TECH TALK: The Now-New-Near Web: Microcontent and Microformats (Part 3)

Here are a few more comments on microcontent and microformats to help deepen our understanding.

Arnaud Leene: With the advent of Internet, publishing has become accessible to everyone. People have been creating and gathering content and made this content available to everyone in the world. Where web-pages and -sites as MacroContent. MacroContent enfolds MicroContent…People realise that it is not just thoughts that they are publishing, but reviews, comments on other blog-entries, announcement of events, recipes, interesting sites, records of a golf run, books they keep, images they have taken, places they have been to, etc, etc. Items contain links to other Items, Items have structure. We are moving to Structured MicroContent.

Richard MacManus:

Microcontent design involves: microchunking your content, taking advantage of open standards, employing microformats, letting users subscribe to all kinds of RSS feeds, freeing your content via APIs and other means, designing for re-use of information, monetizing it, and more.

Structured Blogging is a set of formats and plugins that enable blogs to publish different kinds of information – like events, reviews and classified ads – in a ‘structured’ format, so that aggregators can pick up the data from all over the Web.

Its that re-use of blog content via aggregation that will be where the real value lies in Structured Blogging. As of writing there are no Structured Blogging aggregators available, but a hint at the value that it could provide in future is the independent company edgeio — which was launched in February 2006. Sellers can get their data listed on edgeios website, simply by posting an item to sell on their own weblog and tagging it listings. Buyers are able to search and find goods and services at the edgeio website. How it works is that edgeio aggregates goods and services data by scanning over 25 million RSS feeds, looking for the tag “listings”.

Alex Bosworth:

The idea of Microformats is a cool concept for the web, involving adding simple markup to html to highlight metadata about the displayed content. But like any standard, without a killer application microformats are under-utilized. The problem is a classic bootstrapping dilemma. Why should I add markup if there is no application that uses the markup? Why should I code an application that parses markup if there is no content that includes it? The solution lies on small leaps of faith by both sides.

Fortunately, Microformats make marking up data really easy, so making a committment to Microformats on the content side is as simple as appending a string. And parsing Microformats isn’t harder than parsing anything else in XML/HTML (or RSS). The key is just small easy steps to make these formats matter.

Dion Hinchcliffe: Information is often the most useful in bite-sized pieces. Storing information in convenient, tidy bundles sometimes called microcontent is still uncommon but this is changing quickly. Indeed, Web 2.0 trends will only increase the popularity of microformats that support discrete bits of lightly formatted information. This is one reason why Web 2.0 concepts strongly encourage small pieces, loosely joined: Monolithic specifications generally make for information that’s trapped inert behind large, hard to consume, and brittle walls of formatting. Microformats seek to add just enough structure to make the information easy to create and use as well as eminently repurposable.

For the N3 Web, we can think of microcontent as having the following characteristics: incremental (with the same repeating structure), having a permalink, and syndicatable (available via RSS or an equivalent format).

TECH TALK The Now-New-Near Web+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.