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The BBC, microformats, RDFa and Resig

The BBC have recently opted to remove hCalendar microformats from their Programmes site, due to problems with the use of the abbr tag clashing with accessibility tools. One of the potential alternative solutions they're discussing is RDFa.

The excellent John Resig, brain behind jQuery and a million other wonderful Javascript projects, comments on this development in his blog. Take the time to read his post now, it's short.

Resig is someone whom I admire greatly. In particular the quality of his work and thinking, and his dedication to tidying up hairy technologies like JavaScript and Mozilla APIs into developer-accessible frameworks (jQuery, FUEL).

So I was a bit disappointed, and frankly weary, to pick up on the continuation of the bogus microformats vs RDF holy war in his post. I wrote the substance of his post in the comments on his blog, but will repost here for completeness.

The BBC criticism of microformats' use of the abbr tag is a valid one. The microformats' community don't need to "step up and prevent attrition" as Resig writes — as if the enemy was advancing over the front — they need to fix a bug.

Resig reads the RDFa primer and comments that it is

"... obvious that RDFa still has a long ways to go before any sort of practical adoption by developers and designers. Riddled with advanced, or just plain confusing, terminology (XML namespaces, Dublin Core, semantic web, and not to mention the addition of many new attributes - like typeof, about, and property) it appears to be solidly entrenched in the ways that Microformats were able to shake themselves free of, allowing them to achieve widespread adoption."

Resig moves too quickly to dismiss RDFa. In a similar way I know many people who on encountering the HTML5 specs strongly espoused by Mozilla have the same impression of confusion and complexity. It doesn't necessarily make the work less valid, it's just a reflection on the document.

One of the wonderful things Resig has done with JavaScript is take time to love it and figure out its corners. Take some of the "confusing" and "advanced" things away and you're not able to achieve the same things. What he's done in jQuery is add a layer of elegance, predictability and accessibility.

I for one would love to see what Resig would do with semantic markup. jQuery really encourages and enables good markup practices, so there's a lot of synergy with his current style. 

I'll happily concede that RDF people rarely do themselves any favours in the departments of over-engineering or academic self-satisfaction. I also think microformats have natural limitations. There's a place in between, and it's where people John Resig do their best work. 

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