Archive for the ‘Standards’ Category

Can Hixie’s <Data>leks Exterminate <Time>?

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011
CSSquirrel #88: Can Hixie's <Data>leks Exterminate Time?

Edit: Roughly twenty minutes after I posted this, the W3C took action on the issue, insisting that the <time> element be placed back into the specification. You can read about it here. But please read on. It’s a good primer for the next time something like this happens.

Contrary to what you may have already heard, the <time> element hasn’t disappeared from HTML.

Yes, officially <time> is currently not part of the HTML spec. (Thanks to the muddle that is “HTML Living Specification” I’ll be honest and admit I’m not sure if is no longer part of HTML5 or it’s in some sort of Schrodinger’s Cat quantum-zombie state of existing in HTML5 but missing in the “ongoing HTML” that the WHATWG is proud to keep rolling down the conveyor belt.)

That doesn’t mean it’s not being used by authors (how’s Drupal builds, 2.6 million WordPress installs and the Boston Globe for you?) nor does it mean that is it not being used by user agents (ever-plucky Opera supports it).

What it means is that a single human being has decided that he doesn’t care for time one wit, and that a rather vague element called <data> can replace it instead.

This human is none other than Ian “The Benign Leviathan Dictator For Life” Hixie, editor for the HTML specification.

I could give you an explanation on how this scenario came to exist, but two Brits who are far more informed than I am (and likely slightly smarter) have made their own summaries. If you like knowing what’s going on (and I do) then go read them. These pair of fine gentlemen, Jeremy Keith and Bruce Lawson, both guest star in today’s comic as the good Doctor thanks to a little spot of regeneration, where they’re fighting the good fight against Hixie’s <data>leks.

Virtually every problem I have with a single person wielding so much power over such a fundamentally important pillar of the web as HTML can be summed up in this incident. <Time> is officially out, despite the lack of merit or consensus in that decision. And it took just one man to make that happen. Either through a lack of awareness or a genuine disregard for what authors are already doing, Ian has claimed incorrectly that <time> isn’t seeing adoption, isn’t useful, and should be canned. And because the only balance to his power is a rather tedious process to oust him, there’s no official remedy to bringing <time> back into the HTML fold than trying to convince him that its existence is a good thing.

From what I understand, it’s easier to keep red shirts alive on away missions than it is to change Ian’s opinion on something.

Fortunately, there’s a big difference between having no official remedy and having no remedy whatsoever.

As “authors”, we are the 99% of HTML5. We can follow Jeremy Keith’s sage advice:

We can make a stand and simply carry on using the time element in our web pages. If we do, then we’ll see more parsers and browsers implementing support for the time element. The fact that our documentation has been ripped away makes this trickier but it’s such a demonstrably useful addition to HTML that we cannot afford to throw it away based on the faulty logic of one person.

So as I said, <time> hasn’t disappeared from HTML. It’s still there on millions of sites already. And nothing is stopping us from putting it on millions more. It’s our chance to send those <data>leks packing. As soon as this post is finished I’m going to edit my site’s theme to make use of <time>. Hixie can go stuff it.

Occupy HTML5.

Comic Update: So Cold

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011
CSSquirrel #86: So Cold

In a perfect world, Ethan Marcotte would star opposite of me in a web design-themed, buddy cop action comedy called Beep and the Squirrel.

Actually… I’m writing that one down, just in case.

Until that glorious moment, I’ll enjoy his raw intellect and seasoned wit while envying his creative talent in a suitably stalker-like fashion. (Unless you’re reading this, Ethan, in which case I assure you that I am in no way digging through your refuse bins looking for cast-off brilliant ideas and toothbrushes.)

While we’re in the vein of borderline creepy idol worship, I’m going to agree with Ethan’s succinct tweet on the W3C’s CSS Conditional Rules Module Level 3 Working Draft (which I’ll reduce to the much easier to remember abbreviation “CCR Module”, hereafter nicknamed the “More Cowbell” document). I feel cold.

I’m still perusing the document. Although any judgement leveled while shooting from the hips (hello, ladies) is bound to be rife with bad summaries and skewed views, in my opinion the module doesn’t seem to solve any problems that aren’t already being solved in a better fashion by good CSS practice or other techniques. It’s a lazy man’s shortcut to “supportin’ olla them thar browsers”.

As Dylan Wilbanks said, these aren’t the conditionals I’m looking for.

Just look at @supports, for the love of cheese (or dairy-free cheese alternative for vegans and the lactose intolerant). It lets you test if a browser supports a feature, before (in their examples) you then go and use the feature. What? How bizarre is that? I know in their examples you can get far trickier with not and or and doogie howser, but seriously?

When it comes to the problems that CSS is supposed to solve, although @supports and its ilk would work, they seem to encourage bad or unnecessarily laboriously bloated CSS documents instead of streamlining the process. And when it comes to @document I believe that the authors are trying to make CSS solve problems it wasn’t intended for.

