Time to get semantic

get semantic.com

Something which I didn't mention but others have is the fight between the large S semantic web guys and the small s semantic web guys. Aka Microformats vs RDF. You can see the video here. What us RDF-ish guys were suggesting was using eRDF instead of Microformats for extended semantic markup. We proposed to give RDF in XHTML a new name, Macroformats. Tom Morris, after a chat with some of the microformats guys like Tantek and Kevin Marks, changing the name. Tom Morris has now setup getsemantic.com, which is a place where everyone writing semantic markup can get together and promote more semantic markup.

Wow, it's been an absolute mad panic of announcements. Firstly, “macroformats” is dead. It lasted all of a few days, but realism set in – assisted by some pissed off microformateers – and we ditched the name.
We've still got the domain names, but they will redirect and we aren't going to advertise them.
I'm just waiting for the Internet to catch up – specifically, DNS. Once the DNS machine has figured out what it's doing, then we can proceed to building the site.
I actually bought the licence for Snapz Pro X ($69!) because I feel that screencasts are going to be very important in what we are doing. Screencasts certainly helped with things like the Ruby on Rails project.
The plan is to help people understand the process of coming up with their own formats – which can be as simple as writing up a bunch of class names or as complex as coming up with a 3,000 item ontology. Of course, if they only want to do the first one, there'll be people who know how to do all the other steps and will do it for them.
I've sent out a sort of 'vision' statement to the people on the list, but I won't bore you with it here – my blog isn't the best place for it, after all. Once the site launches, something very much like it will be up there.
The first GetSemantic project I'm going to be pushing for is Embedded BibTeX. I use BibTeX a lot. The “citation” work at microformats.org is suffering because there's no clear cowpath to be paved. But we have a BibTeX ontology written in DAML+OIL and it wouldn't be too hard to use eRDF to turn that in to HTML. I'm already writing academic essays in XHTML with CSS and having the tools to embed and extract those citations would rule.
The other thing that I might do is “hRSS”. hAtom is a great format, but not all web sites can be turned in to Atom – RSS 2.0 serves sites like mine better. I'll follow hAtom as closely as possible, but then move away when the RSS 2.0 specification differs from the Atom specification. Before I get flames, there are good reasons to choose RSS 2.0 if you have untitled blog entries. And, yes, there are good reasons for that too. You may not like the reasons, but they exist.
One of the key differences between GetSemantic and the more formalised microformats is that we're going to say “yes” more often. Think of them as science experiments – have fun, build something, see whether it works. We'll start herding cows down new paths and then if that works, then it might become a microformat. If it doesn't work, then we will learn why it doesn't work and try not to make that mistake in the future.

Anyway, I've graphed out where we're coming from, because its easy to think we're suggesting Microformats are crap. Well thats not what we're saying. We all love Microformats but sometimes we find them a little limiting. The example I always use is XFN vs FOAF. XFN has a limited amount of relationships, while FOAF has tons. Because you can put FOAF in eRDF, this means eRDF is more extensible. But on the other side, this all adds to the complexity and the amount of people who actually want to do this drops a lot.

Semantic markup graph

Thanks to Sheila who forced me to draw this out a while ago, when trying to explain how eRDF, RDF, XML, etc all fit in the grander scope of things. I'm considering updating it with one including XHTML 2.0 and RDF/A. Oh great work Tom.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.