The semantic blog

I've long dreamed of using RSS to produce and consume XML content. We're so close. RSS content is HTML, which is almost XHTML, a gap that HTML Tidy can close. In current practice, the meat of an RSS item appears in the <description> tag, either as an HTML-escaped (aka entity-encoded) string or as a CDATA element. As has been often observed, it'd be really cool to have the option to use XHTML as well. Then I could write blog items in which the <pre> tag, or perhaps a class="codeFragment" attribute, marks regions for precise search. You or I could aggregate those items into personal XPath-aware databases in order to do those searches locally (perhaps even offline), and public aggregators could offer the same capability over the Web. [O'Reilly Network]

I wound up scooping this article on Monday, because I rolled out xhtml:body sooner than expected. So of course, blog commentary relevant to the article appeared even before the article did -- a curious and delightful inversion. On Sam Ruby's blog, Danny Ayers wrote:

Some very good points made in Jon's piece, though I think it's a bit silly jamming any old XML in and calling it "descriptive markup". We can reasonably assume in this case the implied meaning 'this is the content', but nowhere is it made explicit - no description is given.

I'd like to see more opinions on this, but to me, CSS looks like an excellent bridge technology. It is declarative in nature. If I write <p class="codeFragment"> I am merely attaching a label to that element. I can then, optionally, associate a style with that declaration. But I can use that same declaration for other purposes as well. In particular, I can use it to precisely search code fragments. I've long advocated this dual-purposing of CSS declarations because I think it fits well with how people actually write. I find that people who'll say they have no time for descriptive markup will nevertheless fiddle quite obsessively with presentation. Seems to me that if there can be synergy between the two, we ought to exploit that to the hilt.

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