Microformats and structured blogging

Stowe Boyd of Corante has gotten around to writing an article about microformats and structured blogging entitled Microformats v Structured Blogging: A Small War With Big Consequences.

Both formats are about embedding more data into blog posts. If your blog post contains details of an event then tools should be able to extract that event and place it into your calendar. If your blog post contains a review then tools should be able to extract that review and add it into your store of recommendations. And so on.

The two approaches are very similar, but, using a review as an example, here are some broad differences:

  • microformats embeds data directly into your review
  • structuredblogging embeds a separate data node before or after your review using the script tag
  • microformats can be parsed with JavaScript and highlighted with CSS
  • structuredblogging script nodes cannot be parsed by JavaScript
  • compound microformats attempt to represent a 1-1 mapping of an IETF standard (this is true for hCalendar and hCard) in XHTML
  • structuredblogging uses custom XML schema to represent events and reviews

Something that’s quite important to note, I think, is that whilst structuredblogging does have a more technical bent, both microformats and structured blogging are quite easy to understand and to write by hand, and both are easy to mess up by not nesting your tags properly!

Stowe’s article is reasonably ambivalent, but leaning towards microformats, noting

My gut feel is that structured blogging requires too much formalization of what people do on their blogs, and microformatting tools are more likely to be adopted in a dynamic, bottom-up, changing, and innovative environment.

This seems like a reasonable assumption to make, but he goes on to say that

It may come down to a battle of the tools — who creates a better set of tools for authors — rather than the pros and cons of the models themselves.

This is an interesting comment – the only structuredblogging tool is a plugin released for WordPress which offers complete integration into the blogging tool. On the other hand, whilst there are many tools for creating and extracting microformat data from webpages, there aren’t any which are integrated into a blogging tool (there appear to be some private plugins that people are using, but there’s nothing that anyone can download and use).

According to his article, there are more structuredblogging plugins in the works, intended for other blogging platforms, and this would be great, because by far the weakest point of structuredblogging, head and shoulders above any technical detail, is the total lack of any obvious update since April 2005. To all intents and purposes, the site and project look dead from the outside, offering only an email address where you can send comments and suggestions. The people behind microformats on the other hand opened up a wiki to store their project details, and a mailing list where people can discuss things. The process and project are both more visibly open than structuredblogging, and because of this microformats are bound to get not only more eyeballs, but also more supporters as people feel that they can actually get involved.

As much as I think that using XML Schema to define item types is the “right” way to go about things, I can’t see that structuredblogging stands a chance of gaining a foothold unless it opens up in the same way that the microformats crowd currently do.

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4 thoughts on “Microformats and structured blogging”

  1. Yesterday I wrote a mail to the structured blogging people, mentioning that I want to use the SB-plugin for wordpress, but I am hesitant since there is no user activity on their site – why not a forum for example? This is not 2.0 thinking and almost kind of suspicious….

  2. They do have a mailing list which you can check out.

    More problematic is that the structured blogging people are the same (as far as I know) as the PubSub people, and they’re about to go bust.

  3. Structured Blogging is a completely separate entity from PubSub and will not be taken down with the company. The one exception is the mailing list which is down temporarily, but will be back once it’s setup on a new system.

    Also this idea that Structured Blogging and Microformats are competitors is something that is simply not true.

  4. Yes, I think it’s clear that they’re not competitors, but to date SB and PubSub have seemed joined very very tightly. I think any confusion on this point is forgivable.

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