Tag Archives: microformats

Webslices and Revisiting Microsummaries

When the first Firefox 2 beta was released, I looked into Microsummaries, a feature that enables bookmarks to automatically update their titles with information. I concluded they were useful, but not for anything I was doing. The main application would be my Flash site, but it already had an RSS feed for updates, and a microsummary could only really include the most recent item.

Now the first IE8 beta supports Webslices. They’re similar in concept, but can include formatted data (not just plain text) and use microformat-like markup on the web page instead of a <link> element in the head.

I figured with two browsers supporting the concept, I’d give it a shot. I adapted the script I use to generate the RSS feed so that it will also take everything on the most recent day and generate a text file, which is used for the Microsummary title. For the Webslice, to start with I just marked up the “Latest Updates” section of the home page. Since I haven’t installed IE8b1 at home, I’m using Daniel Glazman’s experimental Webchunks extension for Firefox to try it out. Unfortunately the extension doesn’t seem to resolve relative links in its current state.

The real question, of course, is whether either technology offers anything better than what feeds can do now.

I think I’ll end up going the external-feed route for the Webslice as well, since it’ll use a lot less bandwidth than having a bunch of IE installations pulling the entire home page once a day. Plus since I’m using SSI on that page, it doesn’t take advantage of conditional requests and caching, and a static file will. But that’ll have to wait. Lost is on in 2 minutes, and after getting up earlier than usual this morning, I’ll probably be going to bed right after the show.

Update: I checked in IE8, and the webslice does work as expected. A few minor differences: Webchunks pulls in external styles, like the background and colors, while IE8b1 only uses styles in the chunk itself. Interesting bit: I’m marking up list items as entries, and IE8 is actually displaying them as a bulleted list, while Webchunks is simply showing the content.

So it at least works. Maybe tonight or Sunday I’ll see if I can refine it a bit.

Making Use of Microsummaries

Well, Firefox 2 beta 1 is out, and I’ve been trying it out. I used to run nightly builds back in the early days, but since 1.0 hit, I haven’t been willing to go below beta-level for my primary browser, so I haven’t really been following development of Firefox 2. (Let me just say I really like in-line spell checking!)

As a web developer, one of the new features that caught my eye is microsummaries. If the name weren’t already taken, “live bookmarks” would have been the perfect description.

Basically it retrieves info from the bookmarked page and updates the label on your bookmark. Examples given include the current price and remaining time for an auction, or current stock price, or weather data. The page author can describe what chunk of data to use, or you can write an installable “generator” that applies itself to some list of pages.

This is a pretty cool idea: basically a 1-item RSS feed, automatically generated from the current page. (The disadvantage is that the browser retrieves the full page and then extracts the data, whereas an RSS feed is already summarized.) Edit: Apparently it’s also possible to link to a 1-line text document instead.

So, being handed a new tool, I immediately started trying to come up with something to do with it.

And came up more-or-less empty.

There are only two areas on my site that I update regularly: Flash: Those Who Ride the Lightning and this blog—and both are more suited to the list of recent updates that you get with RSS or Atom than the latest-info-only that you get with a microsummary.

It might prove useful for server monitoring, though. Condense the important info from a report (like “No alerts” vs “Server X down!”) and put it on the browser toolbar.