All in the <head>

– Ponderings & code by Drew McLellan –

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Can Your Website be Your API?

22 October 2006

WSG Microformats: Drew points to The Light This last week I had the pleasure of giving a presentation for the Web Standards Group London microformats special. I was presenting alongside Norm who was giving some of the background into microformats, and Jeremy, who was covering day-to-day use as well as showing some of the tools that are currently available.

I’d chosen to speak on the subject of “Can your website be your API?”, with the aim of demonstrating how the use of semantic markup and microformats on your public-facing pages could obsolete a lot of common read-heavy API methods. A good example of this is the standard Flickr profile page, which provides more information in its published hCard than is available through the corresponding flickr.people.getInfo API call. All good fun.

I think the presentation went pretty well, even though I’ve not done a huge amount of that kind of thing before. Giving a 30 minute presentation is a fairly daunting thing, but being quite well prepared and having nearly 70 slides to work through really helped. Now I’ve done it, I’d probably be comfortable agreeing to do something similar again. Feedback has been good, which is reassuring, as when you spend a lot of time thinking about an issue it can be difficult to get enough perspective to see if you’re teaching people to suck eggs or not. On the whole, it seems like it was a new concept to most people there, yet one which is easily grokable, which is about perfect.

As well as the slides linked to above (which are not much use on their own) the WSG podcast feed has the audio from the event. If none of that’s your bag, and you’re still interested, I’ll hopefully be writing the whole lot up as an article pretty soon. More on that as I have it.

The photo above is by Faruk Ateş, who has a number of shots from the evening.

- Drew McLellan


  1. § Jeremy Keith:

    Personally, I thought your talk was mind-blowingly good - but then, I'm probably a bit biased because you were talking about the intersection of all my favourite things.

    Seriously though, you should most certainly give this presentation again at any available opportunity. It was well researched and well delivered.

  2. § Dmitry Baranovskiy:

    This is exactly the idea which jumped in to my head on WD06 on Cameron and Kevin speach. I even asked the question (Jeremy could withness it). The only one thing: usually XHTML of the site much bigger than API’s XML, so creating special API is still makes sence.

  3. § Pete Eveleigh:

    Hmm, that’s very interesting. I think you’ve given me a real spark of inspiration there. Thanks!
    And I love the slides :)
    Can I ask the name of the font you used?

  4. § Michael:

    All sounds very interesting. Looking forward to your article.

  5. § Nick Fitzsimons:

    It was an excellent presentation, and gave me a lot of food for thought. I’m looking forward to the article, as I think it will prove very useful in evangelising microformats to my clients.

  6. § Simon Whatley:

    I agree heartedly with everyone that the presentation was extremely interesting. However, I see some barriers to the widespread use of micro formats:

    1.The general populous do not know they are there and don’t know how to use them.
    2.It is fine to add micro formats to templated sites, however, if I want to write a blog post and semantically mark-up all the key references, names etc in the post, it will take an age to write the post. People are inherently lazy so after a brief period of good intentions I’m certain their use will be reduced.
    3.How do you convince businesses that adding micro formats to their site is a good idea? After all for many sites, especially business directories, the data they display is their life-blood and they won’t want to give it away.

  7. § Raimundo Vazquez:

    Great presentations last Thursday.
    Your idea it is very interesting. I personally think it will take unexpected directions.

  8. § Drew:

    Ryan – here’s the backstory.

    To be honest, I didn’t realised I’d inadvertently recycled the title, else I would have avoided it. That said, I’m not sure the original every really broached the subject of its title in anything more than the most abstract way.

  9. § Tim Huegdon:

    I thoroughly enjoyed your talk Drew, and it totally opened up my mind to a whole world of new possibilities with Microformats.

    Thanks very much. :-)

    Oh, and I agree with Jeremy – you should definately give this presentation again.

  10. § Tom:

    Very very interesting,

  11. § Edd Couchman:

    Your talk was my favourite of the evening, and really showed off the possibilities of open standards and the semantic web (small s, small w).

    Good work!


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About Drew McLellan

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Drew McLellan (@drewm) has been hacking on the web since around 1996 following an unfortunate incident with a margarine tub. Since then he’s spread himself between both front- and back-end development projects, and now is Director and Senior Web Developer at in Maidenhead, UK (GEO: 51.5217, -0.7177). Prior to this, Drew was a Web Developer for Yahoo!, and before that primarily worked as a technical lead within design and branding agencies for clients such as Nissan, Goodyear Dunlop, Siemens/Bosch, Cadburys, ICI Dulux and Somewhere along the way, Drew managed to get himself embroiled with Dreamweaver and was made an early Macromedia Evangelist for that product. This lead to book deals, public appearances, fame, glory, and his eventual downfall.

Picking himself up again, Drew is now a strong advocate for best practises, and stood as Group Lead for The Web Standards Project 2006-08. He has had articles published by A List Apart, Adobe, and O’Reilly Media’s, mostly due to mistaken identity. Drew is a proponent of the lower-case semantic web, and is currently expending energies in the direction of the microformats movement, with particular interests in making parsers an off-the-shelf commodity and developing simple UI conventions. He writes here at all in the head and, with a little help from his friends, at 24 ways.