Microformats + Thunderbird

Microformats + ThunderbirdThe things that bother me about Thunderbird on OSX are certainly many, but I can come up with one above all others that totally kills me: the lack of integration with the Apple address book. Nothing more than this illustrates the source of Tantek’s fervor for wanting data portability and his resultant hope in microformats.

Think about it. If Thunderbird stored hCards, and Address Book.app read hCards (or used them as its storage format), there’d be no problem.

One format to rule them all: XHTML! Best of all, you could use Spotlight, Applescript, and whatever other Mac-centric technologies on this data as well. No weird one-off formats that nothing else supports, no conversion, no special readers or parsers… and you could upload your address book and view it on the web… anywhere.

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Tom Raftery catches me in the AM

Factory RockstarThat spikey Irish-bloke Tom Raftery (who I met at Les Blogs) interviewed me the other morning.

A little poppy, but y’know, might be worth a listen if you’re into sadomasochism and listening to a web geek waxing intelligent floats your ship.

Anyway, a podcast that smells like bacon must be good and Tom does well grilling me on Flock, Web Two Dot Oh, and software that I’d marry (are you listening, Jitkoff?). I also go off the deep end about DRM and robot take-overs and say something in French that someone else told me to say. I mean, it was like 8:00am, gimme a break.

Build me a distributed LazyWeb!

Microformats LogoSo I’m San Fransocializing with Tantek and Greg Elin, shootin’ the breeze and considering how we can push microformats into new domains and I got this idea for a distributed LazyWeb (I had no idea Hammersley wrote the original… Ben! You lazy bastard!).

If you’re not familiar with LazyWeb, it’s like this: Need something done? Just blog it and trackback to LazyWeb.org’s trackback address. Pretty simple right? In fact, that’s how I’m planning on having extension reviews work on the redesigned Flock site. But that’s down the road.

Anyway, as I was explaining…

I want to publish tasks on my blog and have them get aggregated along with a bunch of other people’s… but it would be crazy useful if you could group like tasks and aggregate them to see other people with the same needs. Who knows, maybe when you find 15 people wanting the same thing, you can start a Fundable project or something. You figure it out.

The geektastic idea I had was this (since, you’ll recall, the topic of conversation was microformats): use the vtodo component of hCalendar to represent your LazyWeb task. You could use the organizer, summary, attendee, categories and even status and priority classes to represent the aspects of the task. The value of the organizer would be a link to your blog using rel=”me” from XFN. If someone accepts the task, you can add an XFN relationship to the attendee link.

And then, through the magic of the intarweb, a spider could be used to seek out these tasks and index by tags in the categories. Subscribe a certain task-tag and voila! — your weekends will never be unproductive again! …and, I’ve got my distributed LazyWeb!

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…Miles of semantic markup before microformats

So I’m in need of a standard way of linking from a person’s profile to their external photos, blogs, vlogs, things and so on. Especially since I intend to use as the foundation for usual information (name, email, homepage, etc), rel=me (from ) and for marking up the list of links.

Now, I went into the Microformats IRC channel to ask for some guidance (the source of this post’s title, via teh Ryanz0r) and got shot down big time. Well, not like that was surprising since I know most of the guys in there personally and they don’t take me all that seriously, but still…!

Anyway, in discussing my use case and proposing some new values for “rel=” (like, ‘photos’, ‘videos’, ‘tasklist’, etc), Ryan made an interesting point about the development of microformats that I think a lot of folks would do well to consider: the achievement of becoming a microformat isn’t an end-all, be-all that one need aspire to. Rather, standardizing and codifying existing behavior requires anthropological attention and patience to what emerges over time.

Interestingly, this is how law develops and how standards that survive and are adopted are developed (I would wager this is true most of the time — consider mp3). I’ve even proposed a solution to a problem I’ve seen repeating itself with my Community Marks idea — the hope in this case is that enough communities will run into this problem that the idea will take off, over time.

So this post is about the microformats process and how it actually works. Just because we’ve knocked off a good dozen in its first year doesn’t mean the next dozen are going to come right away or be obvious. The point is not to guess at a microformat and try to win, instead, just start doing something if nothing that fits what you need exists. Over time, a standard will emerge that can be codified into a microformat.

In my case, I’ll probably use rel="me photos" to link to someone’s Flickr stream, rel="me tasks" for someone’s tasks and rel="me favorites" for favorites. If it gets picked up, awesome. If not, I’ve got a solution that I can use for now until some standard behavior emerges.

And that seems quintessentially inline with the microformats process.