I have been fortunate enough to work with some great people out there working for open web and semantic standards. However, I am reluctant to use identify myself with my current employer in this work, as it can sometimes foster negative connotations. On multiple occasions I have been either directly or indirectly warned of “forcing” standards, or creating them for profit or company gain.
While there are inherent benefits to adopting these data standards for ecommerce sites, and thus my company and industry, I am constantly reminded of a simple fact: I am a consumer too, and I deserve a better experience when searching for products. This is why I advocate for better semantic data practices on the web. To illustrate my point, I need only look back to this past weekend. My wife and I are needing new kitchen appliances, but have a non-standard (measuring from today’s modern standards) area to fit a refrigerator and free-standing range. While we’ve solved for the range, I spent a great deal of time tracking down specs for a handful of refrigerators to see if they fit in within our limited height constraints. To my surprise, I found different height measurements for every commerce site I visited, for the same refrigerators. This prompted a visit to the store, where the dimensions on the retailer’s site didn’t match what was physically on the floor. Frustrated, we were sent spiraling toward square one in our quest for new appliances.
With more participation of retailers, manufacturers, and service providers in the semantic web, these gaps surely would close. I envision a time where publishing good semantic data in an hproduct microformat or product RDFa enables applications to capture data and organize it — providing clarification to inconsistent data, offering a larger view of product reviews, and giving consumers better pricing and service options from a wider variety of stores.
Until that day comes, I am still looking for a black 25+ cubic foot side-by-side refrigerator with bottom-mount freezer that is Energy Star qualified and will fit into a 67 1/2 inch high space. Or a good contractor to remodel our kitchen.