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IT Leadership // Team Building & Staffing

Tech High School Preps Students For IT Careers

Information Week
InformationWeek Daily - Thursday, April 24, 2008

Editor's Note

Web 2.0 Expo: Web Pages Are Just The Beginning For Audience-Building

SAN FRANCISCO -- Web site owners who focus exclusively on building pages are just scratching the surface of Internet audience-building. Feeds, search engines, and widgets can vastly expand the potential audience for any Web site by bringing the content directly to the audience, said Web consultant Niall Kennedy, giving a workshop at Web 2.0 Expo here.

He compared Web sites to the TV show Jeopardy, which has a small studio audience and a huge audience watching it on TV. "The people who enter the URL to your site in the browser are like the studio audience," Kennedy said at the conference, which runs through Friday and is co-sponsored by O'Reilly Media and TechWeb, the parent company of InformationWeek.

Several relatively recent technologies have the potential to vastly expand a site's audience, Kennedy said.

Microformats are one such technology. Microformats are a specialized form of HTML that labels content on part of a Web page. Microformats enhance searches; if you've ever searched for a term, like O'Reilly Media, and get back a result with categories neatly laid out below the main entry, microformats help the search engine figure out what site sections are beneath the main page.

Examples of microformats include hCard, for addresses, which is similar to vCard, and which recognizes people, companies, and places. The standard hCalendar is a microformat for events and schedules, similar to the iCalendar standard that Mac OS X uses.

Using microformats helps get your content discovered by search engines, Kennedy said. Yahoo, Firefox, and LinkedIn are examples of companies that recognize microformats.

"I've seen traffic jump on my site since I implemented microformats," Kennedy said.

RSS or Atom feeds are another example of technology that can help Web sites find their audience. Feeds are used by newsreaders, search engines, multimedia distribution software like iTunes, and application APIs.

People who subscribe to feeds are highly engaged in sites -- they're signaling that they want to receive updates as they happen, rather than wait to go to the site, Kennedy said.

And search engines find it easier to index feeds.

Like microformats, feeds label parts of a page: Company logo, title, author, publish date, contents, summary, replies, and category.

Vista and Leopard have built-in support for feeds, as do Safari, Firefox, and Microsoft Internet Explorer.

In the Web browser, feeds look to the user like enhanced bookmarks, with each article getting a separate link and articles updating as they're published.

Feeds also tell multimedia applications like iTunes when to schedule downloads for multimedia files.

Outlook 2007 and Apple Mail have RSS built in, making feeds in those applications into mailing-list replacements, Kennedy said.

Find out what else Kennedy said about microformats and feel free to post your thoughts in the comment section and add to the conversation.

Mitch Wagner
[email protected]

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Tech High School Preps Students For IT Careers
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