Microformats vEvent

It's London Web Week, which means there are lots of events on. I plan to go to three of them myself, the first of which was last night's Microformats vEvent.

Review: Microformats vEvent at The Yorkshire Grey, Holborn, London 19:00 to 21:30

The venue was a function room in a pub which wasn't ideal - there weren't enough seats for everybody and, since I was a bit late arriving, I had to stand through both presentations which made it a bit awkward to make notes.

Putting microformats on the Semantic Web with GRDDL (Tom Morris) - Tom started off by talking about "Descriptive Markup", an alternate term for semantic markup to avoid "semantic" being every third word that would come out of his mouth. He then moved on to GRDDL and it's potential for creating a decentralised data web out of any HTML pattern you use on your website. An HTML pattern doesn't have to be a Microformat, it can be any HTML as long as it's used consistently on your site and you can provide an XSL transform to turn that pattern into useful semantic data. You can then write your own GRDDL profile to allow the data to be automatically extracted. He also discussed that the output from a GRDDL transform needn't be RDF, it could be anything you want such as RSS or JSON, which would allow you to very easily create an API for your website with nothing more than a few transforms. In the questions at the end he compared GRDDL to CSS and Javascript, except where CSS was for presentation and Javascript is for behaviour GRDDL would be for data. For an example of the potential he suggested we checkout triplr.org. Tom finished off with some "Design Patterns for the Web of Data":

  • Give everything a URI - your website, your house, your car, your pets etc.
  • Things (ie. URIs) linked together with meaning
  • Small vocabularies loosely joined - don't try and describe the whole world, stay focussed on your target domain
  • Do the right thing - practice wisdom
  • "Pragmatic" usually means you're doing it wrong
  • Don't mandate, don't limit - the less you restrict, the more room there is for freedom of expression

One Big Happy Family: Practical Collaboration on Meaningful Markup (Dan Brickley) - Dan's talk was a bit more political than technical and addressed the antagonistic attitudes which are sometimes displayed by Semantic Web folk towards Microformats folk and vice versa. Through a discussion of some of the history behind the current Semantic Web specifications at the W3C, a history which is largely obscured by the specs in their current state, he demonstrated that the two communities have far more commonalities than differences. Both communities are converging on the same goal but are taking very different routes to get there, and a bit more respect on both sides could allow each to learn from the other. That was a high level summary, the way Dan said it took longer but was also funnier with a liberal sprinkling of anecdotes :)

The talks themselves were very good, but I didn't enjoy the environment much - apart from the standing, the TV screen was a bit hard to read so 3.5 out of 5 overall.

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