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Microformats: Empowering Your Markup for Web 2.0 [Paperback]

John Allsopp
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

2 Aug 2011
Microformats burst onto the scene a couple of years ago and are fast becoming an essential tool for all professional web designers and developers. Imagine being able to integrate all of your web-based contact details, tagged articles, and geographical information seamlessly in web and desktop applications, without having to add anything extra to your websites except a little specialized HTML markup. Microformats provide a more formalized technology for adding commonly used semantics (such as contact details, location, and reviews) to today's Web. Unlike XML or the semantic Web, microformats use ubiquitous technologies like HTML and XHTML, existing developer skills, and current web tools, and, perhaps most important, they work in all of today's web browsers. This book is a comprehensive guide to microformats. It explores why in Bill Gates' words "We need microformats", how microformats work, and the kinds of problems microformats help solve. The book covers every current microformat, with complete details of the syntax, semantics, and uses of each, along with real-world examples and a comprehensive survey of the tools available for working with them. the book also features case studies detailing how major web content publishers such as yahoo put microformats to work in their web applications. Written by one of the Web's best-known educators, John Allsopp, Microformats: Empowering Your Markup for Web 2.0 will help you painlessly get up to speed with this exciting technology.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 372 pages
  • Publisher: Springer (2 Aug 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590598148
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590598146
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 19 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,111,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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About the Author

Successful software developer, long standing web development speaker, writer evangelist and expert, John Allsopp has spent the last 15 years working with and developing for the web. As the head developer of the leading cross-platform CSS development tool Style Master, and developer and publisher of renowned training courses and learning resources on CSS and standards based development, John is widely recognized as a leader in these fields. As a presenter and educator, John speaks frequently at conferences around Australia and the world. His idiosyncratic blog Dog or Higher covers a broad range of subjects, particularly in technology and innovation, and is widely read and referenced. He is also a co-founder of the Web Directions conference series. John's true claim to fame, and source of some embarrassment is (semi-publicly) coining the term "Web 2.0" some months before O'Reilly. John apologizes unreservedly for helping to inflict this term on the world. When not bathed in the glow of various computer screens, John is a volunteer surf lifesaver at Sydney's famous Bondi Beach, where he lives with his wife and young daughter, who are the light of his life.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
When I started reading this book, I was in two minds as to why the book need to cover CSS. After all I'd seen much of it before in great books like 'HTML Dog' by Patrick Griffiths. But along the way I was surprised to find a few new titbits to add to my repertoire (attribute selectors) and the axis, scope and header attributes of HTML tables.
Then it dawned on my why coverage made so much sense after all. Microformats are one of the cornerstones of the 'semantic web'. The author highlighted some statistical analysis of the way folks have used class names to style their page contents, and certain names like 'header' and 'footer' stood out. These have no 'semantic' meaning, only a positional layout reference. If you construct you page with 'semantic' building blocks, such as a div with a class of 'hCard' and nested elements with appropriate class names for properties (similar to vCard - Outlook contact), you provide not only the infrustructure to style your pages using the powerful CSS descendant selector syntax, and can achieve the same effects, whilst at the same time opening up a host of opportunities for things like Mashups, more intelligent indexing capabilities/dedicated bots capable of extracting data out of your pages into search engines. I believe it won't be long when local search pages will become order of the day and you'll be able to do things like only give results within a 50 mile radius to where I am.
There is a great discussion on Cork'd and the other spin off things that have evolved out of their innovative use of Microformats.
Along the way you'll learn about microformats like geo, adr, hCard, hCalendar (similar to Outlook Calendar), hReview, hResume (think LinkedIn) and hAtom (syndication)
I was also very impressed with 'Operator', Micahel Kaplay's Firefox plugin. Thanks John for sharing this. I'll be demonstrating it to all my tech friends. :). A most enjoyable, thought-provoking and engaging read. I thoroughly recommend this book.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive guide to Microformats 19 April 2007
By Nate Klaiber - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Microformats: Empowering Your Markup for Web 2.0 by John Allsopp is an incredible resource for learning Microformats. I didn't know what to expect with this book, as part of me wondered how someone could take over 300 pages to talk about Microformats. Truth be told -- this book was very in-depth from cover to cover. Microformats are still in their infancy, being just a few years old. However, as we see throughout this book -- there are many big players who are staking ground in the value and use of Microformats. I recently read HTML Mastery which scratched the surface of the power of Microformats. I would consider this book The Official Guide To Microformats with all of the information available. Here is a brief glimpse of what is found in this resource:

