Understanding Microformats for the Non-Technical Web Professional or Marketer

I’m not a developer or software engineer.

I am an individual that needs to understand technology in order to impelement web strategies –consider the following as a public learning experience.

I first heard Marc Canter talking about Microformats a few months ago, and talked to Tantek about it at dinner –I didn’t understand it fully at the time, I’m beginning to see the value now that so many voices are appearing on the web due to blogs and social media.

I am NOT a microformat expert, if you have a suggestion or correction, please leave a comment below and I’ll update the text –let’s learn together.

Q: What are Microformats?
A new method to organize unstructured information into an organized fashion that could be used universally. Edit: You can learn more about the “Big Picture on Microformats” from John Allsopp.
Q: I’m not technical, Why should I know about Microformats?
While still in it’s very early stages, this could be a protocol that could further define RSS or make information publishing, categorizing, or managing more effective. Marketers could benefit by quickly publishing information in organized methods, consumers could quickly obtain information in organized fashions.

Q: Why Microformats?
Social Media (blogs, forums, wikis, etc) are exploding; so many voices, reviews, thoughts, and memes are being spread through the internet, a method to identify, collect, organize, and repurpose/manage will be a service to the world. So much information, very little structure.

Q: How do they work?
Since it’s not a new language, it can be embedded in HTML (as I understand it from Wikipedia) I believe that RSS can also contain the information which will be great if you need to get the word out or update information quickly. Think Vitamin has published a nifty article on embedding Microformats in HTML.

Q: What are the Benefits?
Here’s some potential benefits that come to my mind. (and this is before coffee)

  • Quickly find all user reviews about a product across the internet. (Imagine how powerful that becomes if you can do this from a mobile device before buying a product)
  • Quickly update all your contact information as it appears across the entire internet
  • Quickly tell the whole world about an event and have it updated on every calendar
  • Search engines can do a better job of indexing and serving more accurate information
  • Quickly put up a product to sell that would publish on many websites (ebay, Craigslist, etc)
  • Quickly tell the world when this price has changed or if the product is off the market (sold)
  • Build a universal library of all food recipes and share you own, transmit this code to your local supermarket to assemble ingredients before you arrive, or ship
  • Tie your disparate intranet system using RSS and Microformats as the new protocol
  • Quickly create a press release and send to social media tools
  • Quickly create an image/video and publish to be shared in other social media tools
  • Create your own Microformat (like HCard, or HCalendar) for your own use (see wiki)

Q: What are the Challenges?

  • Adoption
  • Blog publishing tools or widgets will need to be added
  • All websites that want to stay relevant will need to ‘open up’ to opensource and opendata model
  • Folks inputting faulty data into Microformat structure

Q: Are Microformats related to RSS?
Yes, I believe that the Microformat content can be distributed via RSS just like other content.

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I’ll share the findings with the Microformats team later…