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.


Filed under: MicroFormats, The Net

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