Enterprise Nil, as in Stenhousemuir Nil: a passing comment on microformats

I had a strange postcolonial upbringing.

Imagine this: Calcutta, 1965. The Dalhousie Athletic Club, in the middle of the wonderful green lung that is the Maidan. (In fact I think the Dalhousie Athletic Club’s maidan branch was colloquially referred to as the Maidan Club, but I could be wrong).

I’ve just had my first tennis lesson, and, luxuriating over a Coke with ice and lime cordial, I watch this tranquil very-British scene unfolding in front of me. Gentlemen and ladies bowling in whites. They have their hats on, but the sun hasn’t. Occasional sounds of leather on willow in the background. A bar that would do any rugby club proud, shored up by drinkers who would also do any rugby club proud. Regaling all in their regalia. And, almost surreally in the midst of all this, there’s someone wandering around collecting pools coupons. Yes, pools coupons, while Jackie Charlton (the before-combover version) scores for Leeds United in a Pathe-like newsreel in the background.

And a few days later, true to type, I saw everyone crane and stretch to hear the evening’s results and check their coupons.

My fascination with soccer results probably began around then, aided and abetted by the apocryphal story of that wonderful team Stenhousemuir Nil, and by the delivery of James Alexander Gordon. [Note to people who don’t follow UK soccer. Stenhousemuir is a venerable and much-loved Scottish soccer team, affectionately called Stenhousemuir Nil, apparently because of the regularity with which that particular phrase got used during Final Score, often as announced by James Alexander Gordon].

Which brings me, somewhat circuitously, to the point of this post. I wanted to write about Enterprise 2.0, but realised that it now has so many connotations, anchors and frames that it was about as meaningful as Enterprise Nil. Whatever label gets you going. It’s only a label.

Chris Messina makes some interesting observations in a post about IE 8 and microformats. I quote from him:

With discussions around support for microformats in Firefox 3, and Apple showing strong support for microformats as well, it’s only a very short amount of time before we can move on from the “so who’s using microformats?” question to “okay, so now what can we do with them?”

And there’s the rub. Now, with microformats, all this Web 2.0 (or Web Nil, if you prefer) stuff is really getting into the enterprise. People may have wondered about social software; they may have wondered about mashups and videos and music. But with microformats, those arguments will fade away. Even troglodytes will begin to see the value, hidden as it is amongst amongst the WMD.
I’ve tried (and failed) to get much traction for microformats in the past; success was rare other than in the simple identity space, which is not a bad place to start, along with calendars and contact details. But there’s so much that can be done with low volatility “reference” information in pretty much any industry, covering product and inventory codes, location information, customer information, currency and value information, you name it.
So thanks, Chris, for reminding me.

The time has come. Enterprise, be ready. Microformats are go. Watch this space.

And for once a standard has emerged that hasn’t already been sacrificed at the altar of vendor whoosis. For once it has been about market adoption. Which is why it will work.

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