Archive for the ‘web standards’ Category

Moved to

July 27, 2010

This will be my last post on this site; I’ve migrated the whole blog to, including all the past posts and comments; and you can still comment on them there.

It’s been by far the most pain-free website migration I’ve ever been involved in ;-)

If you have subscribed to one of this blog’s RSS feeds, or the e-mail version, you’ll need to update your subscription. Apologies for any inconvenience.

See you over there, I hope.

The Highway Code should be available as a set of linkable HTML documents, not just PDFs

July 22, 2010

This post has been moved to Sorry, but won’t let me set an automatic redirect.

My Open Data Challenge to UK Local Government: a Wikipedia Page for Every Council

July 16, 2010

This post has been moved to open-data-local-government-challenge-wikipedia-page-for-every-uk-council. Sorry, but won’t let me set an automatic redirect.

Manu Sporny recommends me on LinkedIn

November 28, 2009

I hope you will forgive me for immodesty repeating Manu Sporny’s kind and fulsome recommendation of me, from my LinkedIn profile, for the benefit of those of you who don’t have accounts there:

I had worked with Andy in the Microformats community, developing international standards for the Web. During this time Andy not only excelled at providing technical feedback and review, but led several bold initiatives to standardize the classification of planetary-geo-location and living species on the web. While a logically consistent and wise technical contributor, his influence on the direction of the community was also vital. Andy’s role in questioning and influencing the core philosophy and community process was and continues to be deeply appreciated.

I’m genuinely touched by that. Thank you, Manu!

Manu Sporny is CEO of Digital Bazaar.

Machine Tagging Flickr

July 16, 2009

I’ve posted some more thoughts on machine- (or triple-) tags and microformats on Flickr, in their Flickr Ideas group.

Update: There is now a tool to automatically generate tags for Flickr images of living things; iNaturalist tagger.

Triple-tag references to Twitter posts

May 30, 2009

Further to my post about a protocol for Twitter posts, you can also triple-tag blog posts, Flickr images and similar web utterances, which refer to a specific twitter post (or status) like this: twitter:status=1975532392 – and this post is tagged with that!

[Update: See also my Flickr screenshot of a Twitter post, triple tagged with #twitter:status=1828036334 to reference the same post.]

Twitter: canonical URLs and Protocols

May 17, 2009

On Twitter, I’m, but in my preferred twitter client, Dabr, I’m We might refer to the former as the “canonical” URL.

There are a number of other web-based Twitter clients, too, and people using them can find my twitter stream, variously, at:

Likewise each of my Twitter posts, or “tweets”, has a URL on each of some of those domains (though not on all, it seems). For example:



are all the same tweet. We can again regard the first of them, on, as canonical.

Anyone using one of those services, and who wants to link to my profile or one of my tweets will either post the URL as it appears in their service, which isn’t much use to people not using that service, or expend time and effort translating the URL into the generic, canonical, Twitter format — which even then may not be of much use to someone using something else.

In the short term, we could do with some recognition of this fact from the above services, which might provide a link to the “standard” or canonical URL for that tweet; and when doing so on an individual page, should link to it using rel="alternate" and/ or rel="canonical".

Better still, there could be browser tools (such as FireFox plug-in or Greasemonkey script) to do that task, automagically.

Ultimately, though, as Twitter becomes ever more widespread, perhaps we need a pair of protocols for linking to Twitter profiles and posts. Using this, authors would be able to mark up links to me and my comments on Twitter as, say:

<a href="twitter:pigsonthewing">Andy Mabbett</a> said <a href="twitterpost:1827840116">something witty</a>.

Then, each reader could set their computer to open those links their choice of browser-based or desk-top/ mobile phone client. The setting to do could even be changed in the installation package for such tools, to aid non-technical users.

Footnote: if you know of another URL for my Twitter stream, please let me know!

Marking up the scientific names of living things

June 27, 2008

As any web manager worth their salt knows, it’s <span lang=”fr”>trés important</span> that changes in language be marked up with HTML’s “lang” attribute, using an IETF language tag (such as “fr” for French, as shown above). This allows software like text readers for blind people to pronounce them correctly (instead of sounding like an outtake from ‘Allo ‘Allo!) and means that translation software can handle them appropriately.

But what happens when a page like this one includes the scientific (or taxonomic) name of a living thing, such as Circus cyaneus (the Hen Harrier)? It’s not English, and should not be translated, into, say, German, as Zirkus cyaneus.

It’s not really Latin, either, though some people mistakenly refer to scientific names as “Latin names”. Many of them are neologisms — new words, with no real Latin content, but based on Latinised Greek (for example Brachypelma albopilosum), people’s names (Ardeola grayii, in honour of John Edward Gray, a biologist), place names (Nepenthes sumatrana, from Sumatra), culture (Ba humbugi, a quote from Charles Dickens‘ ‘A Christmas Carol‘) or even humour (Phthiria relativitae, a play on “The Theory of Relativity”).

Back in 2003, on the IETF mailing list whcih discusses such langauge codes, I proposed that there should be a specific language code, or sub-code, so that scientific names such as these could be marked up and recognised by software. There wasn’t much interest (possibly because I made the proposal as an amateur, rather than a professional or academic taxonomist), and distractions in my work and domestic life meant that I didn’t, unfortunately, have time to pursue the matter.

However, the need for such a code has now been recognised by Gregor Hagedorn, of the Julius Kuehn Institute, Germany‘s Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, in Berlin, who has rekindled my proposal.

With the support of Gregor and other taxonomists, via the Taxacom mailing list, I’m hopeful we can at last make a case that such a code is needed.

hAccessibility: BBC drop hCalendar microformat

June 23, 2008

Almost two years after I first raised the issue (to a reaction from the cabal that runs the microformats “community” which began with denial and moved to hostility) the BBC have stopped using the hCalendar microformat due to accessibility concerns.

Maybe now something can be done to incorporate one of the several, more accessible proposed work-arounds, into the relevant standards?

Thanks to Bruce Lawson and Patrick Lauke for breaking the news.

Update: Patrick now has a post on the subject, at


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