The book is broken down into 5 parts, but I will look over each chapter individually.

Chapter 1 answers the question "What are Microformats?" This is a thorough introduction to Microformats, the semantic web, the benefits of using Microformats -- as well as it's origins, definition, and principles. The principles include:

- Solve a specific problem.

- Start as simply as possible.

- Are designed for humans first, machines second.

- Reuse building blocks from widely adopted standards.

- Are modular and embeddable.

Enable and encourage decentralized development, content, and services.

These are vital to the heart of Microformats. Though the web is aspiring to be semantic -- we still have many problems to solve to help out our machine friends in the process of making sense of our language.

Chapter 2 gives us some quick snapshot views into how Microformats are currently being used. Discussions of browsers, their support, and their future. It is exciting to see the possibilities of Microformats being built into the browsers -- since they are decentralized they will allow us to find things much easier (and make sense of those things). There are currently many tools available to aid a developer in creating the necessary markup and structure for formats. It is important to note that Microformats are not a new language, but are simply built onto already existing XHTML. The author presents the chicken and egg struggle and where Microformats are already being used in the wild. A few of those include, Yahoo, Cork'd and Apple. Not only are there early adopters on board, but there are services to help people make sense of the content. A few of these services include Technorati and Pingerati. These services all you to generate vCards from your properly formatted hCards. It also allows you to submit your site for Microformats searching. These are some powerful tools that will only continue to expand and grow.

Chapter 3 discusses the necessary foundation to create Microformats -- Semantic HTML. The author discusses the days of the web where HTML was wrongly turned into a presentational language. HTML is a structure. It is semantic. It gives meaning to your documents. Your presentation layer belongs in your CSS (most developers will know this, unless they are living under a rock). He discusses some of the not-so-popular HTML elements, as well as elaborating on their proper use and placement in a page. This chapter ends with the fact that HTML has its limits. There simply aren't enough tags for us to complete many of our common tasks (with semantics in mind). This is where Microformats come in.

Chapter 4 is where we start to get our feet wet. We are introduced to Link-Based Microformats. I won't elaborate on each, but a few of these include rel-license, rel-tag, and rel-nofollow. These are embedded in -- you guessed it -- links.

Chapter 5 takes your relationship a step further. Here we discuss XFN. If you have used any blogging software then you have most likely come into contact with this. This is defining your relationships based on the rel attribute. There are many relationships that can be defined, and several more that are planned to be added. This chapter shows some of the services already utilizing XFN, as well as how you can use the rel attribute and CSS attribute selectors to style your content. Lean, semantic, markup.

Chapter 6 looks to geo and adr Microformats. Geo is related to defining your location via latitude and longitude. We are also introduced to a new design pattern: abbr. The adr format is used to markup addresses. These two Microformats used together have added rich value to applications such as Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, and Flickr. Again, we are given some examples of styling these elements using their attributes as hooks.

Chapter 7 takes use a little deeper with hCard. hCard reuses the already established format of vCard used in many applications today. Both individual persons and organizations were discussed. Again, we are introduced to services currently using hCard, as well as several different ways to style our hCard using the given hooks.

