My grandfather, who unfortunately has been dead for several years, was a man fond of four-letter words to express his sentiments. Once a Navy sailor and a lumberjack, he’d adopted to a picturesque family life a little late in his years. Imagine a charming, smiling old fellow who’d be wearing a nice suit and tie as he shook your hand, then you’d notice “Lloyd” was tattooed on his knuckles. (Hidden under the nice suit was a much larger tattoo of a giant patriotic eagle on his chest.) Midway through a church picnic, he might let slip some colorful language during a tale.
My grandmother did her best to correct his language. One word she’d like to encourage him to use instead was “hooey.”
Today’s comic features hooey. It also features Ian “the Leviathan” Hickson, Google employee and HTML5 editor-for-life (nowadays, he’s more of a generic HTML editor-for-life, which is likely a much sweeter gig) as well as Larry Masinter, Principle Scientist at Adobe.
The hooey in the comic is hyperbole for the effect of comedy; Ian has not outed Larry as a cannibal.
However, Ian did perform some character assassination last Friday when he fired off this blog post accusing Adobe of “blocking” HTML5. He also took the opportunity to simultaneously claim he couldn’t reveal the author of a post for it being in a private list (he chose to use the word “secret”, likely for dramatic effect) while immediately revealing the author’s identity in the very following paragraph (which in this case was Larry.)
There’s a few issues here that point at the continuing mire that is the political process of HTML5, and the resulting decrease in public confidence in the resulting product. First, we’ll look at Ian’s charge: that somehow Adobe is blocking HTML5. This is an absurd statement from Hixie, who’s made it clear that the WHATWG controls HTML5 (in his view) and not the W3C. So for him to claim that a W3C action is impacting the adoption of a spec he adamantly states is in WHATWG’s hand is like saying that the mayor of Osaka, Japan is blocking the Washington state budget from being passed. It’s an act of dishonesty at worst, or emotional manipulation of his readership at best.
(I am not saying the W3C doesn’t have a leadership role in the HTML5 effort. Rather, I’m saying that according to many prior statements by Ian, it doesn’t.)
Regardless, several people caught this “story” and ran with it. Perhaps it’s the Apple/Adobe conflict spawning fanboys and lines drawn in the sand, but a lot of people are willing to demonize Adobe at the drop of a hat. So, rapidly, the word was tweeted throughout the digital realms: Adobe hates HTML. And kicks babies.
I wonder how many of those re-tweeters use Photoshop, Illustrator or Dreamweaver on a regular basis?
Fortunately, some non-partisan cowboys came riding into town and cleared the air with a thoughtful examination on the situation. In particular, I recommend reading Simon St. Laurent’s The Widening HTML5 Chasm and Thom Holwerda’s Teacup, Meet Storm, part IV. Please take the opportunity to peruse their posts for some perspective. Once you’ve received that enlightenment, continue.
Done? Ok. Onwards, then.
Ian Hickson is a Google employee. Which means he’s a smart man. His track record of work speaks to that effect, and it’s worth saying that despite my disagreements with his process, much of HTML5′s good parts have appeared thanks to his efforts as the spec’s editor.
Ian Hickson has a methodology for handling people. It’s documented at his website here. One section on discrediting has some lovely gems that seem to apply to the situation: “Discredit the man who produced the report, off the record.” and “Say that he is harbouring a grudge against your group.”
Also, I’m going to propose that our dear Leviathan has been working on HTML5 for quite some time, and as such has been up to his eyeballs in the process for years. He knows how the process works, clearly, and has historically shown his willingness to ignore said process if that gave him the opportunity to do what he preferred over what the majority desired. (That’s also in his book on handling people: If you don’t agree with a rule you are told to follow, announce your agreement to it in a statement, and in that statement, assert that you intend to follow it in a manner consistent with some other set of rules; or that you will consider certain passages as merely being “advisory”.)
So he’s smart, follows a personal methodology of handling people that involves discrediting them, and he’s familiar with the W3C process. Right?
Very well then. Let me say it: Ian’s insinuations about Adobe were, as my grandmother would say, hooey. Intentional hooey. My grandfather would have used a stronger term. Ian deliberately publicized the identity of someone who posted in a private mailing list (immediately after claiming he could not). He used words like “secret” to provide a sense of conspiracy. He used Adobe as a scape-goat so that we’d all see that HTML5 was being blocked by W3C processes (despite his insistence that the W3C has nothing to do with the actual invention and progression of HTML5).
This is the man who doesn’t like HTML5 politics? This is the man who will be controlling HTML5 all versions of HTML for the remainder of his life?
Well, that’s just splendid.