OpenBible.info picked up on my post about a microformat for Scripture references, and very helpfully spelled out a number of important details, along with some clearer thinking on a few points.

  • Use the cite element (rather than abbr as i suggested). There’s more information here at microformats.org about citation formats. I agree this is a better match with the intended semantics of the element (what was i thinking?).
  • Treat the title attribute optional (as it is for XHTML in general): once you’ve established (via the class attribute) that something’s a Bible reference, you only need a title if the associated reference isn’t clear.
  • For links, use the a element with class="bibleref".
  • Forget about biblerange for indicating spans of text: once identified as a Bible reference, any reasonable representation of a range can probably be parsed. (I didn’t feel very strongly about this one to start with). I also think the suggestion for treating compound references makes sense: essentially, provide a title to disambiguate sub-elements that aren’t clear.
  • The suggestion for putting an optional translation identifier first in the title attribute seems reasonable to me too.

I’m still a bit uneasy about internationalization issues, though. title = "John 3:16" adheres to existing standards in the English speaking world, but French would have Jean 3:16, Spanish Juan 3:16, etc. Though any of these are relatively unambiguous as identifiers within their own language context, there’s always a political side. In principle, a properly-formatted web  page would indicate the language of the content, which a parser could then use to parse references in a language-specific fashion.
Frankly, i’m still a little unclear about whether (in microformat terms) this is “semantic XHTML” or a microformat (though i think it’s the former). But this proposal seems clear enough to me to move forward with broader adoption: bibliobloggers, are you in? Some possible next steps:

  • convince others to adopt this, and try to gather momentum
  • design and promote a badge to indicate your blog uses the bibleref standard?
  • lobby authors of Bible reference plugins for blogging platforms to adopt this
  • a conversion service to take RSS feeds (in the several popular formats) that use bibleref markup and enhance them with links to an online Bible (similar to a RSS to GeoRSS converter): this would help demonstrate the utility of the additional markup effort
  • once the standard is more widely adopted, see if Technorati and other aggregators would agree to pick it up in their meta-data crawling

As an aside for those who use Technorati-style tags in their posts (i do, though i haven’t properly exposed them in my WordPress template yet): i’m going to use “bibleref” as a tag for additional posts in this area, and i encourage you to do the same.