Be one of the first to use self-description

Posted under Everything! - Feb 10th, 07 - Comments Off

I am looking for volunteers :), who would be willing to have a go at
marking-up their existing website collection descriptions using the
self-description microformat. Any takers? Leave a comment, or email me
and I will be in touch.

I am also looking for people who would be interested in writing a parser / bot to collect self-descriptions.

New draft of the self-description microformat

Posted under Everything!, Self Description - Feb 10th, 07 - 2 Comments

Not had a huge amount of time available over the last few months, however, we have made some progress.

Firstly there is a new draft of the microformat. Through the process of writing an XMDP profile, a couple of inconsistencies cropped up, so these have been fixed. Most notable is the use of title instead of name. This is because we are trying to follow the collection description application profile (DC CD AP) being developed by Dublin Core. We can’t, and won’t, support all of the DC CD AP because the main aim of self-description is to keep it simple. There are also some aspects of the DC CD AP that we think are not entirely useful for the use cases we are anticipating.

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Microformatted Mozilla

Posted under Everything!, Self Description - Jan 2nd, 07 - Comments Off

It seems Microformats are beginning to make the journey from cool-but-geeky-idea to average-user-reality.

Alex Faaborg – » Microformats – Part 0: Introduction

Much in the same way that operating systems currently associate particular file types with specific applications, future Web browsers are likely going to associate semantically marked up data you encounter on the Web with specific applications, either on your system or online.

Alex is a User Experience Designer working on Firefox 3. It is reassuring to see that people who want to design ways to make the user experience fit seemlessly with their experiences outside of the software product’s control are looking at the microformat as another way to do this.

(firefox already works for me as a debugging tool, blogging tool, media player tool and PHP development tool by the judicious use of add-ons. Oh, did I mention ftp tool, social book marking tool and web browser…)

Once a browser adopts microformats, and people start to see simple integrations, like having contact details saved straight to your address book, then we start to see that other people can have ideas for content that should be findable and exploitable.

So what does this mean for self-description?

A greater awareness of the sheer usefulness of being able to toss little bits of information around like a balloon patted from person to person, will prompt people to begin finding new ways to share that info. It’s very tempting to wander off into a bit of future gazing at this point, but I would ask you to think about ways that your collection descriptions can start to live a life of their own, being tossed around the internet and eventually landing up in unexpected places.

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The first draft!

Posted under Everything! - Nov 10th, 06 - Comments Off

The first self-description draft microformat is now available. In future versions of this document I will be adding references to other Collection Description metadata schemes, such as the DCMI Collection Description, on which this microformat is based to some extent.

I invite comment :)

Self-description – an overview

Posted under Everything!, Self Description - Nov 6th, 06 - Comments Off

I would like to introduce you to the self-description dream:

“That self-descriptions make finding collections easier for everyone, by being writable by everyone in their own language.”

That is a rather off-the-cuff expression of the philosophy of the self-description microformat, but the primary goal of a self-description is definitely to make collections easier to find.

‘Language’ as used above is not restricted to major national languages – but should be considered to be broad enough to include the language used by academics to describe a collection as disparate from that used by students to describe the same collection. Different groups of users will describe the same collection with different emphasis which will speak to other users within that ‘market segment’. (Forgive the marketing speak,
but it helps greatly to see the self-description as a marketing oppourtunity. This I’m sure will be discussed in a later post.)
Self-description overview

In this diagram, we see three web pages – each contains at least one collection description. The web pages are written by different organisations, and hosted in different parts if the Internet.

A web crawler is crawling some pages and finds the collection description encoded in the self-description microformat. It then extracts this data and saves it in an open repository for the collection descriptions. (There is no requirement for these two tools to be hosted by the same people.)

One key requirement of an open collection description database would be to index the data and make those indexes available through APIs.
The key thing is that the Collection Description is now freely available to all who want to use it in their projects. The collection description does not have to come from the web crawler. It may be that an existing content source that hosts its own collections – such as a journal indexing service (each journal could be considered to be a collection) – embeds in its pages the Self-description microformat. It might even supply an RSS feed of collections in a subject area that are marked up with self-description data. Another consumer could then use the data in their own applications.
A browser based editor makes it easy to select elements within an existing description and mark it up with the self-description microformat. You can see a Beta tool called Egodesc hosted here on

For the seasoned researcher or academic, a Firefox Add-on could identify the collection on a page and add it to a user’s favourite collections, along with tags in a style.

Those tags could even be fed back into the indexing engines to improve search.

This is a ‘stub’ if you like – and will be worked up into a ‘proper’ introduction at a point in the future.

If you like what you see here, or want to comment – please get in touch.


Posted under Everything!, Self Description - Nov 4th, 06 - Comments Off

Self-description is I hope an easy way to make your collections findable by the masses.

In a nutshell…

  • You already write descriptions of your collections to go on your library or museum website.
  • You probably have to use some form of (X)HTML to markup up that description with formatting
  • Why not make that description available to computers that crawl the web by adding some extra ‘code’ while you are writing it?

This site is expanding daily as I put more there and try to explain with plentiful examples exactly what self-description can do for you.

And as it is built on that popular WordPress blog platform, there are easy ways for you to stay in touch with the latest developments using RSS.