If you haven’t guessed it already, we love data in open formats. Good quality, easily accessible data makes our lives easier, and causes children across the nation to beam with joy at the idea that they won’t have to copy a table from a Word document buried in a Zip file attached to an email.

In a continued drive to making all our data 5-star quality, I’m pleased to announce that we’ve made a few improvements to our Staff Directory beta. In addition to getting hold of people’s profiles in HTML using your browser (for example, see mine) you can now request them in three other delicious formats: JSON, RDF/XML and vCard.

The first two, JSON and RDF/XML will make the developers amongst you über happy. You can request them either by slinging appropriate http-accept headers to the usual URI for a person (http://lncn.eu/me/{account_name} is the canonical one), where application/json or application/rdf+xml will get you what you desire. Alternatively, you can hit up http://lncn.eu/me/{account_name}.json or http://lncn.eu/me/{account_name}.xml for the same thing.

The vCard format is of more interest to all, and provides a stupidly easy way to get a person’s details into your address book. By visiting http://lncn.eu/me/{account_name}.vcf (or by clicking the link at the bottom of any Directory profile) you’ll be given that person’s vCard, presenting their name, job title and contact details all in the industry standard machine readable format. It’s literally a matter of one or two clicks (or taps) to get information from the Directory into your computer’s (or phone’s) address book. If you want, you can download mine to see what I mean.

I’m sure you’re all gasping to know where this fits in with Orbital, my current project. The short answer is that it doesn’t – at least not directly. It is, however, part of a grand scheme involving making peoples lives easier.

One of the features that Orbital will include as part of its data publishing system – which allows people to automatically bundle data for publication based on predefined rules – is the proper semantic linking to author (or researcher) profiles. When a person is named in Orbital the system can be directed to their canonical URI (such as their Directory profile page). In this way we’re not creating Yet Another Profile on the web, but instead definitively stating that a person (represented by a given URI) is the author/researcher/whatever for a given dataset.

It will also be able to pull data which is expressed in suitable open formats (such as the existing schema.org markup on the HTML page, or RDF/XML) back in to Orbital, so there’s no more need to retype a person’s details for inclusion in metadata about a publication. Just give Orbital a URI and off it goes.