Mad About Microformats

Sorry normal humans — this is one of my infrequent geeky posts. To mitigate your disappointment, I will provide you with a joke before I tear into the technical stuff, courtesy of [Steve Lux->]:

How many ADD kids does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
I don’t know, how many?
Hey, want to go ride bikes?

So, over the last few days I’ve gone a bit crazy with Microformats. “What are Microformats?” you may well ask. They’re a standard way of creating machine-readable structured data within an XHTML document, which is interesting for a variety of reasons. For example, I’ve embedded my contact information in this page in such a way that it is both meaningful to humans (see the “Who I Am” sidebar) and computers. Thus, when I visit this page now while using Firefox with the excellent Tails plugin installed, an icon lights up at the bottom of my browser window indicating that Firefox found contact information on the page. If I click on that icon, I get the option to add that information to my contact book, send email to me, or get a report on how popular my site is. (For you old-school Apple folks, it’s rather like Apple Data Detectors for the Internet.)

The most interesting microformats to me thus far are hCard, which handles contact information, hCalendar, which provides a framework for calendar data, and XFN, which lets you indicate what kind of a real-world relationship you share with a person you link to. This morning, I took a couple of hours to implement support for hCard and hCalendar in our Content Management System for the University. (Not yet publicly available — I’ll post a link to an example once the next update to our CMS is published on May 25.)

In the meantime, if you want to play along, go grab Tails and see where on the web you can discover Microformats. I’ve embedded a few things here already, and will be adding more as time goes on.