Well-formed writing and information routing

The tagging conventions I've been applying for the last four months are really springing to life, now that structured search of my blog is available. For example, my convention has been to write quotations like so:

<p class="quotation" source="...">...</p>

On the search page, one of the canned queries uses this XPath expression to find all the places where I quote Ward Cunningham:

//*[@class='quotation' and @source='Ward Cunningham']

If I want to find Don Box quotes, I can just change that -- in the form's accompanying input field -- to:

//*[@class='quotation' and @source='Don Box']

While I'm at it, I might as well acknowledge all of the voices that have enriched my blog over the past four months. A snippet of XSLT found them:

Adam Curry, Alf Eaton, Allie Rogers, Annrai O'Toole, Bernard Teo, Bill de hÓra, Bill Gates, Bob Clary, Brendan Eich, Brian Marick, Chad Dickerson, Chris Brumme, Crazy Apple Rumors, Dan Brickley, Danny Ayers, Dave Winer, Don Box, Douwe Osinga, Gordon Weakliem, Hiawatha Bray, Ian Hixie, James Farmer, Jenny Levine, Jesse James Garrett, Jim O'Halloran, John Markoff, Ken Manheimer, Les Orchard, Matt Griffith, Micah Alpern, Mitch Kapor, Nancy McGough, Patrick Logan, Paul Everitt, Paul Graham, Paul Philp, Pete Cole, Peter Wayner, Phil Wainewright, Philip Brittan, Ray Kurzweil, Ray Ozzie, Rob Howard, Robert Ivanc, Robert L. Vaessen, Robert Scoble, Sam Ruby, Samuel Pepys, Sandeepan Banerjee, Scott Reynen, Sean McGrath, Stefano Mazzocchi, Ted Leung, Ted Neward, Tiernan Ray, Tim Bray, Tim Oren, Tom Yager, Tonico Strasser, Ward Cunningham

It's great to be able to reuse content like this. A point I made yesterday bears repeating, because it's central to what Steve Gillmor calls the "information routing" aspect of RSS and blogging. Well-formed content is a powerful enabler for a couple of reasons.

First, you have more control over your own material. If you want to develop a series of elements -- mine include quotations, mini-reviews, tips, and code snippets -- there's no special content-management machinery needed to do so. Just start tagging things accordingly; structured search immediately brings these views to life. Some will merit formalization in the CMS, others won't. This exploratory mode is to the CMS world what dynamic languages and interactive environments are to the world of programming.

The second reason is subtler. Your content doesn't just live on your blog. It flows through the RSS network. If others can perform structured search of your content, and use automated methods to recombine it, then your stuff can resonate more powerfully and is more likely to retain its fidelity as it gets routed around.

To ante up for this game, you have to produce well-formed content. The mainstream blog-writing tools aren't helping at all. Most well-formed writing is done in emacs, still. Can we please change that soon?

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2003/08/29.html#a786