in Projects, Programming, Technology

An XHTML Microformat for Questions and Answers

I am researching microformats and XHTML this morning. I want to define a structured format for HelpShare questions and answers to make HelpShare more crawlable, and also establish us as leaders in the area of discussion data portability. I am also interested in a format for product listings for another project.

The first question is – is a new microformat standard really necessary? There are some XHTML elements that I haven’t used before that may be applicable (to questions and answers). My assumption was that there was a wider gap between what I could do with XHTML (or fewer choices) and what I want to do (nest answers with questions and cite the relevent asker or answerer).

Tantek Celik put together a good presentation on some of the more meaningful elements of XHTML.

The relevant ones to me were:

  • dl, dt, dd
  • blockquote/cite

Based on the presentation and a quick understanding of these elements, I’m contemplating markup that looks like this. Threaded discussions using XHTML:

This used up my time allocation for this morning. The next task is to figure out in more detail what distinguishes a microformat from standard XHTML markup. Is the above markup enough to transmit a question and answer? How should I include ratings and reward?

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  1. If you’re more interested in data transmission, and not so much in markup, you may want to consider JSON, which is very light-weight and becoming popular.

    However, this won’t help improve your “crawlablility”, and doesn’t provide the “display guidance” that markup does.

  2. No, I’m interested in crawlable markup. Unfortunately, this may have to take a back burner for a while because no one is waiting to crawl HelpShare (and if they did they could use our perfectly good RSS feeds). I had hoped that taking leadership and establishing a format would essentially be good advertising for us and invite crawling.