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80/20 Standardization

Stefan Tilkov,

Ryan Tomayko writes about the Zen of microformats; the whole post is worth reading, but I just have to explicitly point out this Mark Pilgrim quote:

Most standards go like this:

  1. Solve 80% of the problem in a matter of weeks.
  2. Spend two years arguing about the last 20%. (cough Atom cough)
  3. Implement the 80% in a matter of weeks. Wonder why everything is so hard.
  4. Spend months implementing the last 20%. Realize why the first 80% was so hard. Curse a lot.
  5. Discover that the last 20% wasn’t really worth all the time spent arguing about it or implementing it.

Microformats, on the other hand, go like this:

  1. Solve the 80% in a matter of weeks.
  2. Promise (wink wink) to tackle the 20% “later”.
  3. Implement the 80% in a matter of days.
  4. Watch people use it for a few months. Maybe tweak a little here and there.
  5. Discover that the last 20% wasn’t really necessary after all. Breathe a sigh of relief that you never bothered. Move on to the next problem.

He could just as well be talking about most software development projects …

On October 28, 2005 2:46 PM, Oliver Wolf said:

Especially about the one we both know pretty well. :-)

On October 28, 2005 10:21 PM, grumpY! said:

we are descending into a crapfest of ad-hoc formats. json, microformats, etc etc.

yes we know there are problems with xml. no one is disputing that. but we have waited a long time to get some form of support for standards-based toolchains and now we are going to throw this all out midstream for what? this crap?

json i will at least say fulfills some small useful role, even if its promotion is based on the false premise that xml is broken. in particular it saves, you know, 1k of download data on a page with 400k of images. whoopee. but also there is a claim that xml is unreadable. huh? html has trained us to read tags, and that isn’t going away.

microformats are going nowhere. we’re talking the 1% of the 1% of the 1% of early adopters who care about this. people who really are just looking for something to latch on to for their own vanity or to ease the boredom of a life mistakenly dedicated to “this great new medium” blah blah.

but wait! it gets better. what if i try to mix json and microformats? oh, now we’re back to inventing something like xml. thats what those namespace are for kids, so you can MIX different documents together. tell me how i mix these new ad hoc formats together.

i request that all of these bored web2 types go work in a soup kitchen instead of flooding the market with ad-hoc drivel.