Chapter 8 helps us to get our dates in order with hCalendar. Again, hCalendar extends from vcalendar (used in many applications like Outlook and Address Book) Both basic and complex events were discussed here. I like how we have the ability to add a calendar to a page and add multiple events to a specific calendar. This shows just how flexible Microformats are. We also get to see a complex example of a timeline marked up in a table. Here we see how Microformats utilizes the semantic markup to achieve specific tasks. Using axis, scope, and headers allow us to create an accessible table -- while also reaping the benefits of vevent. We get a glimpse of the tools available to help you construct hCalendars, as well as services currently using the hCalendar format.

Chapter 9 brings us to a few items in draft format, hReview and hResume. Though they are drafts, they are very solid and can be implemented in their current state. These items allow for great flexibility as we can use compound Microformats (just as we can use compounded XHTML elements). hReview has it's core, but certain elements allow for extensions of hCard, rel-tag and rel-license. Again, very powerful ways to build your Microformats into your pages. As with the other chapters, hooks were shown and some basic styling instructions were given.

Chapter 10 discusses hAtom. This doesn't seem to be as widely used as the other Microformats we have seen -- but there is still great value for syndication and publishing (alongside RSS).

Chapters 11 and 12 show Microformats in the wild with 2 case studies: Cork'd and Yahoo!. These chapters featured interviews with Dan Cederholm as well as Nate Koechley. Cork'd is a relatively new application with Microformats attached from the beginning. Designer Dan Cederholm discusses how and why they chose to use Microformats (and when) in their application. Moving up the scale to a larger organization, Yahoo! is utilizing Microformats in many of their major applications including Upcoming.org and Flickr. These case studios show how many organizations are starting to take hold of Microformats, and how simple the process really is to reap the benefits of your semantic structure.

Chapter 13 and the Appendixes discuss how to get involved with Microformats. The goal is to have a decentralized service, so Microformats are not as closed as other formal standards are. They are open to more developments as long as they stand in line with the principles behind the foundation. The appendixes give a full listing of all Microformats, Design Patterns, and the People and Services using Microformats in their applications. The appendixes are extremely valuable to have as a resource as you begin your journey with Microformats.

I have had a passion for Microformats for the past 6 months or so. I started researching and really diving in to understand the goals. I was immediately able to see the benefits -- but there was still the chicken and the egg question that was in the back of my mind. I don't feel this question is even necessary anymore, as I move ahead utilizing Microformats (and building applications to utilize them) in my development of websites. They don't take long to put in place as they go hand in hand with a solid HTML structure. So I guess the only question is: why wouldn't you use them?

This book was a great read, and will continue to be used as a great resource.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive Book 28 April 2007
By Nathan Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
First off - my apologies to the author, John Allsopp, for this review not being marked-up in the hReview format. That being said, I have definitely gleaned no small amount of ideas from his Microformats Book, and will be implementing them when I design future sites. What exactly are microformats? Think of them as small, semantic enhancements to existing markup. They also ease aggregation of data. According to the official site...

"Designed for humans first and machines second, microformats are a set of simple, open data formats built upon existing and widely adopted standards. Instead of throwing away what works today, microformats intend to solve simpler problems first by adapting to current behaviors and usage patterns (e.g. XHTML, blogging)."

Perhaps the easiest microformat to describe is the XFN format, which grew out of a 2004 discussion amongst Eric Meyer, Matt Mullenweg and Tantek Çelik in Austin, TX at SXSW Interactive. It basically involves using the underutilized rel attribute to indicate relationship between yourself and the owner of a page to which you are linking. Simple - right? Yes, and that's the point. Microformats are not some new language you have to master, simply using agreed upon uses of existing tags, attributes and CSS classes to build richer categorization of data. Another microformat, pioneered by Google, is that of rel-nofollow. "No follow" is a bit of a misnomer, because search engines will still crawl and index the link. However, they will not take that link into consideration when calculating the PageRank of the URL destination. A common use of rel-nofollow is linking to someone who has ripped off your work, in which case you want to call attention to, but not reward the misdeed.

