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Category Archives: Structured content

On third-party transclusion

On 25 August 2014, Sorin Pintilie (@sorpeen, published an article on The Pastry Box Project, discussing a mechanism that would allow content to be transcluded into a web page, by applying an href="…" attribute to a <p> tag. This article is a response to that.

Transclusion is the inclusion of a small element of content from one source into other material, by reference. The transcluded content is presented as an integral part of the final material – at the point of reference – while remaining dependent on its primary source. It is included at presentation time. The principle of transclusion was part of the original description of hypertext, as published by Ted Nelson in 1965.

There are two variants to transclusion. The first, as envisaged by Nelson, is the easier: content reuse within a single publishing environment. Sorin’s article, and this one, deal with the second type: including a snippet of someone else’s content into your publishing. Read more of this post

The biological imperative (ICC2014)

The highlight of Intelligent Content Conference – at least for me – was Noz Urbina’s presentation that caps over two years of research into how the mind works, and the consequences of this on how we communicate… on how we need to design our communications so they are most effective.

To influence behaviour, we must understand behaviour. And behaviour begins and ends in the mind.

So, to the mind. As humans, we are born with our brains unformed. The new-born’s brain is a single large mass: not yet divided into hemispheres, the cortex lacking the crinkles we expect to see. That definition of the brain’s structure comes from learning. And learning is the construction of semantic models. Indeed, we have a natural need to create models. (Infants who are aware there are models they could be creating, but denied access to the experimentation to build them – e.g. they can only watch others play, not participate themselves – will express their frustration loudly.)

But… Read more of this post

Deblobbling in the Real World (CS Forum 2013)

What must have been – at least from my perspective – one of the two best talks at CS Forum 2013 was delivered by one of the most turned-on people I know – Jeff Eaton – tackling the beautifully thorny challenge of structured content.


Content is not just a tool for self-promotion. Content is an asset, with intrinsic value; for many, it is a core product.

In order to leverage the value of content, it needs to be eminently reusable; repurposable. This is not just that it can be shared socially. It needs to be sufficiently fluid that is can move easily between formats and platforms, remoulding itself to suit the situation. Content that is baked into a particular format is about as reusable as an ingredient in a served cake. The only solution is to store content in a structured format.

Of course, even a well-conceived structure is not infallible. To paraphrase Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke, “No model survives contact with real content.” Read more of this post

Semantic long-form

Long form: it’s been the basis of communication for millennia. We tell stories; we’ve been successfully sharing concepts with others this way for as long as we’ve been recording history – indeed, long-form communications is perhaps the fundamental enabler of the very concept of history.

Why, then, do we have such trouble migrating this most basic form of communication to the digital realm? What about how we create, manage, maintain and distribute long-form content makes it machine-unreadable?

Personally, I blame Xerox.

Space Diner, by Chris Shipton Read more of this post