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Using RDFa to mark-up features in specifications for websites

CEO, Co-Founder
Feb 24, 2009

If you ever wrote a specification, you've come across the following problem: Once you finally built your spec you need to cut it into feature-tickets, spec units that you can properly follow in your project management system. This basically duplicates your information, in a fluent text and a ticket version. It's a lot of extra work and worst of all it disconnects your specification from your project management system. In most cases this means that from that point on, the written document is dead: the fluid text version will never be rewritten. A recipe for a communication disaster. Today during an R&D meetup with the colleagues, I realized that it's possible to solve this problem with RDFa mark-up. Most specifications have a content hierarchy with hierarchically grouped features (not necessarily in this order) by:

  • project
  • subproject
  • milestone
  • component
  • feature

It is possible to define an ontology that collects these properties so that you can then say something like: [gist:4153882] Erno Zsemlye, my colleague, is working on an RDFa/micro-format WYSIWYG-like interface that will allow you to add RDFa markup to text in Drupal sites. Today it stroke me that you could use RDFa to solve the eternal specification to feature problem:

  1. You have a wiki page in which you collaboratively build a specification with your customer
  2. Once development starts you use the WYSIWYG editor to quickly add RDFa mark-up
  3. You parse the marked-up spec into feature tickets
  4. You would need to assign unique identifiers to the features so that when the text in the spec changes you don't loose your connection with your ticket
  5. This identifier could be an automatic index number that is assigned to every feature in a given revision of the spec (e.g. node/NID/VID/FID with respectively node id, revision id, feature id).

Kristof Van Tomme is an open source strategist and architect. He is the CEO and co-founder of Pronovix. He’s got a degree in bioengineering and is a regular speaker at conferences in the API, developer relations, and technical writing communities. He is the host of the Developer Success & the Business of APIs and the API Resilience podcasts.


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