This is going to be the first of a tiny series of overly technical posts which may only matter to a number of persons so small it may indeed turn out to be negative. Meaning this might (just might) not matter even to me. Anyway, it’s been fun in a twisted way. Enjoy.
Greasemonkey is one of those geeky metatools. Available for Firefox, it empowers users to play with pages by conditionally applying scripts to them. This enables all kinds of transformations, juggling and right out mayhem. It’s not my intention to delve into the depths of Greasemonkey, or even explain it in any meaningful depth: this is infinitely best done in the wonderful book Dive Into Greasemonkey (and this companion Greasemonkey pitfalls article). I’ve just come up with a neat crossover with microformats which I want to share with you.
Huh? Microformats, you say? Indeed. Microformats, as per their main web site, are…
[...] a set of simple, open data formats built upon existing and widely adopted standards. Instead of throwing away what works today, microformats intend to solve simpler problems first by adapting to current behaviors and usage patterns (e.g. XHTML, blogging).
In other words, microformats are (one of) the wave(s) of the future! It’s not just Web 2.0, it’s Semantic Web! While it seems I’m babbling like a teenager marketing droid on steroids, there is a nugget of truth in there. Microformats enable us to annotate content, so people can read it and computers too. Someone might write a parser for microformat X able to extract RDF triples and, ultimately, knowledge for the network. Search engines can parse them to provide meaningful answers to queries like what is an XML namespace (as if it mattered! *laughs*) or what is time (who needs Stephen Hawking when you can have Google?)
However, all these niceties don’t add up to much by themselves. What about a real-world problem solved by microformats? Greasemonkey and some healthy dose of naïveté on my part may help to ease the trouble with automated unit conversions. All of them! Next stop, a measurement microformat.