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The representative hCard for a Page

15th Nov 2008

In my previous entry I mentioned that I couldn't find a way to go from an XFN-discovered URL to an hCard describing the corresponding person. It turns out that David's response was correct: there is a way to do this already. The catch is that rather than linking from the page to the hCard, it instead links from the hCard to the page. The fact that I already had half a solution in my mind when I was searching for existing practice prevented me from finding this one. Mea Culpa, I guess.

This is, however, a good example of what I consider a failure in the design of some Microformats. For me, the big advantage of Microformats over other data publishing mechanisms is that I just need to add a few adornments to data I'm already publishing, so I can add Microformats support quickly with no visual or structural impact on my page. This approach for marking "representative hCards" fails to deliver on this promise: my page doesn't have a link to itself. Why would it? You're already there!

This does draw my attention to something I hadn't noticed before: the hCard on my site doesn't contain my URL, so if you export it using existing tools you won't get the URL field populated. I'm loathe to put a self-referential link on my page, since that'd be confusing. It feels like hCard parsers should be able to infer that my URL is the current page URL having determined that this is the representative hCard... but of course, as currently specified, it can't determine whether it's the representative hCard unless I publish that self-referential link.

I've posted the proposal from my previous entry on the Microformats mailing list to see what the Microformats community thinks of it. I think it complements nicely the approach they're already recommending, allowing some additional possibilities that it can't support alone. It also doesn't invent anything new: the link element and rel="me" are being used to mean what their respective specifications say they should mean, and the hCard documentation already says that if a fragment is present in the URL the parser must look only within the identified element.

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