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Eran's blog

Microcontent Design and Good Engineering

Richard MacManus is writing an interesting series of posts about microcontent design (more here). I agree with most of Richard’s ideas and with some of the problems he forsees for microcontent. There is, however, one important point take I’d like to take issue with. Richard metions Canter’s Law #1:

it basically says: support all formats and don’t take sides, because the user doesn’t care about your geeky format wars. As Marc put it :

“No human cares about what format is supported. Only us. Flickr proved that they could be completely format agnostic and provide a compelling experience to all.”

As Kevin Burton points out in the comments, Canter’s Law is actually a bastardization of Postel’s Law aka the Robustness Principle

“Be conservative in what you do; be liberal in what you accept from others.”

While the robustness principle talks about implementation of Internet protocols it is easy to appy it to this case as well. Design and produce content using good (robust, based on solid principles, well thought out, well documented and well specified) formats and protocols but be ready to consume even the bad ones. While our users may not care about the underlying technology we must remember that the formats and protocols that we design today might (and hopefully will) become the building blocks for tomorrow’s Web.

We don’t need another Y2K scare and it is up to the designers and implementers (read: us geeks) to make sure that they provide a solid foundation to build on. Now is the time, as this new generation of technologies is being defined and rolled out to make sure that 5 years from now there won’t be a collective shout of “D’oh!â€? echoing all around the ‘Net.

If we don’t care about the format wars, if we don’t make sure that the best formats win, we’ll end up (once more) stuck with the loudest solution that kinda works (if you squint your eyes and tilt your head just so) instead of the one that works well. So, by all means, take out the ego from the format wars but keep the dedication to quality. You won’t regret it.

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Filed under: MicroFormats, The Net

I Blame Beer

Apparently I have waaaay too much free time on my hands so I started another blog.

I got a new domain! What other reason do I need to start yet another blog? This one should catalog all the silly ideas that settle into my mind as the beer settles into my stomach. Stuff that will not make it into Hellonline because it’s too silly and yet is not quite silly (or well-formed) enough to make it into Supr.c.ilio.us: The blog.

Seriously, I just couldn’t let that domain just lie there. Expect plenty of half formed thoughts, lazy web and general randomness.

Filed under: General

All the Right Books

The Selfish Gene, The Cluetrain Manifesto, Freakonomics… people keep reading those books, writing about those books, being guided by the ideas contained in them and live content in the knowledge that those are all the right ideas because these are all the right books. Really, this is just another echo chamber and I swear that if I hear once again that “foo is a conversationâ€? I’ll scream.

Yes, I’m a contrary bastard. For example, the first serious book I read after moving to San Francisco was Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shruggedâ€? (shhh, don’t tell anyone or I might get lynched). Why do that? Because I find inspiration in the words of people who think differently. Different from me and (most) everyone around me. There are many reasons why something is different, Rand belongs to a different school of thought than do most San Franciscans but here’s another kind of different: old.

Last year, Prof. Wolber recommended we read “As we may think.â€? Vannevar Bush wrote that paper over 60 years ago but the ideas in it not only describe the last 10 years and the so called Web 2.0 revolution they call for more! I’m starting to read up on Bucky Fuller. Bucky says “do more with lessâ€? does that sound familiar? It should be the first sentence every Software Engineering student reads.

Reading thinkers from different disciplines and seeing how their thoughts affect your world can be a great source for new ideas and new insights. I think I might have to read some more architects, “Form follows functionâ€? sounds like a great idea.

Then there’s the classic “crazyâ€? different. Ted Nelson may never get to see his Xanadu but some of his ideas can be an inspiration to anyone involved in information technology today. At this point, I’m required to finish this post (see King’s law of Internet Discourse) but I hope I’ve at least inspired you to dig into Amazon’s archives, find some different thinkers and see what the world looks like through different glasses.

