Now we've announced Pingerati and Microformat search, I get a chance to reflect on what has been keeping me busy for the last month, and behind the hiatus in my writing here. I have been building a parallel infrastructure to our Blog indexing, focused on Microformats instead.
Microformats are a way of expressing common kinds of things we refer to online in HTML, such as people, places events and reviews. They are built on layers of open standards, and meant to re-use and converge existing ideas, not make up new ones out of thin air.
When Dave and I were building up Technorati, we were able to do so because of the underlying openness of the web environment - the infrastructure of the net itself, and the open source servers, databases and parsers we connect together to make the data flow.
We also built on a culture of openness that owes a lot to Dave Winer - the openly accessible list of updated blogs gave a place to start in finding blogs to index, and by feeding back links to bloggers we encouraged cross-blog conversations.
When we added tags to blogs we used the rel-tag microformat in conjunction with existing category conventions, and made sure the links were not proprietary, but under authors' control. Again, helping people make connections through open standards.
By being open, we let everyone's world grow.
Although we are seeing more Microformats in blogs every day, we know that they make sense in other places too, and we need a way to encourage people to experiment with them, and find how they can add value to the world. Indexing them and reflecting them back to writers, but building an open data flow that others can tap in enables much more.
So, for the last couple of weeks, I've been working on Pingerati, which is a way to route Microformats around. If you have pages with data to share, you can ping it. If you want to find who has Microformats, it will ping you. The protocol is as simple as it could be, and it should enable the kind of positive sum gains I was talking about yesterday.