WebDD07: Microformats HTML to API (Glen Jones)

Review: Microformats HTML to API at WebDD Conference 07 9:30 to 10:30

This was the first talk of the day, it was in the smallest room but it was packed to overflowing (people were sitting on the floor!) which is surely a good sign for the future of Microformats. The first part of the talk was a whirlwind tour of Microformats - what they are, how they're used and some examples. I was already familiar with this material so I didn't make any notes. The most interesting bit (for me) was the slide with a quote from Dan Cedarholm which referred to Microformats as 'oblivious development' - by adding semantic value to your markup you allow other to build value on top of it while you remain oblivious. A quick search today reveals I've been a bit oblivious myself, as this term seems to be in quite common use in the community, but at the time I thought it was nice.

In the second half of the talk Glen went on to the API part. His basic premise was that you should just add Microformats randomly to your web app and hope that the seeds would grow, you should think about how developers might want to use the information in your site and organise it in a consistent manner. He listed his REST-like principals for Microformats as API:

  • Design URLs for maximum clarity and discoverability
  • Design URLs into a schema to act as an API (his term here was 'faceted structures'
  • Remember URLs have semantic importance
  • Remember URLs can look and act like method calls (ie. composability of URL values, like searching by multiple tags in del.icio.us)
  • Use HTTP verbs that work (a la REST, though Glen felt PUT and DELETE were not practical currently and POST should be used for updates)

His final advice for APIs was borrowed from the Microformat ethos: keep it simple. Simplicity gives you a lower barrier to entry which in turn increase the chance of take up. There was quite a long question and answer session after the talk which demonstrated Glen's in depth knowledge of the subject (in fact he appeared, to me, a lot more comfortable and knowledgeable in this interactive role than he had in the first part of the talk).

Overall pretty good, 4 out of 5. I think, given the popularity of this talk, there was scope for having an introductory session and one or more advanced sessions rather than having to rush through the first half of it, but I learned a few things and enjoyed it.

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