Semantic Markup Redux

Mark Pilgrim doesn't understand the point I was trying to make when I said he contradicted himself by being both a proponent of Semantic Markup and HTML. I'll try this again. The primary goal of Semantic Markup is that content in documents is associated with metadata (i.e. marked up) in a way that provides meaningful information about the content and does so in a way that is easily machine processable. This is the difference between <cite> and <i> or <b> and <strong> in [X]HTML. It should be highlighted that improving machine processability not human readability is the driving force behind the Semantic Web and Semantic Markup. For example, the aforementioned tags are indistinguishable to the eye when rendered in most browsers but not to programs that process such HTML documents.

Although HTML is primarily about presentation of content it does have a few semantic elements of which cite is one. For most people these are extremely inadequate and fall far short of describing the kind of semantics they would like to add to their data. Some like Edd Dumbill have suggested using HTML <span> elements and class attributes as avenues of adding semantics to markup although others like Joe Gregorio have found this clumsy.

Given that the W3C thinks XML is the basis for RDF and the Semantic Web it seems the general direction going forward is to move towards replacing a WWW full of HTML documents to one full of XML documents. Technologies like CSS and XSLT already exist for making XML documents palatable in browsers while RDF, DAML+OIL, OWL et al can be used for creating and describing ontologies that relate semantics of different markup syntaxes in the various XML documents on the web.

If you are for the Semantic Web, you are for an XML Web not for an HTML one. An HTML Web, even one full of uses of <span> and <cite> tags, is a pale reflection of what a Semantic Web built on XML can be. This is the contradiction I was talking about.

However this is not to say that Mark's hack is not cool, because it is nor is it to say that one cannot write Semantic Markup with HTML because you can.


Goldilocks and the 3 News Aggregators

Steve Burnap aka ucblockhead recently created an online journal. This presented me with a dilemma. Up until Steve's journal I could do all my blog reading starting with Sam Ruby's blog since every blog I read regularly was one or two clicks away. Since I didn't want to deal with managing two separate blogging experiences plus Slashdot and K5 I decided to get a News Aggregator. Just like Goldilocks, it took three tries until I found the one that was just right.
  1. AmphetaDesk: The first strike against this app was that it runs a web server on your machine and your access to the application is via local web pages. This was not as irritating as finding out that almost any UI change required refreshing the screen. After watching the screen reload six times while I deleted the default newsfeeds then imagining doing that a few dozen times as I added RSS feeds I quickly uninstalled it.

  2. Aggie: I had high hopes for this app because it would have been the first .NET application I'd have used that wasn't written by myself or someone else at work. I didn't even get far enough to even see the UI because the app threw a System.Net.WebException when I double clicked on the icon. That's just sad.

  3. FeedReader: This was mostly what I wanted. A Native UI with a no frills yet clean interface. Check out the screenshots. There are one or two features I'd like to see improved but neither of them is what I'd deem a showstopper.

Yesterday when picking what feeds to subscribe to I amused myself by going over various blogs I read casually with a critical eye as if I was pretentious movie critic or wine critic. I remember thinking, "Is this blog only full of links to stuff I would have already read on 3 other blogs with little if any comments or is this person an insightful wiz with something to say". Next thing you know I'll be using "hip" blogger buzzwords like moblogging in a sentence that doesn't end with peals of laughter.