Tag Archives: hcard

The 9th and 10th QR Code commandents

My friend Terence Eden has written a great blog post including The Ten Commandments of using QR Codes, and cleverly (or lazily!) supplied eight of those commandments, inviting his readers to supply the final two. Mine would be:

9. Your QR code shall be displayed in clever places

We’re becoming used to seeing QR codes in print advertising, and on posters, but there are many other places they can be used, and not only the quirky ones like my neat QR Code cufflinks by .

For example, every public building, private office or shop should have a QR Code by their entrance, so that it is prominently seen when the building is closed. It should take the customer to a page with opening times, contact details (see below), further information and perhaps an on-line store.

Bus or tram stops should have QR Codes linking to (mobile-friendly, as per Terence’s third commandment) timetable and fare information. And why not directions for people who’ve just alighted, such as directions to local tourist attractions or the nearest shops?

There are dozens of other paces QR codes can be displayed: on pay-to-park machines; on vehicles; on lamp-posts (but only if you’re the owning authority; no fly-posting, please!); on beer-mats; on envelopes; on bookmarks; and even on cakes. Mmmmm, cake…

QR code cake

10. Your QR code shall lead to downloadable contact details

If you’re going to put QR Codes linking to your website on business cards or brochures, make sure the page you link to either has, or links to a page which has, a downloadable file. You can do this by marking up your contact details with the , and linking to a third-party conversion site, as I do on my contact page. If your customer is using a mobile device the last thing they want to have to do is tiresomely copy’n’paste, or retype, your contact details, when that device is capable of doing the job for them.

Making best use of QR Codes and microformats are among the services in the portfolio I’m offering as part of my new freelance career. How can I help you to use them?

An open letter to Facebook, about their broken microformats

Dear Facebook,

Thank you for adding an hCard microformat to my profile on your site.

However, it’s broken, as you can see in this screenshot, made using the debugger in the superb ‘Operator’ add-on for Firefox:

Microformat contains bogus "org" and "title" properties and no ""URL" or "email" properties

My Facebook profile, with broken hCard microformat shown in Operator toolbar's debugger

You need to fix some things:

  • I am not an organisation, so please remove the org property (you may have some user accounts for organisations, contrary to your own polices. That’s their, and your, problem — individual users are by far the majority).
  • The names of six of my friends, chosen by you at random, are not my titles. My title is currently “Mr”. (I say currently; it might change to “The Right Honourable”, if ever gets to be PM and I threaten to publish the pictures).
  • Add class="url" and rel="me" to my web addresses, This is probably the single most useful thing you could do for me right now. Unless you like ironing.
  • Add class="email" to… oh, you guessed, To my e-mail address; that’s right. I’m sure that won’t be hard to do.
  • Add a machine readable date and mark up my birthday as such: I might get more cards if you do.
  • Mark up my address as such, or at least as a label.

If you do this for me, I promise not to refer to you as “Farcebook” again. Until the next time you screw up, that is.

All the best

— x —

Google Maps’ microformats: unhappy anniversary – still broken after three years

Three years ago today — on 31 July 2007 — Google proudly announced that they had added hCard microformats to Google Maps, so that, as they put it:

your browser can easily recognize the address and contact information in the page, and help you transfer it to an addressbook or phone more easily

Less than four hours after seeing a mailing-list repost of that announcement, by Google‘s Kevin Marks (one of the two signatories of the initial announcement), I replied, pointing out that the implementation was badly broken, and that none of the microformats in a search for a single entity, in this case a school, were valid. (As is usual on Google’s own blogs, there was no facility for comments on the original announcements.)

Google‘s Gregor J. Rothfuss, the announcement’s other signatory, replied that he would look into the matter.

Almost a month later, I asked Gregor if there had been any progress, and he said (I quote him in full):

i will work on it when i have some time.

so I took him at his terse word, and left him to it, with no further reminders. That’s the last I heard from anyone at Google on the issue.

Three years on, though the specific faults have changed, not one of the microformats in the Google Maps search linked above is valid (the mandatory “fn”, or “formatted name” property is missing; address components lack the mandatory child-properties) and I have been unable to find one that is, in other results. They are as useless to someone wanting to add the subject’s address to their address book today as they were on day one.

Update, 31 July 2011: Another year has passed, the microformats are still broken.

