May 1 2007

Markup for the Semantic Web

A recent article, The Definitive Guide to Semantic Web Markup for Blogs, provided me with some new insight into how blog templates should be designed for optimal Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The advice is not restricted to blogs, but can be generalized for any web development. For my own benefit I will recap the key points of that article.

Use the <title> tag for the title of the page or post, not the name of your site. It is not recommend to concatenate the your site name with the title of the post.

Put post and article titles inside <h1> tags.

Use <h2> and other header tags for sub-headlines.

Don’t place your site name, logo, and or tagline in a <h1> tag. Place your site information in a <div> tag instead. Your sidebar menu headlines usually do not merit header tags such as <h2>.

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Dec 28 2006

The Future of Web Apps SF 2006 Conference Notes

Carson Workshops is working hard on the two day conference The Future of Web Apps in London. The summit is going to be held in London during February 20-21, 2007. I had the opportunity to attend the San Francisco, September 13-14 2006 conference for which I present the following notes… The Future of Web apps conference notes are available as a single PDF document for your convinience.

Web 2.0

Wednesday, September 13
Dick Hardt – The Emerging Age of Who
Kevin Rose – The Digg Story – Kevin talks about design and scalability.
Tom Coates – Social Change on the Web – Tom talks about users motivation.
Tantek Celik – Best Practice With Microformats – Microformats are fun.
Steve Olechowski – Ten Things You Didn’t Know About RSS
Carl Sjogreen – How We Built Google Calendar – Six key insights in building Google Calendar.
Mike Davidson – User-driven Content – Is it Working?
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Sep 24 2006

Mike Davidson – User-driven Content – Is It Working?

Mike is the founder and CEO of Newsvine. Mike’s presentation at CarsonWorkshops The Future of Web Apps conference dealt with user generated content. User generated content is not a new concept, it is just a new buzzword. Amazon is driven by user generated content, user can review reviewers. Amazon, Ebay, Epionions have been using user genrated content for years, since web 1.0. The current examples of user genereated web 2.0 sites are MySpace and Digg. During this conference I head MySpace be used as an example every hour, I head people say things like “I want to be the MySpace of gardening.” I want to be the MySpace of fund of hedge fund software.

Mike said that “Delicious is a great way to extend your memory.” I use it as a reading list, I bookmark what I haven’t read but want to. YouTube is another often mentioned web 2.0 user generated content web application. Mike also mentioned that “the interesting thing about Second Life, is that fake products are being sold for real money in a fake environment. That is a market I am interested in being a part of.”
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Sep 24 2006

Carl Sjogreen – How We Built Google Calendar

Carl is the Product Manager of Google Calendar. During his presentation at The Future of Web Apps, Carl shed some light into the development process in place at Google on a typical project and his experience building a great web 2.0 application. Carl said that Google Calendar started as a ‘classic’ Google product team, that is 1 product manager and 3 engineers. The original idea of a Google calendar system was conceived from customer feedback and internal need. In design Google Calendar, Carl said that “being smart isn’t always best.” Carl explained how they over engineered some usability features in the early Google Calendar version that they had to dumb down or simplify for the general public.

Carl also provided six key insights for your next product or company that I will now copy here verbatim.

The first insight is that easy is the most important feature. Think Google Calendar QuickAdd, Google Maps single text field. Google Maps has a single field as opposed to a whole address, city, state, zip code form.
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Sep 24 2006

Tantek Celik – Best Practice With Microformats

Tantek as the Chief Technologist at Technorati has helped shape and define new web standards. In this the fourth session of The Future of Web Apps conference Tantek described the benefits of using standardized Microformats. Microformats are small enhancements to standard HTML tags that help describe and classify the information that is being presented. According to Tantek, a microformat is a small bit of XHTML, a fast and simple way to provide an API. To illustrate this let me describe the Microformat suggested by Google to circumvent comment spammers. Google suggested that links in a blog comments apply a rel attribute with the value of nofollow. Here is an example:

[source:html]
<A href=”some url” rel=”nofollow”>some link</A>
[/source]
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Sep 24 2006

Tom Coates – Social Change On The Web

Tom Coates is a Social Software Technologist at Yahoo! Tom talked about building social software that is greater than the sum of their parts in the CarsonWorkshops The Future of Web apps Conference. According to Tom, social software allows us to do “more together than we could do apart.” This is an interesting point, because anyone can slap a beta image on some HTML, add tags and Ajax effects, and call it a social web 2.0 thingamajig. But in the world wide web, if you build it they won’t necessarily come. So how do you build a web application that is greater than the sum of its parts? Well, in a nutshell Tom recommends the following: Users need to receive a value from their contribution, the contribution provides a value to peers, the aggregation of the contributions provide value to the organization. In other words, the web application needs to provide a sense of individual, social, and organizational value.

Tom had an interesting slide where he quotes someone whose name now escapes me. The slide read something like, “Two reasons for social software (and everything else): get laid and please Jesus!” Similarly I have read research conducted on Stargate fan sites that claim that the pyramids of Egypt had little to do with the after life and a lot to do with picking up the ladies. In addition to the obvious reasons of getting laid, Tom presented a list of common motives for community involvement. According to Tom (via Peter Kollack and The Economies of Online Cooperation), the motives behind community involvement include: anticipate reciprocity, reputation, sense of efficacy, identification with a group.

Tom also had an interesting list of the motives behind Open Source developers. The motives in order of importance include: learning to code, gaining reputation, scratching an itch, contributing to the commons, and sticking it to Microsoft.

Tom’s final remarks dealt with general advice on how to open up a web application to provide social value. Tom’s advice includes, exposing every axis of data possible, helping user to annotate, rate, comment, and share their contributions, allowing users to associate, connect, and form relationships, and finally to provide users with place to represent and express themselves.

In the end of his talk, Tom said, people want to feel like they have an effect on the world.

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