Filed under: General

SXSW highlights

I’ve got nothing deep to say about south by south west so here are some of my personal highlights (in no particular order):

  • Many many parties, too many to list.
  • Getting some work done on my project. Being around smart people inspires me to get stuff done.
  • Hanging out with Barb Dybwad. Barb rocks and should blog more often
  • My first sighting of the Microformats t-shirt. My words on fabric, yay!
  • That one day when it wasn’t as hot. San Francisco weather in Austin.
  • Dodgeball to the extreme. With 4-5 parties going on every night, how else would you know where to go?
  • Meeting and chatting with some very cool and interesting people, I’d better get started on some follow up emails… 🙂

Filed under: General

i-Tags

i-Tag is a new standard proposal by Mary Hodder, Kaliya Hamlin, and Drummond Reed.

The basic idea of an i-tag (identity tag, independent tag, intelligent tag – take your pick) is that a user could tag an object on their own site (photo, video, sound file, text or an entire blog post), where the tag, and the object, would then go out through the RSS feed or be spidered, with some additional information that doesn’t now exist in tags.

Here is a sample i-Tag

<a href="http://example.com/tags/dog" rel="tag" class="http://example.com/blog/post/54">dog</a>

This is an interesting idea but we already have xFolk that solves this problem pretty well, in my opinion. xFolk is a format for publishing collections of bookmarks, it allows users to apply rel-tag to any object identified by a URL. xFolk can be embedded in XHTML, Atom, etc. so it can be easily aggregated by any interested party. Here’s the same entry in xFolk:

<span class=”xfolkentry”>
<a class=”taggedlink” href=”http://example.com/blog/post/54″>my blog post</a>
<a rel=”tag” href=”http://example.com/tags/dog”>dog</a&gt;
</span>

The other option for i-Tag is tagging objects with a license. I fail to see a general use case for this that would not be covered by rel-license. A sample license i-Tag:

<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/publicdomain/" rel="license" class="http://example.com/blog/post/54">dog</a>

It might be useful to indicate the license of an image or a video clip in some cases but in those same cases one could use xFolk and rel-license to achieve the same:

<span class="xfolkentry">
<a class="taggedlink" href="http://example.com/blog/post/54">my blog post</a>
<a rel="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/publicdomain/">Public Domain</a>
</span>

Besides replicating existing work, there’s a couple of other problems with i-Tags. Embedding a URL (or XRI or what-have-you) in the class attribute strikes me as a generally bad idea.

  1. From a semantic standpoint, this is completely meaningless.
  2. From a design standpoint, you cannot use that class value as part of a CSS selector – it just doesn’t work. And am I allowed to add more values to the class attribute to fix that? The spec is unclear on this.
  3. Last but not least, this piece of data is completely hidden from whoever is viewing the page. How are my readers supposed to know what I’m tagging if they can’t see the subject URL?

As for the whole community dictionary thing (and whatever other information might be hidden inside those XRI), I’m not sure I quite follow but it seems like it would be just as useful inside xFolk and rel-license if one were inclined to use XRI. Alternatively, we do have wikipedia.

via: You’re It

Filed under: MicroFormats, Tagging, The Net

Re: Reuters on the role of big media in the Read/Write Web

Richard McManus relays some key points from the keynote at the Online Publishers Association given by Reuter’s CEO, Tom Glocer . Richard seems pretty excited about some of Tom’s ideas but I’m not convinced quite yet…

1) Media companies will be a “seeder of clouds”. I think that means attracting good content and people to its sites and apps.

Yeah, OK. They have access, they have talent, they have means to publish… It’s what they’ve always been doing. It’s what they’re doing now – just look on memeorandum, see how many stories start with big media sources. There’s no reason they wouldn’t go on doing that, although maybe in a slightly different manner.

2) they’ll be a “provider of tools… We need to produce open standards and interoperability to allow” people to create content

Please no! Leave standards to people who know how to write’em. Leave interoperability to people who will have to make system interoperate. Big media was never about inclusion, it’s about scooping the other guy. It was never about technology, it got dragged, kicking and screaming, into whatever technology came next.

3) media companies will be “filter and editor”

Meh. This part is more about balance than anything else. Right now the scales are shifting towards the “wisdom of the crowds” but at some point people will realized that digg is “edited” by a bunch of anti-social, prepubescent geeks and they’ll move on. On the other hand, how can you expect Reuters to scale to Internet levels of information flow?

Filed under: The Net