Overdue measurement microformat: useful for radio station frequencies

Three or four years ago, I and a few others did a lot of work preparing a draft for a , hMeasure, for marking up length, mass (weight), temperature and so on. Sadly, it has yet to be taken up by the unelected and unaccountable clique who oversee the microformats “process” — but that’s a story for another time.

Recently Corey Mwamba asked how he could semantically mark up the frequencies of radio stations, for example:

Heart FM (Sussex) 102.4 MHz (Eastbourne)

My friend Toby Inkster rightly proposed the use of the “note” property, but I think that authors could also usefully use a non-microformat class name of “frequency”, for added semantic richness (and to aid screen-scrapers), and better still, the proposed hMeasure:

         <div class="vcard">
                 <b class="fn org">Heart FM
                    (<span class="adr">
                        <span class="locality">Sussex</span>
                 <i class="note frequency">
                         <span class="hmeasure">
                          <span class="num">102.4</span>
                          <span class="unit">MHz</span>
                         (<abbr title="50.9761;0.2293" class="geo">

If enough people use this pattern (and write up their experiences of doing so), then a de facto microformat will emerge.

Update: There’s a copy of that code at pastebin.com/CXCYT5nF which has syntax highlighting, and which you can replicate and edit if you wish to make a counter suggestion.

Update 2: I have now implemented this in the Wikipedia Frequency template, as seen, for example, on the article about BRMB.

How microformat developments are blocked

The hCard microformat can distinguish between a person and an organisation, by the use of the org property:

<div class="vcard">
<span class="fn">Andy Mabbett</span>

<div class="vcard">
<span class="fn org">The Red Cross</span>

but it cannot distinguish between an organisation and a place:

<div class="vcard">
<span class="fn org">The Wembley Stadium fan club</span>

<div class="vcard">
<span class="fn org">Wembley Stadium</span>

treating them both as organisations.

On 31 December 2007, I described a way in which hCard microformat could be used to differentiate between hCards for places and organisations.

On 9 January 2008, having received favourable comment, I made a formal proposal to update the hCard specification.

Despite this ten-day gap, Brian Suda, one of the microformats “admins”, the cabal who control microformats, complained that he’d only had two days to consider the matter, and that “More time is needed to fully look over the implications of this change.”

No objections to the method, nor issues with it, have been raised.

Toby Inkster’s superb microformats parser Swignition (formerly called “Cognition”) has supported the method since version 0.1-alpha8, released in May 2008.

One year on from my formal proposal, what changes have been made to the hCard specification, in this regard? None.

Update: Three years on from my formal proposal, what changes have been made to the hCard specification, in this regard? None.

Suggested method of publishing microformats in Twitter posts

Twitter posts like this one:

We’re still deep in the Sundarbans, near Tambulbunia, meeting experts on dolphins and tigers. l:Tambulbunia, Bangladesh=22.27722,89.71905

have a place- name and corresponding coordinates (indicated by the prefix “l:”). This has allowed them to be plotted on a map.

It should be possible for the poster to send, say:

We’re still deep in the Sundarbans, near Tambulbunia, meeting experts on dolphins and tigers. #hcard: fn+locality:Tambulbunia: country-name:Bangladesh: geo:22.27722,89.71905

using colons as delimiters and have Twitter render that comment marked up as an hCard.

In the short term, this could be achieved by a third-party site, like #hashtags .

UPDATE:  being more mindful of the 140 character limit than I have in the above example, perhaps class names might be abbreviated (“loc” for “locality”, “ctry” for “country-name”, and so on).

More Nokia N95 (and Opera Mini) wishes

Dear Nokia, and Opera,

When using your browsers on my N95, please can I:

  • Copy text from a web page
  • Disable CSS
  • View the HTML source
  • Parse microformats (not least hCard, to add contact details to the address book and dial phone numbers; hCalendar, to add events to the calendar; and Geo, to find places on maps).

Surely that’s not a lot to ask for? Thank you.

Who do you work for, again?

I can add a person to Microsoft Outlook as “Bloggs, Fred (Acme Ltd.)”, or “Acme Ltd. (Bloggs, Fred)”. These sync to my Nokia N95’s address book , or can be entered directly, as:

First name = Fred

Last name = Bloggs

Company = Acme Inc.

The vCard (i.e. industry standard for business-card type contact data) and hCard specifications both cater for company (or organisation) names.

So why, in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (may his noodly appendages grace you), can I not find them, when I search my address book for “Acme Inc.”?!?

And why can I not search for people by nickname?

Nokia needs to fix this, and soon.