Comic Update: Manners After the XHTMLacolypse

July 09, 2009

Last week, it was declared that the XHTML2 WG was being discontinued, so the resources could be focused on HTML5. I briefly mentioned it here, and Jeffrey Zeldman spoke about it here. It’s a simple enough matter, and drew a lot of mixed responses. That in itself isn’t surprising.

What was surprising was how all of a sudden it seemed that it became open hunting season on insulting developers that used XHTML 1 (which is not XHTML2) and gloating over the corpse of the standard before it had even cooled. As two examples, Henri Sivonen produced an unofficial “Q&A” complete with snark, and Mark Pilgrim invented a taunting childish rhyme that reveled in the folly of those he disagreed with. Pilgrim in his case even named Jeffrey Zeldman directly in his taunts (and got even worse in behavior in his comments on that post.)

This sort of behavior annoys me on two levels. One, it’s not a great way to treat your professional peers, as it crosses the line from attacking a technology to attacking people. Two, it confuses (in some cases intentionally) XHTML and XHTML2, making it seem as if the death of the latter somehow invalidated the former, which isn’t the case at all.

Fortunately, good men didn’t let that sort of behavior slide. John Allsopp rightfully called some of the taunters out for their snark (as recorded in this tweet here), and that became the basis for today’s comic, which imagines a post-apocalyptic world where this sort of poor manners must be corrected by brave warriors in the wasteland.

Also helping correct misconceptions and bad behavior were good posts by Jeremy Keith and Jeffrey Zeldman. If you’re confused about the whole XHTML issue this week, take a look at what they’ve written. It’s instructive.

Was XHTML2′s death a good thing? I don’t know. I do know that we can discuss the technology in a fashion that doesn’t involve insulting the people involved, though. Keep it clean, folks.

Note: I wrote this in about eight minutes at the end of my lunch. As such, it might expand later when I have the chance to be more verbose and thoughtful.

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11 Responses to “Comic Update: Manners After the XHTMLacolypse”

  1. Pilgrim got a well-deserved pat on the back for his “F*ck the Foundries” post as it bluntly expressed the bitter frustration that many developers feel. I only had to read a few lines of “This is The House” before I realized where he was going with the the poem. The problem is that while we all have our opinions, nobody really feels terribly wronged by the doctype debate, and even if you do, Jeffrey Zeldman is not who you’re after.

    You can pick your friends and you can pick your doctype, but you can’t pick on your friends’ doctypes.

  2. I am a bit of a stickler for manners! you got me in one. Tres Amusante.

  3. Color me surprised: a male-dominated technology culture that exists in virtual space has issues with interpersonal and communication skills, and being able to make sound business decisions based on end user requirements instead of preferences and ideologies.

  4. @Jason – I like your last sentence. Mind you, I think Mark’s posts can be focused in the right direction some of the time (such as the Foundries one), but they’re often too hot under the collar. And when they get personal, well, then it undermines the value of his position.

    @John – I’m really glad you liked it!

    @Paul – I don’t see any compelling reason to take the topic and turn it into an attack against a specific gender or the sub-culture.

  5. Kyle, I hope you’re being a tad ironic about Paul’s comment, because I think Paul does indeed have a point. Online debate is sometimes shockingly rude. Perhaps it’s not really because the technology culture is male-dominated (which it is, by the way)–perhaps it’s more that the technology culture is one that has allowed, and even encouraged, the erosion of behavior [manners] originally designed to prevent people from gouging out one another’s eyes over minor disagreements.

    I’ll add in the age factor. I’m old enough to have grown up in a time when manners weren’t considered silly, or uptight, or only a tool of satire. I’m actually not that surprised that the web standards community got so het up about this issue, just a bit sad. I kinda hoped that it was a community of professionals that could avoid the worst behavior of the larger online world.

    Fortunately we have mentors like Jeremy, Jeffrey, and John. Men who are articulate, knowledgeable, and patient. And I loved your comic.

  6. @Adrienne – I agree that tech culture is currently male-dominated. I agree that male techies can be jerks. I don’t believe, however, that the majority of them are. 9 out of 10 people I’ve met in that category are in fact very nice, polite people. Granted, they get a fire in them when it comes to speaking about technologies they favor, but I assume that zeal is common in any hobbyist or professional.

    There is a vocal minority of jerks in any group, especially online ones, so it’s a shame that they create the perception that they’re the rule and not the exception. I just disagree with that perception.

    That’s where my response was coming from.

    I agree that it often seems that manners are deteriorating with younger individuals. But then, I assume our parents or grandparents thought the same of us when we were younger.

  7. @Adrienne – Also, thank you for commenting, and I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the comic!

  8. Paul and Adrienne both have points.

    I recently wrote on the HTML WG list that from what I can see, the people making decisions for HTML 5 are about as lacking as diversity as possible: twenty somethings, guys, same educational background, and even similar as to geographical background.

    Good…if the only audience for HTML 5 is able bodied twenty something guys with a computer background, who have only worked either for standards organizations or browser vendors. Following my posting of this is when the dozen or so took me to the woodshed and to task for my “attitude” and tone of writing. Not before, right after.

    Truth hurts.

  9. @Kyle–you’re right, the older generations always decry the erosion of morals and behavior of the young ;-) And truly, the young folks I know are, as you say, nice polite people. I’d actually go so far as to say that most 20-somethings I know are more polite than most 40-somethings I know. My own observation is that online communication lacks the non-verbal clues that help our face-to-face encounters work smoothly. Subtleties and nuance just don’t come through very well. One can’t get the “vibe” of a person very well online, unless the people involved have pretty well-developed language skills.

    I’m as guilty as anyone of reacting strongly on a subject about which I am passionate. I do, however, try to work through that reactionary phase into one where I can lay back a bit and see the other person’s point of view. That’s the sort of thing that, hopefully, comes with maturity.

    Which all points out to me the importance of being a bit more circumspect online than one might think is necessary. If we all communicated as though we were “speaking” to our grandparents, we might avoid some of the nastier flames.

    Love your squirrel, btw. Looks a lot like one in my yard.

  10. @Shelley & Adrianne – I agree that a lack of diversity in technology-related decision-making bodies is a serious concern. Although it’s possible they’ll devise a standard that works for everyone, without a plurality of views it’s more likely that they’ll fail to notice biases based on their shared background.

    Adrienne, I definitely agree that behavior online is often a problem due to a lack of circumspection. I wonder if manner classes could be made mandatory in technology-related college degrees.

  11. Is there a consensus that the “F&%k the foundries” post was reasonable and well pointed? I personally thought it was driving a nail with a bulldozer. I have a lot of respect for type designers and foundries, and think that a compromise that is lucrative to both parties can be reached… instead of the smash and grab approach.