Saturday, February 16, 2008

2am... Rebranded!

No, your eyes do not deceive you. For the first time since I started this blog in the summer of 2006, I have changed the template to a brand new look, migrating from the Minima template to a sleeker, yet still reserved, Tekka template.

But that's not all that's changed on this blog... Over on the sidebar, there is still my blog roll. They'll still take you to the blogs as advertised, but they do more than that. They provide a guide to social networks. To understand how and why, let's look back at a couple of posts.

A little over four months ago, I blogged about how people are trying to figure out a way to extract a deeper meaning from the web.

Because a lot of webpages do not use HTML's full repertoire of tags and attributes to communicate the page's semantics, there's only so much a computer can glean from a page's content. The web's big thinkers envision a day where websites do provide this kind of information, making it easier for someone to search on a desired topic. This goal is sometimes referred to as the Semantic Web or Web 3.0.

One facet of a Semantic Web is a more visible Social Graph. The Social Graph refers to the way people are connected by relationships, be it personal or professional.

Some of these relationships can be inferred the friend lists on social networking websites like MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn, but for the most part, these relationships are walled off by each social networking site.

It turns out that a lot of regular hyperlinks are the byproduct of such relationships. I hinted at this in a comment over at Restoring the Covenant when I wrote about visualizing links between blogs. The problem is that not all hyperlinks convey this information, and the HTML <A> tag doesn't indicate the extent of the relationship.

Late last summer, an essay was published calling for an infrastructure to make relationship information more portable. Since then, there have been some efforts by these sites to open up their data via web service APIs. Google has tried to create a lingua franca with its OpenSocial API.

Now there is an effort to encourage people to add semantics to their blog rolls. Dubbing itself as the Xhtml Friends Network, they have devised a way to take advantage of the current HTML standards.

The HTML <A> tag has an attribute called rel that can be used to provide information about the relationship of the current document to the document pointed to by the link. There is a list of relationship types, but the standard leaves open the possibility for extension:
Authors may wish to define additional link types not described in this specification. If they do so, they should use a profile to cite the conventions used to define the link types.

And that's exactly what XFN is doing. The profile can be found at their website.

So I've upgraded most of the blogroll with these relationship attributes, using the guidelines for the values in the profile. I've also submitted my site's URL to the Rubhub social search site.

XFN provides step-by-step instructions on how to do this. They also provide links to tools to assist you in editing the HTML.

I invite all blog readers who are bloggers themselves to help build a more sociable web!
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