Beyond the rel-* microformats, there are more robust types such as geo, which allows you to pinpoint locations via latitude and longitude. This can be seen on sites like Flickr, allowing users to specify exactly where photos were taken. It's plain to see that using microformats needn't be intimidating. It's simply using POSH patterns, as Jeremy Keith has described it. Rather than invent your own XML schema for every project, and having to go through the hassle of creating a new DTD, we use building blocks that are already available to us. I don't know about you, but I'd rather use microformats than re-invent the wheel, such as the 900+ line DTD for XHTML 1.0 Strict...

[...]

There are a variety of other microformats available, such as hCard, hCalendar, vote-links, rel-license and rel-tag. I am also keeping an eye on hResume (currently in draft status), for when I redesign my own site. The professional networking site LinkedIn already uses hResume extensively.

Microformats aren't just for start-ups. Even big dogs like Yahoo make use of them on sites such as Upcoming. The blog aggregating site Technorati also uses them - particularly the rel-tag microformat, allowing them to create tag clouds based on popular topics. Even Bill Gates is on board...

"We need microformats and to get people to agree on them. It is going to bootstrap exchanging data on the Web."

I think this is an exciting time to be working in the web. Now that the dust has settled over the browser wars, it is up to us to help build what should have been in the first place, the Semantic Web. While some of the details are still being worked out, such as debate around appropriate usage of the abbr tag (see hAccessibility), it's cool that we can be involved in this formative stage.

With all this fanfare around microformats, and the relative ease with which they can be deployed, the question is not "Do we need them," but rather "Do I know them?" We are not yet at the point where microformats are an expected skill-set for web developers, but that day is rapidly approaching. This, the first official book on microformats, would be a great way to start learning.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A missed opportunity 15 Jan 2008
By Franco Folini - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Microformats are a great idea with a not so great implementation (IMHO). This book tries to explain what microformats are and how to use them. But John Allsopp keep getting lost in all sort of marginal details without never going to the point. The book is missing: (1) a chapter with a clear syntax for the most common microformats, (2) a perspective view of the evolution of MF and their relevance for the web and the final users. John waste pages and pages explaining all sort of irrelevant details such as how to make a frame with rounded corners using CSS (BTW showing us a very obsolete technique) and similar off-topics. The impression is of an author working with the main concern of generating enough pages not to invalidate the contract with the publisher.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Strong Book with a Bit of Excess 26 Jun 2007
By Brendan Mcguigan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I thought this was a good book, that definitely gave a good overview of Microformats, and acts as a fairly good reference. I did, however, feel that it was substantially longer than it needed to be, covering a number of topics that I feel would be second-nature to most people who would be interested in this book. I didn't feel a need for fifty or so pages throughout that go over the fundamentals of standards-compliant xhtml, or little css tricks for layout and the like. It's not that I didn't feel these sections weren't well written -- just that I think most people who are looking for a book on Microformats are probably well past wanting a basic primer on xhtml/css methodologies. I would have preferred a 40 page book that just dug into the meat of Microformats.

My final assessment is that this is a good book -- John certainly knows his stuff -- but be prepared to have a fair amount of rehashing of simple concepts.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Resource 4 Jun 2007
By Walter Stoneburner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Few books actually give the why and reasoning behind various technologies. For instance, pick up that latest Java book and what do you find? Someone's simply dumped the API, but that does really tell you about how to use the information. Such things bug me.

Microformats doesn't bug me. Infact, I was happily surprised by it.

In a nutshell, in addition to using class information on an HTML tag as a means of using CSS for presentation, you can also use it for conveying information. Microformats are well thought out nested elements that provide human readable text, but machine processable content. The idea is fairly trivial, which is why it works so well.

Turns out there are all kinds of wonderful applications, and this book walks you through the problem that's being solved, shows why the solution is elegant, gives you plenty of examples, and then demonstrates how to not just create, but to detect and read Microformats.

As an added bonus, the book touches on all kinds of little developer tools, tricks, and browser extensions that just are plain usable.

In short, the book over delivers without being verbose.
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