The Semantic Web

I have been enamored of the semantic web for over a decade. I still retain old Dublin core metadata on my courses home page from the days long before the abbreviation RDFa existed. Dublin was hard, requiring special effort or a tool to generate the necessary code.

I have watched from the sidelines as microformats has slugged it out with RDFa and the accessibility community. Both seemed complex, with a steep learning curve for minimal gains for my target audience - my students. Achromats (a genetic color blindness that runs in the Pingalapese population, see also Island of the Colorblind) need an alternate style sheet that reduces the contrast, not RDFa for screen readers. And I have that available for many of my pages.

A recent article by Mark Pilgrim on a third way caught my eye not because of the accessibility argument but rather providing metadata information to search engines such as Google. Although one is clearly carrying water for Google, the Netscape image tag argues that a big enough force in the industry at a particular time can simply drive a technology into existence. Besides, microdata feels more logical, more comprehensible, than any microformat or RDFa material I have read. I think microdata tries to solve a smaller problem with fewer pieces and hence feels more manageable.

I used the article to annotate an "about me" page on the college server and then ran the page against the Google Rich Snippets Testing Tool. The result was rather pleasing. Well worth the few minutes spent adding microdata "sugar" to the page.

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