Look, if you’re trying to get your CSS to be flexibly supported across different browsers and devices, I recommend checking out Ethan’s Responsive Web Design, or at least actually using your skullmeat instead of slapping shoddy shortcuts into your CSS. Capiche?

The Squirrel in Crisp Audio! SitePoint podcast “HTML5 is a beautiful mess”

Friday, January 15th, 2010

On Wednesday I had the honor and pleasure of participating in a podcast recording session with HTML5 Doctor Bruce Lawson, Beginning Web Design author Ian Lloyd, and SitePoint’s Kevin Yank in a discussion about HTML5, and whether it’s just exploded over all our face.

The end product, “HTML5 is a beautiful mess” is now up at SitePoint. I’d be tickled pink if you took the time to listen.

As you may recall, I discussed ranted about this subject on Monday with the strip The HTML5 Show (AKA a Mess) and the related post.

Mostly, HTML5′s a mess in the political sense. The organizations behind it (W3C and WHATWG) are increasingly in conflict with one another. Additionally, in my opinion, Ian Hickson is increasingly disregarding any attempt at a legitimate process and simply putting what he pleases in the spec, as he pleases.

The podcast touches on that matter, and spins out to the state of the actual implementation of HTML5 itself, whether there’s a challenge in getting designers and developers to start using it, the issues of accessibility in <canvas>, and how delightful it’d be to move past plugins.

If I have one beef with the whole podcast, it’s the fact that I’m talking with a pair of Brits. Which, as every movie-going American knows, instantly sound more clever due to their crisp accents. Also, if the transcript is any guide, my sentences tend to roll off the rail quite a bit, inflicting casualties to adherents to the English language.

So, if you have the time, please go have a listen, and then please come on back here and post any thoughts you had at my butchery of verbs, the points that the participants brought up (or even better, the points we didn’t) and how lovely Bruce Lawson’s voice is.

Recap: My Refresh Bellingham Presentation – The Ghosts of Web Standards Present

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

On December 16th, 2009, I had the opportunity to do something I’d been meaning to do for a while. I gave a presentation (in front of an audience, even) about web standards! I was invited to speak at Refresh Bellingham, which was a great experience. Discussing the topics of CSS3, HTML5 and Mobile, I definitely bit off a larger chunk than I needed to (in the future I think I’ll pare the experience down to CSS3 and HTML5 unless it’s for a much longer time format), but by the end of the presentation I felt like I’d done a good job of entertaining the audience and maybe teaching some of them a thing or two.

And, by George, that was a really good feeling.

Entitled: “The Ghosts of Web Standards Present: CSS3, HTML5 and Mobile”, the whole thing ran about an hour and fifteen minutes. Fortunately people laughed at all of my jokes, so it wasn’t too torturous. I talked about the varying level of support in modern browsers for new CSS3 and HTML5 features (and how that shouldn’t matter), as well as my thoughts on the need to be ready for mobile devices today in our designs. If I did it again, I’d probably put more advanced CSS3 techniques and HTML5 tricks in, as I uncovered a whole slew of new things I’d not experimented with before while doing research for it.

Although the slides don’t contain the majority of my witty dialog (I’m so modest), I’ve put them up (after some corrections and modifications) for you to look at if you’d like. The background will flash into it’s proper place two seconds after the page loads, by design (I had some issues with the popdown request for the geolocation interfering with the way the background looked on the slide projector).

The Ghosts of Web Standards Present

Comic Update: The HTML5 Rocket and Last Call

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Today’s comic is a week or so late to be timely, but I think it’s still topical. It showcases the squirrel about to be launched on a rocket that Hixie insists has reached an appropriate state, even if it seems everyone else degrees.

As you’re likely familiar with my opinion on this topic, I think you can predict the results.

On October 27, 2009, Ian “Hixie” Hickson, editor-for-life of HTML5 (yes, my bias is showing) decided that there were
“no outstanding emails or bugs on the spec”, and flipped the switch on the spec declaring it in Last Call. Just in time to meet the October deadline. Hooray!

As it stands, his status flip may be premature. Or, perhaps, his viewpoint of reality. If you look at the W3C’s HTML issue tracker, you can see it’s got a lot left on it. In response to comments about this difference between the W3C and WHATWG on whether HTML5 had actually reached Last Call, Ian commented “…we have different issues lists and different criteria for going to Last Call.”

Looking at what’s left to resolve, it’d seem the difference in criteria is that the W3C would prefer the job was done properly, as opposed to being done quickly.

I’m inclined to agree with Shelley’s thoughts. Maybe Ian is trying to reassert some control. Maybe he just isn’t concerned with issues like providing unsighted web users with the information they need to understand tables on a website. Either way, it creates the appearance of a move meant to serve himself, not others.

That’s not a reassuring quality to see in our leviathan.