we'll definitely share data via RDF (among other ways).

Lastly, I've been looking at how archiving fits into the picture, and in particular how https://www.irods.org might be used to create persistant archives, as well as rea-time data grids for data coming from sensors (this is useful for me in Food systems and Food/Energy/Manufacturing education projects, but I could also see how iRODS could be useful for Digital Media and Learning folks to share and store data). Again, here I've been looking at how to store, import and export in RDF format.

I will definitely be here sharing as I go!

 

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Hi all,


If you're interested in diving into the "schema.org kerfuffle" that Manu discusses in his post, you may want to check out this timeline I wrote up last month:


http://semanticweb.com/schema-org-one-month-in_b21009


The gist of the issue is that Google, Yahoo!, and Bing collaborated to release schema.org, a vocabulary that is based on Microdata, causing the "kerfuffle" Manu refers to. The announcement also resulted in a lot of comparison of the different specs (RDFa, Microformats, and Microdata). In my estimation, RDFa has significant adoption across the web and in enterprise projects (Best Buy uses it heavily and in very cool, innovative ways).  Microformats have less adoption, as they are more limited by design in what they can describe.  Microdata was honestly not really on many people's radar, but when the "big 3" search engines got behind it, it suddenly got a big boost in attention; particularly in SEO circles.


Here's another recent post that I found particularly insightful:


http://www.jenitennison.com/blog/node/160

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