Microformats Made Simple aims to teach you about microformats, what they are, the benefits of usage, and how they can be used in your website (X)HTML. The book starts with an introduction that includes a description of the history of microformats and their design patterns. Subsequently, each of the main microformats, and several draft microformats, are explained in their own chapters. Each section describes the advantages of using the microformat, its properties and syntax, the mark-up you might use, and how the microformat is applied to several (X)HTML examples. The book is clearly written in a conversational tone and it’s ideal if you are new to microfomats or even if you have dabbled with them (like me). After reading the book, I feel that I am much better equipped to identify and publish microformatted data in my websites.
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Coming up on this blog is a review of Microformats Made Simple by Emily Lewis. You’ll have to wait a bit longer for the review but the book gives a really clear explanation of different microformats and why you should use them in your mark-up. Google and other search engines are starting to use them more and more (for example, Introducing Rich Snippets) so now might be the time to learn how they can be used and why they are a good thing.
Despite the potential advantages, the widespread usage of microformats in blogs and websites will partly depend on tools that allow their easy inclusion. Writing in code view is all well and good but it’s not for everybody. Some systems (for example, Perch and Microformats) do provide methods for their inclusion but these need setting up beforehand. In database systems/websites, the same applies. The template or database is set-up so that multiple records have microfomatted patterns and class names added ‘behind the scenes’. Creating systems that do this automatically is probably the only way that Joe Public blog or website author will be able to edit/create microformatted articles and posts. If you know other examples, let me know…
There's a great article on Digital Web Magazine called APIs and Mashups For The Rest Of Us by Gareth Rushgrove. The article explains what an API is and how websites uses these extensively nowadays. Mashups are described and the use of microformats as an API is explained [see also Can Your Website be Your API?].
I'm already looking forward to part 2 of APIs and Mashups For The Rest Of Us.
Here's a cool use of microformats. Jeremy Keith has posted a video demo that shows how you can transfer microformatted event information from a webpage to a mobile phone with one click. The process uses a bluetooth version of the Tails plug-in for Firefox. Neat.
Initiatives like this are good because they encourage the use of higher standards and better semantics in the creation of websites. I certainly support it. However, I am of the general opinion that there will always be some poorly coded websites because of the everyman nature of the web. There will always be websites that are built by the 'common man' using simple website creator tools. These tend to produce poor code in some cases. The tools need to change I guess.
The first rule of POSH is that you must validate your POSH.
It is also difficult to POSHify your website when third party code uses tables and other poor code standards. The 'first rule of POSH' is that you must validate your POSH. Validating this page for example gives me a load of errors that are mostly generated by the Flickr badge. Some of the errors may be minor (and they do not cause page display problems) but they are errors, nonetheless. I am just not sure what the best solution is here. Contact the Flickr tech team?
I don't mean to be 'negative'. Just pragmatic. Just to repeat, I do support POSH and I intend to do what I can with my own code - and keep aware of the latest development in this area. I'd encourage all website authors to do the same.
Glenn Jones gave a lucid explanation of microformats and their usage at last night's Sussex Geek Dinner [photos]. In particular, it was interesting to hear that microformats would be a big part of Firefox 3 when it arrives [the browser as an 'interface between web and desktop'] - although the excellent Operator add-on does a great job already.
Bluetooth microformats! Now that's cool usage
Glenn also related a story from a recent London Barcamp where microformats were used to transfer contact information (hCard to vCard) from a bluetooth laptop to a bluetooth mobile phone with the click of a link. Bluetooth microformats! Now that's cool usage...
Another point that I found interesting was use of the address tag in combination with the rel="me" atrribute/value to point to the author's contact details. I think I might get busy and implement this myself.
One final comment, for microformats to really break-out into the mainstream, it will require content management systems, blogs and the like to automatically add this information. Sure, this might be based on 'easy' user input perhaps (a check box here and there) but it won't happen if the average user has to get down and dirty with the code....
As a freelancer 'locked away' in a home office, it's sometimes difficult for me to get much of an idea about the 'real world' and the Sussex Geek Dinners are one way of touching base with a few more people. Thanks to Simon for the excellent organisation as always.
Update: Glenn's presentation [1.4MB PDF]
Jon Hicks has published a neat article describing one way of implementing the hreview microformat in Textpattern. Good idea. I have published an hReview before but the Hicks method looks a whole lot easier. If only I was as clever as him (sigh).
Shape Shed has written a nice article explaining how to use the hCard microformat and how to exploit the microformat data with a one-click 'add my details to your address book' link. The example given uses Brian Suda's hCard to vCard transformation. Cool.
Just a quick note to say that there is a new Microformats toolbar add-on for Firefox. Similar to Tails Export, Operator enables quick and easy transfer of microformatted content to other web and desktop applications - but using a toolbar format. Great work!