Learning Microformats During the Teenage Years: Happy Thirteenth Birthday.

13 birthday cake
As a child of Friday the 13th, the actual date not the movie franchise, I felt compelled to write a post for microformats 13th birthday.

As a my first summer learning challenge I decided to tackle this tiniest bit of HTML that packs so much utility for marking up people, events, and posts.

While I have consumed and used microformats for over five years through the #IndieWeb community I had no idea how the levers got pulled behind the curtains. So as microforamts turned 13   I launched my journey to make remixable course templates for other academics and I decided to bring the ethos and markup along for the ride.

You can follow my growth and continued misunderstandings in learning about the h-card, h-entry, and even trying to tackle the h-cite. Yet I also want to share lessons of learning I have taken away from trying to learn microformats in it’s thirteen years of existence.

sleep nap GIF by Super Simple

Community is Documentation

As a non-technical comtributor to many open source communities I found it refreshing that those behind microforamts.org do not draw a distinction between community and documentation. The two are byproducts of each other. Good community leads to great documentation and good documentation leads to great community. Consider it the Matthew Effect of Open Source. If efforts for either grow tired both will fall dormant.

Learning microfmats involves checking out the wiki, or looking for examples of correct markup on the IndieWeb wiki, but mainly I am asking in the chat room and somebody will then post a link to the article I need whether it is on one of the two wikis or a blog post. Then somebody goes back and makes the navigation pathway easier for the next reader. Community is documentation.

The microformats wiki went under some great changes this year because people listened to and responded to the community. One of the great challengs when beginnng is to understand the difference between microforamts2 and microformats (version one) when they both live on the canonical link microformats.org. The getting started pages Getting Started with Microformats and Getting Started with Microformats2 follow different formats but the community has been hard at work improving the experience every day.

html coders GIF

Breaking the Mental Model of CSS

This was is hard. When I first started to code pages and incldue microformats2 I asked, “But what stylesheet do I linl to?” I expected mf2 to work like Font Awesome or BootStrap and I would need to inlude a link somewhere in my header. Who knew HTML properties can be used for more than CSS. Luckily I found my answer in the #IndieWeb chat (see my first point).

I still get scared when combining CSS and mf2 and will often stick in an extra div or section for mf2 and leave my styling elsewehre.

pointy haired boss work GIF

Open Source without Boards and Bosses

As an affinity space welcomes experieced users and newbies like me. I have volunteered on many open source projects. Some of these were by businesses who build on top of open source and others by a businesses who build an open source platform. Both approaches require a gatekeeper on top of contributions. You may work on a project for years just to have it cut for revenue saving.

Microformats, and its IndieWeb cousin have been different. No bosses. No Boards. People have an affinity for the endeavor rather than an employer.

math studying GIF

Microformats and Me

I settled on microformats because the philosophy aligned to my worldview for the web.

Most importantly the community believes in the sumpremacy of plain HTML. I agree. We can keep the web accessible by teaching the basic building blocks. Personally I think HTML should replace cursive in our elementary school classrooms.

I also like microformats as a tool to empower educators own their content while contributing their content to the Commons for others to remix and reuse. In fact I have dreamed up the markup for learning events and my mf2 goal is to design easy to use syllabi and course templates.

Academia helped to launch and build the web. We need to return to these roots by focusing on the work of teachers and professors across the globe. OER solutions do exist. Yet I fear the rise of Open Silos. Some repositories don’t realease source code or even documentation on how resources are marked up. Some “stewards” of open standards charge thousands of dollars to join. Other time the markup, like the learning markup being proposed by schema.org raises the technical barrier too high for nomral users.

I guess when it comes to Open Source, “Some pigs are more equal than others.”

So I choose microformats. I get easy to use human readable markup in my HTML that I think can help build a better web. It’s like vegan bacon, but good.

All gifs from Kapowski which uses a Giphy engine.
Featured image: 13! flickr photo by fifikins shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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