"XHTML is built on XML, and thus XHTML based formats can be used not only for convenient display presentation, but also for general purpose data exchange. In many ways, XHTML based formats exemplify the best of both HTML and XML worlds."
Many social software projects and blog specific search engines are beginning to investigate the idea of utilising microformats for describing and retreiving recurring content objects in XHTML web pages. Using XHTML allows for both the display and the inclusion of simple metadata to describe the format of specific content objects. The initiative seems to have been started by Tantek Celik of Technorati. Techorati and other engines that are searching the blogosphere would stand to gain considerably more detailed and focused searching capacity by being able to easily search aspects of blog posts as belonging to a specific microformat. An example would be to simplify searching for blog posts that conformed to the hReview for movies. Microformats though are not necessarily just for blogs and the idea may be applied to any kind of recurring content forms that we may wish to designate for search and retrieval purposes.
It is possible that the recurring teaching devices used by teachers in practice could be designated as a microformat. Editing environments (Wikis, eXe, etc.,) that could import Open Educational Resources (OER) that included microformats for describing their structural components could then be manipulated, recontextualised, and easily exchanged between such environments.
- Standardising the markup of Open Educational Resources simplifies the use of CSS to manipulate the display of content for different users and media devices. For example, if a course or contents' Objectives were always descibed with an agreed upon ID and form in the XHTML, then writers of CSS could always include a style for the objectives ID or CLASS selector without having to worry about what it was called in different OERs.
- Searching through and manipulating content becomes a far more granular and controllable exercise. Taking the above example of Objectives - marking up all Objectives content with a Microformat based ID or CLASS selector would allow for aggregation of all Objectives into a single space. This could be done so a student can see all the course Objectives up front. A better example may be a Microformat for Readings. Aggregating all Readings interspersed throughout a large piece of content could automatically format a Reading List type page.
It requires possible lengthy discussion and vetting process to formalise on accepted practices. Then requires some way to implement the easy markup of areas of content that may be seen as microformats. In Mediawiki this could be achieved by an easy tool to implement the inclusion of Templates into content.
Existing Microformats and Investigations
Currently there are a couple of existing Microformats that could be useful for OERs as well as some undergoing investigation.
- hCard - open, distributed format for representing people, companies, organizations, and places
- Rel-License - a simple, open, format for indicating content licenses which is embedable in (X)HTML, Atom, RSS, and arbitrary XML.
- XOXO - a simple, open outline format written in standard XHTML and suitable for embedding in (X)HTML, Atom, RSS, and arbitrary XML.
- rel-directory - adding 'directory' to the rel attribute of a hyperlink, a page indicates that the destination of the hyperlink is a directory listing containing an entry for the current page.
- rel-home - by adding rel="home" to a hyperlink, a page indicates that the destination of that hyperlink is the homepage of the site in which the current page appears
- xFolk - xFolk is a simple and open format for publishing collections of bookmarks. It better enables services for improving user experience and sharing data in web-based bookmarking software.