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TECH TALK: RSS, Blogs and Beyond: SMBmeta.xml and BlogMeta.xml

March 5th, 2003 · No Comments

Recently, Dan Bricklin (and TrellixTech) proposed an initiative to make it easier for SMBs to communicate information such as the physical location of the business and the area it serves, as well at the type of business, to search engines and other services.” Bricklin provides the background:

One of the major drivers of the US economy are small and medium businesses (which we’ll call “SMBs”). These range from restaurants, machine shops, lumber yards, advertising agencies and law offices, to carpenters, musicians, and locksmiths, to weekend DJs and grandmothers selling their knitting. This document describes a data file format and associated services designed to help those businesses in their use of the Internet.

One of the concerns of businesses is having their web site found by customers. One of the concerns of customers is being able to find an appropriate set of businesses from which to choose to meet their needs. Web sites and normal search engines meet some of these needs. Unfortunately, it has been difficult for search engines to ascertain specific information such as the particular locale served by a business, the type of the business, the languages spoken by the staff, etc. A human being can often find out this and a wide variety of other information by reading a web site, but it can be hard to automatically find it out for constructing a reliable database. The goal of this “SMBmeta” project is to provide a way to amass this additional data to aid in searching. It is not to provide the data that you would find on the web site itself, just the data you use in searching.

The way we do this is with an “smbmeta.xml” file.

The smbmeta.xml file is an XML file stored at the top level of a domain that contains machine readable information about the business the web site is connected to. It is an open, distributed way for small and medium businesses to communicate information such as the physical location of the business and the area it serves, as well at the type of business, to search engines and other services. Hopefully, it will open up innovation that will result in a wide variety of new services that will benefit the SMBs and their customers.

More information can be found at smbmeta.org.

The nice thing about this idea is that in can plug right into an RSS-like Aggregator, so users could subscribe to feeds from SMEs (small and medium enterprises) in their geographical area to find out whats new. It could also solve what is perhaps one of the most challenging marketing problems how to target SMEs for products and services. It can also bring forth greater co-operation between SMEs. The XML feed Bricklin describes is very much like the RSS feed put forth by news sites. Both are in XML. What Bricklin is doing with his SMBmeta initiative is describing a format for the content that needs to be in there. But the basic concept is identical to make it easier for end-users to subscribe to changing content, without having to actually go and poll the website regularly.

The same idea can be extended to blogs, a sort of BlogMeta.xml initiative. This is what I had written on my blog about this idea sometime ago: Imagine if every blog had an XML file which specified various parameters like bloggers’s name, location (city and country), blog’s starting date, brief profile of blogger, specific categories covered (perhaps taken from DMOZ or Yahoo’s categories), format of the archives directories, link to RSS file, etc. This file could then be botted and built into a directory, just the way the RSS files are picked up. Having the metadata would make it much easier for us to find other bloggers based on geography or interest. Users could be given a front-end to generate this file, which would be stored in the home directory of their blog.

This takes us to the next logical step blog categorisation and mapping.

Tomorrow: Mapping Blogs


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