Microformats and RDFa and RDF
Improving the Acronym Karma
My original post on removing microformats from /programmes seems to have kicked off quite a debate. Unfortunately some of this seems to have resulted in RDFa people criticising microformats and vice versa. Which wasn't really the intention.
The post covered 3 things:
- the decision by the BBC to ban the use of microformats which use non-human-readable data in the title attribute of the abbreviation element (most obviously the datetime abbreviation design pattern)
- the impact of this on /programmes
- the possibility of using RDFa on /programmes
so it's probably best to break these things apart.
Banning some uses of the abbreviation design pattern on bbc.co.uk
This is hopefully only a temporary ban until the microformats community come up with an alternative to the abbreviation design pattern that doesn't break BBC accessibility standards. It doesn't mean that hCalendar is banned or even the abbreviation design pattern is banned per se. Just that we can't use it where the title attribute contains non-human-readable data. Note that hCalendar can be used without the abbreviation design pattern but none of the alternatives fit with our needs.
The impact on /programmes
I concentrated on /programmes because:
- it's the project I work on
- it's probably the bit of bbc.co.uk that makes most extensive use of microformats
Obviously there are other bits of bbc.co.uk that use microformats that would break the new accessibility standards but we were aware of people screen scraping the /programmes microformats in lieu of a full API so thought we'd best flag up what was happening.
First it's probably important to note that interest in RDFa is pretty much an Audio and Music thing. I've spoken to other people in various bits of the BBC who've expressed an interest but so far the majority of discussions have been confined to Henry Wood House. So this next bit is with A&Mi hat firmly on.
A number of A&Mi projects are being developed in accordance with the principles of Linked Data. For these sites we intend to provide full-fat RDF at separate URLs. In the case of /programmes this has resulted in the development of the Programmes Ontology - an RDF vocabulary to describe programmes. We're following the same principles with the redevelopment of /music (where we'll be using the existing Music Ontology). Where we're providing full RDF it makes sense (at least to us) to reuse these ontologies and also produce RDFa.
Other projects might be data driven but might not want to go down the full RDF route. In this case they might opt for RDFa or they might choose accessible microformats.
For more lightweight, possibly hand-coded projects (still the majority of bbc.co.uk) accessible microformats would probably be most suitable.
So in short it's easy to imagine a BBC website with a mixed economy of microformats, RDFa and RDF. It certainly shouldn't be an either/or. So mostly I agree with Edd Dumbill except that I'm not sure that the accessibility of the abbreviation design pattern is a bug so much as an expected result of deliberate design decisions. Anyway it's a problem that seems to have been around for a while now - hopefully it'll get sorted soon and we can all get back to using microformats (where appropriate) with a bit more peace of mind.