microformats: process discussion: search results as evidence

Before creating a microformat, the process demands a couple of
concrete actions to be taken first. The general idea is to document
current authorship techniques. If current techniques make it possible
to encode a piece of information, there is no need for a microformat.
Thus, we set ourselves up to make it difficult to create a format.
The specific steps required involved require us to document copious
amount of examples, and an anlysis of what those examples imply.

Take a look at the current recipe efforts: http://microformats.org/wiki/recipe.
(If you are aspiring to create a microformat, this is an excellent example of how to do so.)

What makes the research useful is the list of URLs with the subject
material actually appearing on those pages. In http://microformats.org/wiki/recipe-examples we see a list of
recipes grouped by a useful qualification (in this case the type of
publisher). On the brainstorming page, there is ongoing commentary on
what these examples imply.

Notice that no format is being proposed, instead examples are
collected, and the most commonly authored items are proposed as future
properties in possible future format.

The reason for this post, however, is to highlight the need for
primary sources as evidence. While searching is a useful technique
for finding resources, I’m not convinced they constitute useful
evidence (unless you are researching how search engines markup
results)., because they don’t contain any substantive material that
can be analysed in the brainstorming effort.

Some may argue that search results constitue evidence that a given
datatype is published, however, I’m not convinced this is true either.
The evidence for data or some property of data being published is
discovered by documenting and analyzing the pages they were actually
published on, and I’ve yet to see a public search engine capable of
performing this task.

-Ben West


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